ONE of the most sort after farm produce on the market since the COVID-19 pandemic started is garlic, which is being used as part of home remedies for prevention.
This has resulted in the increased demand of garlic which local farmers can take advantage of.
Garlic takes about nine months to reach maturity, however, it is common to find lots of varieties maturing after roughly five months.
The global titan of garlic farming is China and the top three global export markets for garlic are the US, France and Brazil.
The importance of garlic is mainly in its nutritional and medicinal value.
Garlic is one of the most important spices used in cooking and it is useful in human health due to its antibiotic value.
Garlic has also been found to optimise the function of the human heart.
Horticulture expert, Clive Masarakufa said in garlic production, ploughing and harrowing were central to achieving the best soil profile.
“Ploughing to depths of 20 centimetres will help produce the best soil profile,” he said.
“After harrowing, then comes levelling, which enhances soil drainage.”
Masarakufa said climate-wise, garlic could grow well in a wide range of climates.
“Wet conditions are best for growing garlic thus growing it during the rain season is ideal,” he said.
“However, there should not be too much wetness as there must be a balance with sunlight with six hours of sunlight per day highly recommended for optimum growth to occur.
“It must also be noted that the growth of garlic is heavily compromised if the weather is too hot.
“Growth phase needs an optimum temperature range of 25-to-30 degrees Celsius.
“In general, ideal temperatures can range from as low as 13 degrees Celsius.”
Masarakufa said garlic required lots of moisture throughout its growth.
“This means it requires soil that is good at retaining moisture,” he said.
“The soil should have good drainage and must be endowed with considerable fertility – incorporation of organic material into the soil might be necessary.
“Organic material that is still slightly or not yet decomposed can be detrimental to the crop and this is because such organic material can enhance the incidence and propagation of diseases.”
The best soil for garlic ranges from sandy soils to loam soils, particularly clay loams, said Masarakufa.
Planting, he said, started with sourcing garlic bulbs.
“You have to be sure the bulbs are healthy and do not take that lightly because poor seed culminates in poor yields,” said Masarakufa.
“Some recommend that the size of the bulbs should be considered if good yields are to be realised.
“Before you plant, you have to take the bulbs apart into stand-alone cloves.
“Do not make the mistake of peeling them – keep their outer covering (i.e. husks) in place.”
Cloves, said Masarafuka, should be placed vertically in the ground with the roots at the bottom side so that they get into the ground first.
With moisture key for garlic to grow well, Masarafuka said, irrigation may be necessary if there was not enough rainfall.
“Especially during the time bulbs develop and grow towards maturity, watering is vital,” he said.
“At the beginning, irrigation should be done regularly, that is once every seven days.
“Once germination has occurred and the crop is now growing, irrigation can be done twice a month.”
Pertaining to diseases and pests, Masarafuka said cutworms are the most common pests whereas white rot and downey mildew are some of the common diseases.
He said harvesting was imminent when yellowing and tipping over of the tops begin to occur.
“Do not wait till they flat out dry out; that will be too late if you want to harvest good quality garlic,” he said.
“When harvesting, it is advised to sample before harvesting everything.
“The bulbs must be sufficiently dry, compact and the husks must be dry.
“Harvesting should not be done too early or too late because if done too early, bulbs might be too tender and the husks will be too soft, making them susceptible to damage.
“You can dry them in a shade for about a week and it would be best to remove or cut short roots and any foliage.
“Room temperature with adequate ventilation suffices for the longevity of garlic in storage.”
According to Masarafuka, the average yield was from four-to-10 tonnes per hectare and it was quite possible to realise a profit of around US$6 000 per hectare.