Aug 16, 2009

Cassava: the number one industrial crop

Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | August 16, 2009

Errol G. Lindo, Contributor

IN READING your article on cassava I am forced to provide a few pointers on the direction in which the country should go. I will state here categorically that cassava must be the number one crop for agro industry in the areas of energy, industry, human and livestock consumption.


Cassava could become our number one industrial crop because there are established industrial products, and as reports indicate, we are developing a number of additional products. Because of the productive potential of cassava we should not have a problem of producing beyond the sample stage. Cassava leaves are high in protein and are used as a green vegetable in some cultures. Experiments on the use of fresh cut cassava leaves and/or pellet for animal feed should be expanded. Ethanol production for transportation must come from cassava.


This cereal can be grown in Jamaica. Research work done in the 1970s and 1980s has shown it to be viable. The crop was not given its rightful place because bread made from the locally grown varieties does not rise as much as with the imported grain.

Please let us be real here, this flour will make good dumpling and roti, and in view of the fact that imported wheat is been stretched by use of other ingredients, locally grown wheat can compete.

The lands required to be successful are sugar cane lands. Let us make the difficult decisions. If Israel can grow wheat in the desert using pressurised irrigation, then we should explore the possibility of using soaker hose technology in our production systems.


Research has shown that this crop can be grown in Jamaica. The reason why it is not being grown is because the oil content of suitable varieties is lower than imported seeds. In view of the fact that soy milk and other soy products have over the years become increasingly important in our diet, soybean needs to be revisited so as to meet our demands.


Many attempts have been made with this crop which has seen success and failure. The country of Japan for a very long time would not allow the importation of cheaper rice so as to protect their local industry and protect the nation as a whole from starvation if its number one food staple is not available.

Jamaica, in its attempt to produce rice, has limited itself to production on marginal flood plane lands. It is high time that sugar cane lands be utilised in rice production. The present effort as reported is excellent in moving yields from five ton/hectare to seven ton/hectare. Ratooning is a brilliant idea. A rotation of rice (main crop and two ratoons) and a cool season planting of soybean should be explored.


These crops need to be moved from marginal lands and subsistence production to high-quality lands and pressurised irrigation.


For export produce, smaller tubers would lend themselves to longer shelf life because of less cutting. Producing smaller tubers may involve a combination of smaller head pieces, spacing and the use of irrigation to deliver split application of nutrients. Uniformity in tuber size and shape may also be managed by use of the European method of producing radish in a confined space.


Pressurised irrigation, namely, drip and or micro-sprinklers, are a must even in the hills. Varietal selection of callaloo (amaranths sp) from the different regions of the world, such as Nepal, must be carried out to determine which are most, suitable for planting at different times of the year. Non-traditional vegetable species, such as collard, kale, turnip greens, etc., are to be explored.


Mangoes for export should be for the exotic market in mind. Therefore, grow orchards of Julie, Bombay, East Indian, and may be some common for the diaspora. Mango nectar and powder should become part of the value-added objective. Consider fruiting twice per year, which may involve stressing the trees to get the second crop. Use of container farming with brackish water is a possible area of expansion. Information on this technology, if not already residing in the country, can be had from the Volcani Center in Israel.


There is nothing like a good sugar loaf. Produce, produce, produce.

Pear/Peaches/American apple

If we have to have them, then produce your own. Again, get information from Volcani Center in Israel. Nitrogen gas in a cooling system may be use to provide required chilling temperatures.


Apart from the problem of foot-and-mouth disease and two-legged rats, the major impediment to production is sufficient high-quality feed. Some of the crops outlined above, such as cassava, corn, sorghum and soybean, must be produced over and above that which is required for human and industrial use. There should never be competition between the different sectors and uses.

Spanish needle is a high-protein forage native to the country. Research should be implemented regarding pressurised irrigation, cutting regiment, split fertiliser application (liquid fertiliser) and varietal selection.


It is imperative that a fish preserving industry, namely, canning and salted dried, be developed. Fish strains such as salmon, crappie, brim, and carp should be investigated. I know some may be saying these are temperate species, to which my reply is, we are blowing off tons of nitrogen at the dry ice factory at Ferry. This nitrogen should be used as a cooling agent for the waters in which these new species would be grown in.


As mentioned before, we are blowing off tons of nitrogen gas because there is no market for it. Put our chemist and engineers to work on producing ammoniac nitrogen, nitrogen oxides, and urea from this wasted product for use in fertilisers.

These are a few thoughts that I believe will put Jamaica on a firm footing to recovery. Many are not original but are worth repeating. Nor are these thoughts exhaustive, as there are much that can be said regarding ackee, breadfruit, fruit juices, developing farm machinery with low to zero soil compaction, and settlement of young farmersin Guyana to produce some of the inputs for our new valued agri-industry.

Errol G. Lindo is a former agriculturalist with the Ministry of Agriculture. Email:

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