Ugwu, botanically known as Telfaria occidentalis is an African plant. It is one of the common vegetables in Nigeria, it contains many nutrients which are beneficial to human health. Cultivation of this crop is quite easy as it requires little human effort.
There are basically 7 steps in the establishing a successful ugwu farm, namely;
- Site selection.
- Land preparation.
- Pre-planting operation.
- Planting operation.
- Seed germination.
- Post planting operations.
Site selection: Ugwu needs a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter with a neutral pH. A waterlogged soil does not support the growth of ugwu.
Land preparation: Prior to sowing, the land has to be prepared, it has to be cleared and the stumps have to be removed to make the land free from weeds. After these are done, the plot has to be marked-out to know the portion where the seeds would be planted. There are two approaches to planting ugwu seeds;
- Planting using dibbling method: In this method, the soil is just scooped and the seeds are inserted into the soil. The soil is not pulverized or tilled.
- Planting on beds: in this method, nursery beds are constructed, the land is tilled and pulverized . Raised beds of about 4m by 4m are constructed across the slope of the land to reduce the risk of erosion.
Manure, specifically poultry waste should be incorporated into the soil before planting.
Pre-planting operation: Before planting, the pod (where is seeds are embedded) is procured, the pod contains many seeds. Matured seeds are extracted and air dried for about 24 hours before planting, immature seeds are flat and without cotyledon and are to be discarded. After extracting the seeds, the seed can be treated with insecticide-fungicide mixture such as Apron plus or Seedrex to prevent the seeds from insects and fungi attack.
Planting operation: Planting ugwu seeds is a technical operation as one must be careful to ensure the right side is inserted into the soil. When the seeds are successfully dried up, a pointed edge is noticed at the top of the seeds. This pointed edge is the portion that must be inserted into the soil at a depth of 3-5cm. Any mistake in the mode of planting could adversely affect the seedlings emergence. The pointed edge should be identified and ensure it points downward during planting on the field at a spacing of 1m by 1m.
Seed Germination: Well-treated seeds would germinate at about 10 days to 12 days after planting.
Post planting operations: After the planting and emergence of the seedlings, certain operations have to be put done to salvage the seedlings to harvesting period, they include;
- Watering: The seedlings have to be watered daily for the first two weeks of emergence to enable them grow well.
- Weeding: Weeds have to be managed to guide against competition on water, nutrients etc. with the seedlings. Weeding should be done every two weeks.
- Fertilizer application: A nitrogenous fertilizer such as urea is the best to apply on ugwu farm, because ugwu is a leafy plant and such fertilizer enhances the growth of the vegetative parts or leaves of plant. However, NPK 15:15:15 could be applied.
- Staking: Staking is not encouraged in commercial ugwu farm as it distort the growth habit and could reduce the potential yield on the farm.
- Control of pest: Pest such as leaf defoliators and some pathogenic infections are often noticed. This can be controlled biologically by boiling neem leaves (Dongoyaro) and spraying the extracts in the leaves for a period of two weeks or using pesticide such as Laraforce.
Harvesting: Ugwu can be harvested after about 30 days of planting. However on commercial basis it is advised to harvest at about 60 days of planting, ugwu can be harvested repeatedly for about eight months at an interval of 15 days.