Cassava Fertilization Requirements


Okeoghene Sike-Ezo

Industrial Cassava Specialist

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Cassava fertilizer requirements

There is a common misconception that cassava can grow in soils where other crops fail due to poor fertility and may not necessarily require additional nutrients for its growth, development, and yield. However, this assumption is false. Cassava can adapt and grow more slowly on nutrient-poor soil and produce low-quality yields [1]. Cassava requires nutrients like other growing crops. The growing time of cassava is long and can take 7 to 12 months. This means cassava has more time to uptake and utilize nutrients for growth and development to boost crop yield than other crops like maize (with a shorter growing time). Fertilizers supply the essential nutrients that are lacking in the soil [1].

To obtain the optimum and desirable results, a farmer should take the following into account when applying fertilizers:

  • Good agronomic practices are needed before the application of fertilizers
  • Process of choosing the best fertilizer.
  • Deciding the proper rate of fertilizer to apply.
  • Best timing for fertilizer application.
  • Proper fertilizer application methods [1]

Good agronomic practices

Applying good agronomic practices in land preparation for cassava cultivation is essential to aiding the growth and development of cassava with the proper application of fertilizer. Some precautionary measures and steps that need to be carried out include:

  • Use improved cassava varieties that are disease-tolerant. TME 419, TMS 30572, or TMS 98-0581 are good options. TME 419 is one of the most popular cassava varieties used by Nigerian farmers.
  • Farmers should obtain disease-free cuttings from a certified source.

Plant spacing is also an essential agronomic practice that must be observed. That is, the planting space should be 1 m by 0.8 m and 

  • 12,500 plants per hectare (5,000 plants per acre)
  • Good land preparation. Plowing, harrowing, and ridging the land for planting and cultivating cassava can aid weed control and management [1, 2, 3].

Process of choosing the best fertilizer for a cassava crop

Before any applications, it is essential to perform a soil analysis to determine the fertility status and nutrients stored in the field. At the same time, the farmer should know when the need for each nutrient is maximum during the growing season of the plants to supply his/her crop with the right type and amount of nutrients-fertilizers. Cassava crop requires different nutrients to grow. The 3 essential nutrients are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). The function these nutrients play in cassava growth and development are listed here.

  • Nitrogen provides the nutrients for the growth of the stems and leaves of cassava plants. It is the most crucial nutrient for the cassava crop.
  • Phosphorus provides the nutrients aiding cassava crops with the energy for growth and development.
  • Potassium provides the nutrients for bulking of the storage roots [1].

It is imperative to state that these nutrients are not required at once. Nitrogen and Phosphorus are important and needed early in the growing season to stimulate plant growth (stems and leaves), assisting canopy development. At the same time, potassium is essential later to support bulky roots.

Two types of fertilizers are used to grow cassava crops: compound fertilizers that provide several nutrients together and single-nutrient fertilizers. Examples of compound fertilizers are NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potasium) 15:15:15, NPK 17:17:17, or NPK 20:10:10. Single nutrient fertilizers only supply 1 or 2 of these nutrients. The combination of a different set of fertilizers, such as Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) for P+N and urea extra nitrogen and Muriate of Potash (MOP) for K.

Choosing the best fertilizer for cassava crops is vital to enhancing crop yield. Usually, a combination of fertilizers is preferred over a single-nutrient fertilizer.

Using a different set of fertilizers, such as urea, is to apply it into the soil during the field’s land preparation and tillage operation. A few inches of 0.25 rainfall can blend urea deep enough into the soil. It can also blend into the soil with the irrigation water system or channel.

The right way to apply fertilizer

The right way to apply fertilizer depends on the following factors:

  • When no soil analysis data are available, applying eight (8) sacks of complete (14-14-14) fertilizer is recommended per hectare. Apply fertilizer 2-6 weeks after planting at 5-10 cm depth and 15-20 cm (6-8 ιν) away from the plant.
  • The soil fertility and yield goals (poor soil with low nutrients will require more fertilizer than good and fertile soil). If the yield is more than 20 tonnes per hectare, investing in fertilizer may not be a good idea because the cassava yield may not increase further.
  • The planting time. It depends, among others, on the local environmental conditions and the cassava variety chosen. This factor may also affect the efficiency of nutrient absorption and use from the plants. The cassava crop needs to receive sufficient rainfall after applying fertilizer because the nutrients can be dissolved and taken up by the crop’s roots for growth.
  • Investing in fertilizer is only sensible if it is profitable. This means that the cassava produced from fertilizer application is high enough to make up for the increased yield and add to the revenue [1, 2, 3].

The best time to apply fertilizer to cassava

  • It is essential to analyze the soil before planting to determine the amount and kind of fertilizer needed.
  • Applying fertilizer during heavy rains can cause nutrient losses due to erosion. This is not advisable.
  • Fertilizer must always be applied when the soil is moist, after 1 or 2 rain showers.
  • Apply N, P, and K fertilizer 2 to 4 weeks after planting. This supports the early growth of the cassava crop.
  • Apply N fertilizer at moderate rates in two or three splits to increase N recovery efficiency and induce good yields.
  • Apply K fertilizer in two to three splits to minimize losses.
  • Apply a full dose of P in the first application to support root development.
  • Avoid applying fertilizer too late to crops because the consumption of nutrients in dry conditions is limited or can cause damage [1, 2, 3].

Proper fertilizer application methods

  • Make a full ring furrow about 20 cm away from each cassava plant.
  • Spread the required fertilizer in the furrow and cover it with soil.
  • Distributing the fertilizer dose equally to all plants is tricky and requires some practice. Using bottle cap measures can assist in getting the dosage right [1, 2, 3].

The importance of appropriate fertilizer application for the sustainable production of cassava cannot be overemphasized; insufficient and unbalanced fertiliser use widens cassava yield gaps. The role fertilizers play in increasing production and ensuring healthy crops is crucial to providing the right balance of nutrients. Using fertilizer only makes sense if the value gained from the increase in root yield is larger than the cost of the fertilizer. The right balance of nutrients is crucial to cassava development and yield. Since too much nitrogen causes cassava to produce too many leaves, cassava is highly tolerant of low phosphorus levels.


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