How to grow cassava
The manioc (Manihot esculenta Crantz), also known as cassava or yuca is a plant of the Euphorbiaceae of South American origin. From the root of the cassava, tapioca is derived, which is a starch derived from the tuber of the plant. tapioca is used as cereal flour. This comes in the form of small white spheres that when cooked become transparent, assuming a gelatinous consistency. Cassava varieties are classified as “sweet” or “bitter”; the sweet manioc root pulp can be eaten raw, while the bitter cassava pulp is toxic, and must be processed. The roots of the manioc with green branches require treatment to eliminate the linamarine, a cyanogenic glycoside normally found in the plant, which can turn into cyanide. If several weeks of untreated cassava products are taken for several weeks, a paralyzing disease, called konzo (also called mantakassa), will occur.
To grow cassava, being of tropical and subtropical origin, high temperatures with a good dose of humidity are required. However, this plant can be grown above all in the most southern areas of our country near the warmer and sheltered from the winds. The optimal condition of cultivation is to choose sufficiently loose soil, of volcanic or silica nature, to be irrigated in the hot period once a week, making sure to keep the soil moist but soft. The fertilization must be done in pre-implantation, possibly with mature manure, then worked finely with the soil before the plant. For the plant this can be done by sowing the stems at distances of at least 60-80 cm and at a depth of 10-15 cm. the cassava is then harvested by hand, lifting the lower part of the stem and pulling to extract the root from the ground. After the root is extracted, the stems are cut into pieces and replanted in the ground before the wet season. Cassava is one of the crops that provide the maximum amount of calories per square meter per day; this quantity is perhaps inferior only to that obtained through the cultivation of sugar cane. In Africa, the main enemies of manioc cultivations are the cochineal Phenacoccus manihoti and the Mononychellus tanajoa mite, which were responsible for 80% of plant losses until the seventies and eighties; important advances in the fight against these pests have been achieved in the last decades by the Biological Control Center for Africa. Another fearsome parasite is the cassava mosaic virus that is a virus similar to that of tobacco, and transmitted by some species of insects. In the eighties a mutation of the virus began to spread from Uganda, which turned out to be even more damaging; today this mutation afflicts the cultivations of countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. However, it can be interesting to cultivate in combination with other crops to reduce the effects of these parasites. A little like shifting cultivation which is a technique practiced by the populations living on the edges of the evergreen rainforest. The technique consists in the fact that shortly before the beginning of the rainy season, several crops are sown together. Very often it is a species of tuber-like starch (cassava, yam, taro, tannia), but also banana plantain, corn, peanut. This technique involves a more homogeneous distribution of working hours and greater productivity and health of cultivated crops.
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