OFF SEASON LEAFY VEGETABLE PRODUCTION
Most times in most places, leafy vegetables are very cheap. This is very discouraging to leafy vegetables farmers. However, leafy vegetables are very expensive in the dry season making it a lucrative enterpreneurial expenditure.
As a vegetable grower and producer for almost a decade i can say farmers can realize more than ten times the cost of the seeds for producing leafy vegetable when all other costs are excluded. Even when all other costs have been added ( cost of herbicides, labour, insecticides, water supply) e.t.c. There is still a lot of profit left for the farmers. By God's grace, in this article, we are going to look at how to produce various leafy veetables in the dry season.
VARIOUS LEAFY VEGETABLES AND THEIR NAMES (YORUBA AND BOTANICAL NAME
1. EFO TETE – Amaranthus hybridus
There are two varieties; the light green variety with black coloured seed and the reddish stem variety wih white coloured seeds (the one pictured above)
2. EWEDU – Corchorus olitoriusThere are two major varieties; the one with serrated leaves (eweduyaya; pictured first below) and the one without serrated leaves (pictured second below)
3.Gbagba - Garden egg plant - Solanummacrocarpon; There are three major varieties; the bitter type, the very bitter variety (osungbabgba) and the sweet variety with purple coloured stem (pictured below)
4. UGU - Fluted pumpkin -Telfairiaoccidentalis
5. Ebolo - Fire weed – Crassocephalum crepidoides
6. Soko - Lagos spinach - Celosia argentea
7.Ogunmo (huckleberry) -
Solanum scabrum-This is different from efo odu (night shade ) as odu has not so broad leaves.
The most sought after in their decreasing order of demand is; amaranth, ewedu, ugu, gbagba. Soko (Lagos spinach) is very popular in Lagos and not popular in states like osun.
TOOLS/ EQUIPMENTS/ CAPITAL NEEDED FOR OFF SEASON VEGETABLE PRODUCTION.
1. PIECE OF LAND
A plot (67m2) is enough for start-up.
Land can be gotten either by
ii) renting (some people rent land to farmers per season. It may be #2000 per year, more or less depending on the location.
The land required for off season vegetable production must either be;
a) waterlogged areas which would have been dried in the dry season OR
b) river/stream banks (itake)
c) river side
d) dried up stream channel
A normal land will result in wastage of water as a large amount of water will be needed to wet the land
2. Water Source - It can be stream, river, well, borehole e.t.c. The least expensive source is a flowing stream. The water source should also be considered when locating land.
3. Watering equipment ; it can be;
a) watering can
b) buckets and bowls
c) water pumping machine, hose and source of power ( electricity or fuel (petrol) )
d) erected sprinkler irrigated structure
Water pumping machine, hose and source of power is recommended because;
i) The hose can be used to supply water to plots/places that are very far from the water source.
ii) It reduces the stress of going back and forth from the water source when using watering can/ buckets
iii) by controlling or regulating the size of the hose outlet either by hand or other means, the force of the water and the amount of water coming out can be regulated.
Note ; The outlet of water pumping machines is very large and the hose required for this outlet is also large. So when this is used, you can only practise furrow irrigation. However, this outlet can be modified in weldering shops to reduce the size and increase the number of outlet as shown below.
When the size is modified as it is in the right, it can be used with small hose and overhead irrigation is possible with someone holding the hose
When the normal large outlet of pumping machine is used, only large hose can be used and only furrow irrigation is possible.
Overhead Irrigation structure
The disadvantage of water pumping machine is the
i) cost of power (fuel or electricity)
ii) The bulkiness of carrying the machine back and forth (This can be prevented by erecting a permanent structure for the pumping machine)
This machine can be bought (expensive) or rented.
Herbicides are needed to kill the weeds an vegetation on the land before planting plantong and after harvesting. Example of herbicides that can be used are those ones containing glyphosate as acting ingredient e.g. force up. These can be bought in agric materials shop.it must be noted that there are different types of herbicides. One of the basis for their differences is in their mode of action. The recommended type for pre-planting application is the systemic type of herbicides. This type of herbicides kills the plants inside out, that is, it starts acting from the plant system; the vascular tissues up to the root and kills the plant completely. The class of each herbicide is always indicated clearly on the label of every herbicide container at the time of purchase. To know more about classification of herbicides, visit geniusroll.com/classification_of_herbicides.php
5. Insecticides/dongoyaro tree source
Nowadays, insecticide is a necessity in leafy vegetable production in the dry
Season as there is usually a long season of cabbage worm (nini) infestation. The nini mostly affects amaranthusspp destructively overnight.
Examples of insecticides that can be bought in stock includes; Cypermethrin, DD force e.t.c.
Note; when the insecticides are applied, it usually takes a week before harvesting to avoid poisoning or contamination.
Another but less effective alternative to insecticide is the dongoyaro leaves (AzadiracthaIndica), when the leaves WITHOUT the seeds are boiled for 10 minutes, allowed to cool and applied with sprayer, it repels the insects (AzadiracthaIndica)
6) Fertilizer / Poultry Manure
If the source of poultry manure is near, the cost of transporting it to farm is cheap and the source is reliable for continuous supply, then, poultry manure is recommended ( Note - The type of poultry manure preffered is the one gotten from deep litter poultry system where poultry droppings and saw dust have been mixed.)
Poultry manure is preffered if the above condition holds true because it;
i) can be used as a marketing strategy or promotion (that is, your enterprise may bear a positioning statement that states " our leafy vegetables are cultivated organically e.t.c.)
ii) releases the nutrient over a long period of time ( i.e. a longer duration of action ) unlike fertilizers.
iii) increases the water holding capacity of the soil.
However, these poultry manure must be nearing powdery like nature . A bulky and solid poultry manure will hinder germination and slows nutrient release
For fertilizer, Urea is the best as it contains a lot of Nitrogen which is the major nutrient required for the green colour of vegetables.
At least 8 Congos (80 milk tins) is required for one plot of land. As at now, a congo ( 10 milk tins) can be bought for N200.
Also, the fertilizers can be bought in bulk (in 50kg bags) and stored.
7) Knapsack Sprayer – This is very important for spraying insecticides and herbicides. It can be bought within the range N7 500 – N10 000, more or less (16 litres) or
You can also get the small sprayer
8) Seeds – Various vegetable seeds are sold at different local markets and agric shops.
9) Hoe and cutlass
12) Twines or ropes for tieing the vegetables in various weights and sizes e.g. banana ropes. As small and irrelevant as this may seem to be, it usually hinders me when harvesting.
13) rain boots (optional)
14) Table scale (optional)
STEPS IN PRODUCTION
LAND CLEARING AND PREPARATION
Herbicide application / stumping
If it is a forest with trees, stumping may be required ; If it is an already cultivated farm land with weeds , herbicides (glyphosate) can be applied and left to act for a week and half
Clearing / removing the weeds; The dead weeds are then removed from their stand and from the plot. Note ; A tractor ( very expensive) can be employed to remove the weeds , plough the land and harrow it to get fine tilth. (This may be recommended for a large area of land)
Vegetable beds are then made or the land is harrowed. The result of any one of the two must be fine tilth ( that is, smooth soil which water and fragile roots can penetrate). If hoe is used, the hoe is driven into the soil to invert the soil. After inverting, the soil is usually in clods/ clumps. The back of the hoe handle is then used to pulverize the clod soil to fine tilth.
FERTILIZER/ MANURE APPLICATION
Use broadcasting method (see under tools/ equipments for details on type of manure). You can cover the applied fertilizer lightly with soil.
Many leafy vegetables seeds are grains that are broadcasted when planting (e.g. amaranthus and cochorus).
Some leafy vegetables requires planting in the nursery (e.g. gbagba, fire weed, ogunmo and soko
The seedlings derived from the second category are then spaced when planted on the field.
4. WATER APPLICATION- As mentioned earlier, the easiest and cheapest way to get water is erecting a structure for a pumping machine near a flowing stream and connecting the outlet to a hose that can be extended to any part of the farm. A person is usually needed to hold the hose above the plant so as to apply it on the plant. The force must be regulated as much force can cause the stem to break or become deformed. The recommended time for wetting is early in the morning before sunrise and late in the evening after sunset everyday
5. APPLICATION OF FERTILIZER – Fertilizer or manure is recommended to be applied before sowing or planting. However, weeks after germination, if yellowing of leaves ort stunted growth is noticed, fertilizer or manure can be applied. The method of application is broadcasting for leafy vegetables such as amaranthus and cochorus. However, for vegetables like gbagba and huckleberry ( ogunmo ), side placing, ring placing is recommended. After application, a thin and flexible tree branch containing a lot of leaves like a thin glyricidia (agunmaniye) branch can then be used to dust or remove those fertilizer grains or manure dust from the leaves. It is advisable to water immediately after application.
Also, there must be at least a gap of 5 to 6 days after the application of fertilizer before the vegetable can be harvested for consumption.
6. WEED MANAGEMENT
Some common weeds that can be with amaranthus on the field include;
Spear grass e.t.c.
The most efficient means is to uproot those weeds by hand pulling. It is for this reason that the seed must be sown immediately after bed preparation so as to allow the establishment of the vegetable before the emergence of any weed.
It is for the same reason that the land to be used is first sprayed with systemic herbicide to kill the weeds completely.
7. PEST MANAGEMENT
Much of this has been discussed under the tools/ equipment section. Cabbage worm (nini) is very destructive. During its season, leafy vegetables are usually scarce in the market. It should also be noted that, just like fertilizer, a minimum gap of 5 to 7 days must be allowed after application of insecticides before it can be harvested for consumption. However, this gap is not necessary if dongoyaro extract is used for the pest control.
Some times, the cabbage worms strike again just immediately after the five day period ( the No Harvesting period). If this occurs, neem(dongoyaro) extract be applied to eliminate the need of waiting for another five days before harvesting.
Usually, amaranthus are matured for harvesting after 21 days, cochorus after 24 days. Other leafy vegetables like gbagba and ogunmo can take up to two months before harvesting. Ugu can take more than that. Amaranthus and cochorus are usually harvested by uprooting and then tying them in bundles for sale. Other leafy vegetables like gbagba, ebolo and ogunmo are harvested by cutting a stem branch from one of the branches (or the single branch if it is one ). The cut area usually regenerates to produce many branches and leaves. So, for gbagba, harvesting may continue for the whole year in seven days interval. The cut stem are then tied in bundles for sale.
To avoid doubt and confusion, and to gain the trust of the customer, a table scale is recommended for weighing the vegetables. For the amaranthus (during dry season at its peakest), a kg is usually sold for N100. Ewedu (cochorus) usually gets very scarce at the peak of harmattan. At this time, a kg of cochorus can be sold for N200. This is the case in the not so urbanized cities like Osogbo and Ife. A gbagba farmer is the richest during this period.
FOR MORE TIPS, you can ask question on this facebook page; Agriculture Education Blog
he is a seasoned educationist. He obtained his bachelor degree from Obafemi Awolowo University. He has written many educational articles on different blogs