Plantain farming in Nigeria is not a new thing, but over the years it has taken a dramatic turn in alleviating poverty and creating opportunities for agripreneurs. Million are currently been made every year from plantain farming in Nigeria, yet there is no end to it prospects because the demand for plantain and its by-product is higher than it used to be.
Nigeria is one of the largest plantain producing countries in the world. Despite this, Nigeria has not been featuring among plantain exporting countries in the world because the demand from local consumers is relatively high. Today, the number of farms cultivating plantain in Nigeria is low and this makes the demand for plantain and it’s by-products high.
Plantains are members of the banana family, but they contain more starch and is lower in sugar, on the average plantain has about 200 calories and is a good source of potassium and dietary fiber.
Plantains can be used in many ways:
– It can be eaten raw, steamed, roasted and fried
– Plantains can be dried and grounded into flour commonly called Amala among yoruba’s
– Plantain can be boiled, blended with water, spices and sugar to make chapo.
– After removing the skin, the unripe fruit can be sliced thin and deep fried in hot oil to produce plantain chips.
– Overripe plantain can be fried, to produced dodo(Dodo Ikire)
How to start a plantain farm:
When selecting land for a plantain farm, the land should be :
– Good topography
– Adequate PH
– Free from pest
– Easily accessible.
Plantain does best in loamy soil, the soil should contain enough organic matter with moderate moisture content.
The purpose of land preparation is to provide the necessary soil conditions which will enhance the successful establishment of the young suckers. The land is to be prepared with minimum disturbance to the soil (no-tillage). Manual clearing should be preferred to mechanized clearing because the machinery used always remove the topsoil which contains the organic matters.
The recommended spacing for plantain farming is 3m between the plantain rows and 2m within the row (3m by 2m). Alternatively, 2.5m×2.5m can also be used. A straight row in a flat land is recommended for the plantain suckers for maximum excess to sunshine and flow of air. Rows should follow a contour line in a sloppy land to decrease the effect of soil erosion.
Selecting Plantain Sucker
Plantain suckers are usually used in growing plantain, so it can also be referred to as the plant seed. Plantain suckers are usually acquired from plantain farmers at a price range of #150-#500 depending on the variety. When selecting plantain sucker the medium sized plantain suckers is usually preferred to the giant ones because the giant one’s leaves can easily be damaged by strong wind.
Selected plantain sucker should be strong and active, free from pest and diseases. Plantain suckers are usually separated from the matured plantain with the use of spade or machete, care must be taken so as not to peel off the sucker corm.
NOTE: The yield of your plantain farm depends on the type of sucker selected and varieties.
Plantain suckers are usually planted during the rainy season. The acquire plantain sucker should be planted as soon as possible, planted 30 by 30 by 30cm each. The planting hole should be deep so as to accommodate the root ball of the sucker.
Mulching, Fertilization, Weed control
Mulching is important for the transplanted plantain sucker to retain soil water, regulate soil temperature, improve soil fertility and suppress weed growth around the planted suckers.
Plantain requires sufficient organic matter to thrive well. The organic matter provides a suitable environment necessary for the growth of the sucker and to ensure a good yield. It is therefore required to provide nutrient to the suckers through fertilizers either organic or inorganic fertilizer. Dead plantain leaves should be left on the ground to improve soil fertility.
Organic fertilizer made up of livestock manure, household waste and wood ash improves plantain growth, yield and greatly reduce the effect of borer weevils and nematodes.
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It is necessary to eliminate weeds because they deprive plants of vital nutrients. Weeding can be done every six to eight weeks but the effect of the weed will get less when the canopy of the plantain leaves have grown thick. Weed can be done manually or by the use of herbicides.
Harvesting of plantain is done after eight to ten months of planting, or when one or two plantains out of the bunch is beginning to look yellowish. Cut the bunches from the stalk, this should be done carefully to avoid scratch on the bunch, little scratch or pressure on the bunch cause it to get rotten within a very short time.
Cut down the plantain tree to the ground and shred the leaves to be used for another mulching.
Remember once a plantain is harvested, you don’t need to plant again.
There is always a readily available market for plantains, you can sell in the local market, or supply to companies or industries that process plantain.
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