How to grow cassava?

Cassava Plant Care – Information On How To Grow Cassavas

As the bard says, “What’s in a name?” There is an important distinction in the spelling and meaning of many similar words. Take for instance, yucca and yuca. These are both plants but one has agricultural and nutritional significance, while the other is an ornery, desert dwelling organism. The lack of a “c” in one name highlights just one difference between yucca and yuca. Read on to find out why yuca, or cassava, is a global food source and important economic crop.

Are Yucca and Cassava the Same?

Yuccas are flowering, perennial plants, which have remarkable tolerance to dry, arid regions. They are in the lily or agave family and generally grow as rosettes of spiky leaves that spring from a central stubby trunk. Ancient civilizations and more modern native populations eat the roots of the yucca. This is one of the similarities the plant has with cassava.

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is also known as yuca and is an important plant

for its starchy roots. These contain 30 percent starch and are high in carbohydrates. Cassava roots are prepared and eaten like potatoes. Cassava originated in Brazil and Paraguay, but now many other nations are learning how to grow cassavas.

So are yucca and cassava the same plant? They are not even related and prefer different growing climates. The only similarities are the close name and use of roots as a food source.

How to Grow Cassavas

Growing cassava yuca successfully relies upon tropical climates and at least eight months of warm weather.

The plant prefers well-drained soil and modest rainfall, but it can survive where soils are wet. Cassava roots do not tolerate freezing temperatures and the best growth is in full sun.

Growing cassava yuca from start to harvest can take up to 18 months. The plants are started from propagules made from parts of mature stems. These are 2 to 3 inch cuttings with several bud nodes along the length. Lay the cutting on prepared soil in a pot and keep lightly misted in a sunny location.

Grow the cuttings indoors until temperatures outside are at least 70 F. (21 C.). Transplant them outside when the cuttings have sprouted and have at least 2 inches of growth.

Cassava Plant Care

  • Cassava plants produce huge ornamental lobed leaves. They can thrive in the summer as an annual in most regions of the United States. Warmer temperatures promote the most rapid growth.
  • There are several chewing pests that cause foliage damage but, otherwise, cassavas are relatively disease and pest free.
  • Good cassava plant care should include the use of a slow release fertilizer in spring. Keep the plants moderately moist.
  • To preserve the plant, move it to a pot indoors before freezing temperatures. Overwinter cassava in a warm, well-lit location and transplant outside when soils heat back up.

More cassava for less time

by Maria Eliza Villarino

Cassava has a relatively long growth cycle compared to other important crops. It takes an average of 10-12 months — sometimes up to 24 months! — for farmers to harvest the roots; maize, rice, and potato’s growth cycles span less than a third of that.
In other words, farmers can grow cassava at most once a year, or, in some cases, every two years. Dr. Michael Gomez Selvaraj, a CIAT crop physiologist, is working to change that.
There is very little understanding of how and why few roots in cassava turn into organs that store starch, the part of the crop most valued by rural communities and industry.
Together with his colleagues at the CIAT Phenomics Platform, Selvaraj is developing a method that will lead to identifying the genes and factors that cause early bulking of roots. This will help them establish how to shorten the growth cycle of cassava to as little as seven months.
In addition, the technique will help identify the genes and factors that can increase the number of storage roots, so farmers can sell more of these in the market.

A novel technique

The method being tested by Selvaraj and his team involves growing the cassava with its roots suspended in air and automatically sprayed with a special solution.
Known as aeroponics, it offers a controlled environment for breeders to identify the genes that trigger early bulking of roots and the conversion of fibrous roots — which are all what the cassava initially has — to storage roots.
In the past, breeders would need to dig up the root from the soil to study the genetic traits of cassava. But it was difficult to isolate genes as the plant interacted with numerous elements in and around the soil, such as insects, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms.
With aeroponics, breeders can see how and when some roots start to swell and become starch storage organs. Root swelling is the crucial step toward cassava yield. As such, if breeders can learn to manipulate the genes that induce this swelling, they can manipulate cassava yield.
Apart from locating which gene triggers early root bulking, Selvaraj and his team want to know at which point such a gene does this and why the plant selects certain fibrous roots to become storage roots. Temperature and certain types of hormones could be factors, Selvaraj suggested.
With that, breeders will be able to trigger the process of bulking of roots at the earliest possible time and of increasing the number of storage roots the plant develops.
In the future as such, a cassava variety whose roots start bulking at the fourth month and that only has at most 10 storage roots might have roots that would begin bulking from the second month and have 20 storage roots.
“If we can double the storage roots, farmers will have an equivalent of two harvests in one growing season,” said Selvaraj.

Next steps

Selvaraj aims to follow up his experiment with trials to test how the cassava would perform in the field. And he plans to do this again without having to dig up the root from the soil.
One part of the trials will involve the use of the so-called ground-penetrating radar technology or GPR. GPR can detect objects underneath the surface. It has numerous applications in several fields such as engineering, military, and archeology.
“But this is the first time that the technology will be used on plants,” according to Selvaraj.
GPR can validate whether the roots of cassava are bulking early as expected. A study found it to be a suitable technology to predict and estimate storage root growth of cassava.
Another part of the future trials will entail using drones to see how the crop is performing depending on the type of soil and level of nutrients. Knowledge of the proper timing for fertilizing cassava is still limited, and drones can provide valuable information on this.
For instance, if the amount of nitrogen is low, the plant will likely be short. But with the right amount of nutrients, the plant will likely grow tall.
For farmers, the taller the cassava plant, the better. This means they have more planting materials for the next growing season, as farmers only need stem cuttings to propagate the crop.
“With the combination of all these innovative technologies, we are hopeful that one day farmers can produce more cassava in less time,” Michael Selvaraj said. “More importantly, this allows them to earn more and have more to feed their families.”

Additional information:

The project titled “Low-cost 3D Phenotyping of Cassava Roots” is funded by the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and is a partnership between CIAT and the University of Nottingham’s Computer Vision Laboratory. The use of GPR by the Phenomics Platform is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and forms part of the partnership between CIAT, Texas A&M University, and IDS North America Ltd.

How to Grow Cassava in Uganda

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Are you planning to start growing cassava on commercial scale in Uganda?

…..just a hobbyist planning to start a small cassava garden in your backyard and are looking around the internet for tips and ideas?

May be your searching online to buy some African cassava for consumption at home/school/hospital/camp/hotel/party?

…..Or your looking for quality cassava stem cuttings for planting?

Cassava Plant with Tubers in Uganda

What ever your quest about cassava growing in Africa is, kindly take time to scan through this plant guide for some answers and you will be one step ahead of the pack of many farmers who start without planning.

Cassava is a perennial shrub, which produces enlarged tuberous roots. Its height ranges from about 1 to 3 m or more. The stems are usually small and glabrous with nodes. The leaves vary in color from green to reddish. There is a great variation in tuber number, shape and size and the angle at which they penetrate the ground. Each cassava plant usually usually bares 5-10 tubers.

A compound called hydrocyanic glycoside is present in each cassava variety at varying quantities and it’s this compound which makes the tuber sour some times.Cassava clones are often classified by taste ‘sweet’ or ‘bitter’.

The toxicity of a cultivar varies according to environmental growth conditions. However, in any one location it’s possible to find some cultivars bitter and others sweet so that a local separation between bitter and sweet can often be made.

On this Uganda plant guide we share some useful info about growing Cassava in Africa, including;

  • How to classify Cassava in Uganda
  • What your Cassava needs to grow
  • What to plant on Cassava
  • How to plant your cassava in the Soil
  • So, how long will your cassava take to grow?
  • How to weed cassava in Uganda
  • About Ratooning in Cassava
  • How to harvest and store your cassava
  • Quick Tips & Techniques for Planting your Cassava
  • Where to buy Cassava Stems/Tubers

You also have the opportunity to ask the plant guide questions about growing cassava in Uganda.

How to classify Cassava in Uganda

East Africa has several cassava varieties. These do have different attributes, like they differ in softness, sweetness, and maturity period, susceptibility to pests and diseases, and tuber yields.

The current new varieties are NASE1 to 12 however NASE (1, 2, 3 and 4) are tolerant to drought, resistant to mosaic and very high yielding. Though the mentioned varieties are bitter, this is due to the high concentration of hydrocyanic acids in the fresh tuber.

What your Cassava needs to grow

Your cassava will require optimum temperatures ranging from 25-30°C with a minimum temperature of 18°c. This explains the fall in yields where temperatures are above 30°C.

A well distributed annual rainfall of 1000_1500mm is ideal but the crop can successfully grow in areas with rainfall ranging from 500-2500mm.

Soil; light sandy loam soils with medium fertility give the best result.

Though the crop can tolerate soils of low fertility, especially if feeder roots can penetrate deeper, deep cultivation before planting is therefore recommended.

What to plant on Cassava

Cassava Stem sprouting

Cassava is propagated by cuttings got from a cassava plant stem. To make cuttings, choose stems 2 to 4 cm thick, from the strongest plants which are not diseased and have already produced tubers.

After the harvest, tie the selected stems in bundles, wait for at least 10 days before planting them. Keep the bundles in a cool, dry place until planting time. But remember that the cuttings must not be made from the stem until you are ready to plant.

Cut each stem into pieces 20 to 30cm long. There should be 4 to 6 grown buds on each piece.

How to plant your cassava in the Soil

In most East African countries cassava is still planted by hand. And planting is done at the onset of the rain season, often in flat fields, though planting on ridges is desirable in wet regions.

You can cut the sticks obliquely or at a right angle to the stem being cut.

You can then plant your cutting vertically or at an angle, with half their length in the soil, or flat below the surface.

How to weed cassava in Uganda

Weeding your cassava plantation is so important during the early stages.

It’s good to interplant your cassava with other crops like beans during early stages to suppress the weeds You need to weed 3 to 4 weeks after planting.

Earth up plants (add soil on plants) during weeding as this greatly helps in tuber formation.

You may also use some chemicals to control weeds.

So, how long will your cassava take to grow?

Generally cassava reaches maturity in 9-24 months or up to 36 months depending on the variety, climate and soil conditions.

Some quick growing cultivars can be harvested in 6-7 months, but good yields are normally obtained after 9-12 months.

When used fresh, the tubers are normally only obtained after 9-12 months, otherwise they become very fibrous.

About Ratooning in Cassava

After 6 months your cassava stems are old enough to be cut and planted elsewhere. The stem is cut without up-rooting the cassava.

You can plant the healthy stems to other fields or sell them to other farmers.

Fresh vegetative parts will grow within weeks.

How to harvest and store your cassava

Depending on the variety, harvesting cassava for food could begin from the 7th month after planting for early maturing varieties; or after the 10th month for late varieties.

For a smallholder farmer you can harvest the tubers as you need them; without cutting the stems, begin by taking the biggest tubers from each plant, leaving the small ones to give them time to fill up.

As a commercial farmer you would typically harvest all the cassava at the same time.

Once cassava is ready it should be harvested, because when left in the ground for a long period your cassava tubers will lose quality due to hydrolysis of starch.

Quick Tips for Planting your Cassava in Africa

  • Cut selected cassava stems for planting in to either 2 node or 3 node pieces
  • Treat steaks with available pesticide or fungicide before planting
  • Locally you can use Neem leaf powder. In 5liters of water add 1 kg of the powder
  • Measure out the required quantity and then put the stakes in to the solution for 10 min
  • For the 2 node stakes keep them in transparent polythene to germinate for ten days then transfer to the field
  • For the 3node pieces remove from the solution and expose them to light for 20min then plant directly
  • Planting can be at slanting or angular positions in a hole of not more than 5cm
  • And harvest accordingly after 12months from planting
  • Ensure to plant your cassava in rows to ease weeding

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AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE: buy or get emailed when available
CASSAVA GROWING INFORMATION © Frances Michaels
BOTANICAL NAME: Manihot esculenta
COMMON NAMES: Cassava, manioc, tapioca
FAMILY: Euphorbiaceae
ORIGIN: Central and South America
PLANT DESCRIPTION
A large, 3-4 m high, tropical woody shrub with enlarged tuberous roots. It tends to branch irregularly and bears its large (20 cm long) lobed leaves near the tips of long branches. The leaves are short-lived (1-3 months) and are readily lost during drought or after insect attack. Cassava is very hardy and tolerant of a wide range of soils.
USES
Leaves for consumption can be produced throughout the year if the plants receive sufficient water. The portion eaten is generally the maturing leaves that are just reaching full size. Cassava leaves are NOT EATEN RAW, as they contain harmful glucosides which release deadly hydrocyanic acid. To dispel the poison the leaves must be boiled at least 15 minutes. Cassava leaves contain protein, iron and B vitamins. They are boiled like spinach or added to stews. There are so many useful and easy to grow tropical greens that cassava leaves are not a ‘first choice’ option. Sweet potato leaves, pumpkin tips, kangkong, ceylon spinach are better alternatives and are easy to eat and prepare.
The roots are more useful as a food plant, they are harvested when the leaves begin to yellow and fall. They are eaten boiled, fried, baked and made into flour. The refined starch from the tubers, known as tapioca pearls, is used in soups, puddings and dumplings. The roots store well.
PLANTING DETAILS
Recommended Planting Time: All year in the tropics, during the warmer months in the subtropics.
Growing Details: Woody cuttings are planted upright in the soil with the sloping end up. Cutting the tops of the cuttings at an angle stops water sitting there and reduces problems with rot. The best cutting material is obtained from plants at least 10 months old, 2.5 to 4 cm thick and about 20 – 30 cm long, with a minimum of 3-6 buds per cutting. The cuttings are buried to half their length, aiming to have several buds under the soil. The cuttings root readily and establish plants within 2 months. Place plants 80 to 140 cm apart.
RECIPES
Tapioca Pudding

  • 1 large cassava root syn tapioca (about 400g)
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • milk of one coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 10g butter

Finely grate the tapioca and add the beaten eggs, sugar, coconut milk and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and place in a baking dish which has been greased with a little butter. Bake at 150°C for about 30 minutes.
Ubai

  • cassava root syn tapioca (500g tuber makes 2 ubai)
  • coconut (or other filling)
  • salt
  • banana leaves (for cooking)

Fillings:

  • boiled greens
  • cooked meat or fish
  • mashed banana
  • grated pineapple

Finely grate tapioca tubers. Place the grated tapioca thinly on rectangles of banana leaf about 20 cm long, sprinkle with salt. On top of this, down the centre, place grated coconut or other filling; then roll the banana leaf and secure the ends, so that the tapioca encloses the coconut or other filling like a filled pancake. Tie the bundle with strips taken from the centre of the banana leaf, and place over hot ashes for about 20 minutes, turning to ensure even heating. When cooked, remove the charred banana leaf. The tapioca with its high starch content, will have blended together enclosing the filling, and you will have somethingwhich looks like a spring roll and tastes excellent.

Cassava leaves

Cassava, originally from Brazil, is a staple root crop throughout the tropics where it is used in a variety of dishes. Cassava is grown overwhelmingly for its roots and is found in markets throughout the country where immigrants from tropical regions of the world shop (Figure1). Cassava was grown in Florida for the Cuban and other populations that started to arrive in the 50’s. There were an estimated 1,000 acres of cassava being grown in Florida during the 60’s, 70, and 80’s, but has fallen off precipitously; there were less than 30 acres in production in 2013 (Lamberts, 2013; see references below). Cassava imports from mostly countries in the tropical Americans have increased greatly over time as immigrants from tropical regions of the world have come to the United States.

Cassava roots are considered ready for harvest after 9 – 12 months after planting (Lamberts and Olson, 2013); since cassava is killed with a hard frost, cassava cannot be grown in the Northeastern United States. Cassava was evaluated at the UMass Farm in Deerfield in 2005 and harvested shortly before frost and the roots were not close to marketable (Figure 2) (Figure 3).

In some countries there is a market for cassava leaves, which includes Liberia, where it is used in soups and stews. Markets in Massachusetts that cater to Liberians will carry frozen cassava leaves (Figure 4).

Cassava contains cyanide, which varies greatly among cultivars, and needs to be detoxified before human consumption. Cassava roots are cooked and this will sufficiently detoxify them. Cassava leaves also contain cyanide and research has shown that traditional methods for preparing cassava leaves for consumption, that include grinding, cooking and heat-treating them before consumption sufficiently detoxify the cyanide ( Aduni, U.A., et al., 2008).

Difference Between Yuca and Yucca

While doing research for our latest database entry on “Yuca”, I found a lot of sites, videos and foodie articles that referred to the Yuca root as “Yucca”. This is plant blasphemy…..Yuca and Yucca are not interchangeable terms.

Yuca is a starchy tuber that’s serves as a staple crop in many parts of Africa, the Americas and Asia. It’s commonly known as Cassava and is sold in nearly every farmer’s market (feria) here in Costa Rica. According to the United Nations, Yuca ,”(Manihot esculenta Crantz) is the third most important source of calories in the tropics, after rice and maize. It’s a pest free, calorie rich starchy staple crop that thrives in hot climates with minimal watering. Yuca roots has more than double the carbohydrates per gram compared to potatoes. They’re rich in calcium, potassium and vitamin C and contain decent amounts of thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid. The roots don’t contain a significant amount of protein, however the leaves, if properly prepared do. You can see a video of Jodi making cutting and planting Yuca here.

Yuccas are widely grown as ornamental plants in gardens. Most yuccas are in the agave family. Some produce tall beautiful flowers while other grow as spiky ground plants. The “yucca flower” is also the state flower of New Mexico (Yucca Glauca).

In short, Yuca and Yucca are totally unrelated species. Check the pictures below to see the difference.

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This is a Yucca Plant

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This is a Yuca Plant

Here’s the Latest Survival Plant Database Entry on Yuca:

Ever wondered what is yuca? Or is it yucca? Or cassava? If you are as confused about this starchy root vegetable as I was, make sure to read this post. As a dense source of carbohydrates, it could be a great addition to the diet for those avoiding grains and legumes. Let’s check it out!

You might have seen yuca fries or a cassava mash on the menu in trendy Latin American food joints, but this starchy root vegetable is a common home cooking ingredient in many cultures around the world.

WHAT IS YUCA?

Yuca is also known as cassava or manioc. It’s a starchy tuber vegetable grown and eaten throughout South America, Asia and Africa. Ever used or heard of tapioca? Well, that’s made from the powdered flesh of yuca root, or cassava as it’s often referred to when talking about tapioca.

By the way, it’s not yucca with double ‘C’, which is actually a shrub plant.

The root varies in size but is generally long and narrow with tough brown skin and dense, creamy white flesh, a little similar in texture to celeriac and yams. It has a very mild flavour and is quite starchy in texture when cooked. It’s drier than a white or sweet potato, or other root vegetables, so it likes to be served with wet condiments and sauces.

Is yuca/cassava toxic?

You might have heard that cassava can produce toxic cyanide. That’s true. However, there are two types of edible yuca – ‘sweet’ and ‘bitter’ – and the amount of toxins varies between them.

What you find sold in supermarkets and greengrocers is a ‘sweet’ cassava root, in which the cyanide is concentrated near the surface and after peeling and normal cooking, the root flesh is safe to eat.

The ‘bitter’ kind has this toxin throughout the root and needs to undergo extensive grating, washing and pressing to remove this substance. Those are usually used to make tapioca flour and other cassava products. Again, after the processing, those are also safe to eat so don’t throw away that bag of tapioca flour.

Is IT nutritious?

Although yuca is super starchy, it’s actually about 30 per cent carbohydrates. A 100-gram portion of cassava or yuca contains around 38 grams of carbs, compared to 80 grams in rice or 70 grams in wheat. It’s low in protein and is not exactly nutrient-dense but it does have significant amounts of calcium, vitamin C and some B vitamins, such as folate.

The cool thing is that it’s pretty sustainable food, highly drought-tolerant and can grow well in areas where other crops might not survive, hence its popularity in Africa. I think of it as a carrier for other more nutritious foods and as a non-inflammatory source of energy and carbohydrates that can add some variety to a grain-free or paleo diet.

How to cook with yuca?

Yuca is a bit like white or sweet potato but more dense and starchy. After peeling, it can be boiled, steamed, baked, fried or mashed and eaten on its own or added to other dishes. One of the simplest ways to enjoy it is in a form of baked fries to check out my recipe for Baked Yuca Fries with Catalan Tomato Sauce.

A few simple YUCA recipe ideas

  • Cuban style – boil yuca in highly salted water and then top it with olive oil infused heavily with roasted garlic and sprinkle with fresh green onions and coriander. Try this yuca with garlic sauce recipe.
  • Nicaraguans make a refreshing salad called vigoron, made with cooked yuca, cabbage slaw, and crispy pork skin.
  • Make yuca fritters or cakes by grating cooked yuca and mixing it with egg, spices and herbs. Then pan fry as patties or bake in the oven.
  • Serve it boiled with chimichurri or salsa verde sauce or garlic aioli.

Buying and storing yuca

Yuca root can be bought fresh or frozen, depending on where you live. Ask your local greengrocers if they stock it, and perhaps also mention cassava and manioc in case they use those names instead. African, South American and Asian grocers are also very likely to have it.

Look for firm blemish-free tubers. Store whole yuca root as you would potatoes, in a cool, dark, dry place for up to two weeks. You can also peel the root and cover with water and refrigerate for a few days, or wrap it tightly and freeze for several months.

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