Did you know that your favourite milk tea tapioca pearls came from trees? LOL. Just kidding. We do not pick the pearls from a tree.
Tapioca or cassava is a perennial woody shrub which has diverse usage – from feed, food to other industrial purposes.
Here’s a quick guide on how to grow your pearls.
1. Choosing growing area
Cassava plants love fertility, sandy loam to clay loam soil with medium soil fertility. The area should also have enough water and good drainage.
2. Land preparation
If you are just going to plant less than 10 plants, you just need to remove weeds, loosen the soil and dig a shallow hole (with 1 m distance from one another). Large scale farming which involves hectarage of land will require you to use tractors to implement plowing, harrowing and furrowing. You also have to create shallow holes. Distance between furrows is 0.75 – 1 m.
3. Preparation of planting materials
Choose healthy and free from insects and diseases planting materials. In cassava production, stems are used as planting material. Cassava with low cyanide should be your choice if you are going to use it as food (e.g. milk tea pearls). Cut the stems into pieces (20-25 cm long).
Distance between plants or the distance between holes is 1 m. Put ample amount of fertilizer (i.e. 14-14-14) and cover it with soil before putting the cuttings, then cover again the cuttings. You can place the cutting horizontally, vertically or slightly inclined if the soil is dry, wet or has enough moisture, respectively.
If irrigation is not available, try to plant when the soil is still moistened or when there was rain a few days before planting. Irrigation can be done after planting and during the vegetative stage of the plant. Cassava can thrive in adverse condition but if you want to get optimum performance from your plant, you need to provide them with best cultivation practices.
6. Fertilizer application
Application of fertilizer can be done before planting (you can use 14-14-14) and during the vegetative stage (or 2 months after planting, use 46-0-0) of the plant. But, cassava can still grow even in low fertility soil.
7. Pest management
Weeds, insects and diseases are the things you need to look out as it will significantly affect your harvest. Weeding can be done 2 months after planting and before harvesting, and when necessary during the entire growing period – be very careful in removing the weeds.
On the other hand, the common insect pests of cassava are leaf miners and red spider mites, most cassava plants can survive despite the attack of this pests. Applying insecticides should be the very last thing you will consider in controlling these insect pests.
For the diseases, try to plant clean materials and in areas with no known disease/s. One of the diseases you should look out for is the witches’ broom disease. The disease can drastically decrease your yield.
Harvesting can be done 8-12 months after planting. Each cassava plant can be uprooted manually or harvesting rod can be used. Be careful not do damage the roots.