Cocoyam is another tuber crop used mainly for human food. It is commonly grown amongst small scale farmers who operate within the subsistence economy. In the past, it is regarded as a lowly important crop which cultivation and consumption lie within the less privileged farmers.
Choice of Land
Cocoyam thrives better on a well drained sandy loamy soil. It produces optimum yields when planted in fertile soil with a good water retention capacity.
Clear the bush, burn the thrashes if it is a virgin land. If it is a ploughable land, plough twice at 15 days interval. Heaps or ridges can be made at 1 m x 1 m apart.
Time of Planting
Immediately the rain is steady in the area suitable for its cultivation.
There are two main varieties white and pink varieties.
Plant on the crest of the heaps or ridges at 1m apart on row. A whole cormel or cut sett from corms is planted at about 15–20 cm deep. The cut surface of the sett should face upwards in a slanting position.
A whole corm or cormel can be cut into setts for planting. The sett or corm should not be too big or too small.
Fertile soil may not be fertilized for cocoyam but it may be needed if the soil has been depleted. Apply N.P.K. 15:15:15 at 5–6 beer bottle capfuls in a ring form about 10 cm to the plant.
Weed and Pests
Fungus attacks cocoyam plant, leaves turn yellow prematurely and the entire plant becomes wilt and damping -off of the seedlings may also result. In severe attack, uproot the affected plant, bury it or burn it.
(i) WHITE ANTS: White ants cause damage on the tubers at any stage of development or even in storage.
(ii) Other pests include rodents that eat the corms and cormels on field.
Most cocoyam varieties mature in about 8 months from planting. Harvesting is done by shaking up the plant and uprooting it and bringing out the cormels while those cormels that remain in the soil are dug out. Cormels should not be bruised for proper storage.
Yields are variable depending on the variety but may be in the region of
The cormels are cleaned but not washed. They may be arranged on raised platforms where they may remain in good condition for up to 3-4 months.
Other storage techniques include packing on spots and dusted with wood ash, or leaving on heaps/ridges unharvested for 2-3 months but sprouting should not be allowed.
Uses of Cocoyam
(i) Cormels are peeled, cut into necessary pieces then fry and eat; boil and eat; or boil to pound like pounded yam.
(ii) Cocoyam flour is made from dried cormels, and can be used for confectionary.
(iii) The broad leaves are equally used for wrapping purposes for example kolanut, bitter-cola (orogbo) etc.