Have you ever eaten jam or drank wine? If you have, then you’ve certainly contributed to the sustenance of grape farming. However, this may not have been a contribution to the nation’s economy because a large percentage of the grapes consumed in Nigeria are imported.
Interestingly, the climatic condition in different parts of the country favours the cultivation of grapes. This indicates that there’s a largely untapped grape farming venture in the country, you can even start the venture in your garden or back yard.
Grape farming is not limited to climatic conditions however; they thrive best in warm or hot temperature.
Grapes are edible berries that are packed with vitamins A, C, K as well as minerals like iron, copper and manganese. Apart from these nutrients there are many healthy reasons why you should cultivate grape fruits. Some of these reasons include:
- Grapes can help prevent acne. The berries contain resveratrol which inhibits the bacteria on the skin that causes acne.
- The fibers in grape also help to prevent constipation and indigestion thereby promoting a healthy digestive system.
- High consumption of fruits like grapes tends to reduce asthma-like symptoms in children.
- The high nutritional content in grape and the low calorie count makes it an ideal fruit for diabetics and individuals trying to lose weight.
- Grapes also lower the risk of cancer and diabetes due to the polyphenols they contain. These chemicals have beneficial antioxidant activities.
- Grape seed extract which is obtained from the powdered grape seed can improve some blood circulation disorders particularly chronic venous insufficiency as well as reduce high cholesterol levels.
There are two major categories of grapes namely the table grape which has found use as a sweetener in cake; and the wine grape which is used in making wine.
This article will take you through a step by step guide on how to cultivate grapes specifically in Nigeria.
You can plant grapes in your garden; you can also plant on a large scale or commercial level. The soil should be deep and well drained. Grape does poorly in water-logged environment. This is why there should be a proper drainage system on the farmland to prevent waterlogging.
Also, when preparing the land, organic manure should be added to the farmland to improve the fertility and structure of the soil. The rate of application of manure should be about 50 to 60 kg per hectare of land. On the long term, this helps to improve crop yield on the farm.
The ideal planting season for grapes is between October and March. This is the dry season and during this period, there’s adequate exposure to sunlight and warm temperature which the grape vine needs.
Grapes don’t require much rains however in area where rainfall is below 500mm per annum, you’ll need to supplement your grape farming with irrigation. At the same time, grapes don’t need too much water; generally the annual rainfall in the areas where they are cultivated shouldn’t be more than 900mm.
The first thing to do prior to planting is to erect a support or a wall. You can use bamboo sticks as the support. Then dig a hole that is 15cm deep and 15cm away from the support. The seeds or the cutting is then planted into the hole. The rootstock of grape vines can also be planted directly on the farm. In this case, you’ll place the rootball of the grape in the hole and refill then gently tread the soil with your feet until the stem is firmly in its place.
After planting, you should cover the soil with a thick mulch of well decomposed manure or compost. This protects the roots from cold temperatures. The ideal temperature for grape cultivation is 15 to 400C
Adding manure and regular watering of the soil is very important for the growth of the grape vines. The spacing between vine rows should be about 2 to 3 m while the spacing within row should be about 1 to 1.5 m. In this way, you can have up to 5000 per hectare of farm land.
You can also improve the quality of the berries by mixing humic acid, sugar with coconut water and spraying on the bud at the development phase.
Training of grape vines is an important activity during cultivation. This should be done on trellis at least twice a year. Pruning should also be done when training.
The most common pest of grape is the red spider mite. This pest thrives in dry conditions although they are easily dispelled in humid conditions. However, high level of humidity can reduce the quality of the berries.
Other pests that attack grapes include thrips, flea beetles, leaf hoppers and mealy bugs. These pests can be controlled using the appropriate pesticides. Different form of mildew and anthracynose infestation also affects grape vines. A combination of cow urine, bordeaux mixture, and trichoderma can be used to combat these diseases.
Grapes don’t have a specific harvest date. You can harvest the berries at any time of the year depending on when you plant. The economic yield depends on the variety, however you can harvest up to 50 kg per hectare yearly. Generally, the vines keep producing for up to 15 years.
The grapes should be stored inside boxes especially if the places they are been transported are far from the farmland.
There are many things you can do with your grape. You can eat it at home raw or you can prepare it with your salads and pizza. Also, you can choose to sell to your local market or to wine making industries in the country. If you are cultivating grapes on a highly commercial level, you can properly package it for the purpose of export.
Overall, grape farming isn’t very common in the country yet the demand for grapes is quite high. This is what makes the business of grape farming extremely lucrative.