Cultivation of poor planting materials and wrong cultural farming practices have been identified as major challenges accounting for low cashew productivity among local farmers.
In recent times, cashew has been identified as a new ‘gold’ for farmers, especially among those in the savannah-transition zone. It has triggered massive cultivation across Bono, Bono East and part of the Savannah Region.
For reasons such as easy accessibility and probably, ignorance, many farmers have resorted to planting raw nuts. The farmers however, have to contend with low productivity as compared to their colleagues in Vietnam, India and Brazil.
Ghana and other cashew producing countries in sub-Sahara Africa face the challenge of low cashew yield. The productivity level in the country and sister countries in the sub-Region is between 200-400kg per hectare as against the potential yields of 1,500-2,000kg/hac in countries in Asia and South America.
“When it comes to cashew productivity, a lot of factors need to be considered. Farmers must be wary of source of planting materials, farmers must adhere to the recommended 10×10 metre planting distance and practice pruning and thinning, when necessary. Most farmer plant cashew in close distances like maize without observing maintenance practices such as pruning and thinning,” Emmanuel Owusu-Poku, Acting Manager of Wenchi Agricultural Research Station has observed.
He advised farmers to resort to grafted seedlings for planting instead of raw nuts to guarantee them higher yields, indicating that research has proven that grafted seedlings mature and bear flowers early and also produce high yields. “Raw nuts are heterogeneous in nature, and as they grow, farmers will not have the same nuts (characteristics) as they picked from the mother trees,” he added.
Capacity building training
Mr. Owusu-Poku was speaking to the B&FT on the sidelines of a capacity building training, held at the Wenchi Agric Station for Private Cashew Nursery Operators and Agriculture Extension Agents (AEAs). The 30 participants were selected from the Bono, Bono East and Ahafo Regions.
The one-day training was an element of the implementation of government’s flagship ‘Planting for Export and Rural Development’ (PERD) under Modernizing Agriculture in Ghana (MAG) policy. PERD seeks to promote rural economic growth and improve household incomes of rural farmers through the cultivation of tree crops like cashew, mango, shea, cotton, rubber and coffee.
The choice of Wenchi Agric Station for the training, he explained attests to the fact that it has over the last two decades played a critical role as an ‘excellence centre’ for cashew production and productivity. He said the Station has the largest cashew nursery shed in West Africa with a capacity of producing averagely over 150,000 grafted seedlings annually.
Cashew grafting & nursery management
The Acting Wenchi Agric Station Manager in a presentation took the participants through the process of soft-wood grafting practical, and underscored the importance of vegetative propagation by grafting. “To generate uniform crop that resembles the mother plant with traits such as high yielding, good nut size, disease resistance, and uniform tree, the grafter needs rootstock and scion as essential components.”
A Field Officer, Marcellinus Babai, on his part schooled the nursery operators and AEAs on cashew nursery establishment. Highlighting the need for a nursery, he said it creates conducive microclimate, nurture planting materials, protect the plants against pests with minimal efforts, and saves time and labour.
He added that record keeping in nursery helps operators to know the quality of materials in stock (healthy, weak and dead) once; to determine estimation of returns after sale of materials; and to effectively and efficiently plan.