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A guide to Profitable Okra Farming – 10 Steps

Okra farming is a highly profitable and sustainable farming business. It’s the kind of farming that is guaranteed to yield great return when done properly. This article is about the steps you should take to achieve a profitable okra farming.

Okra is a type of vegetable that is mostly used for cooking soup. It grows from between 4 and 5 feet as  its maximum height. Okra originated from West Africa, with the scientific name ABELMOSCHUS ESCULENTUS. It is also called Ladies Fingers in some countries. Okra and Okra farming are said to originate from Southern  USA but has spread to other countries of which Nigeria is one of the highest consumers.

Okra farming is majorly cultivated for commercial purposes in the North. Because of the huge profits and less stress of  managing okra farm many people including those from the south are now staunch okra farmers. Okra farming is  popular in Nigeria because almost all the tribe in the country use okra in the preparation of varieties of  soup. 

The nutritional value of okra cannot be undervalued. Okra is rich in protein, vitamin, and minerals.  Almost all the part of okra plant is edible, the fruits can be eaten raw or sliced and boil, the seed could  be dried and use in the preparation of vegetable curds or as coffee additives. 

The good thing about okra farming in Nigeria is that it allows intercropping with other crops like  cowpea, beans, tomatoes, and maize. 

8 Health Benefits of okra to the Human system. 

These benefits shows the importance of okra farming to our society.

  1. Okra contains magnesium and calcium
  2. Improvement of eyesight
  3. It helps to reduce malnutrition
  4. It reduces bleeding and Osteoporosis
  5. It reduces Cholesterol in the body
  6. It helps to eradicate cancer
  7. It helps to reduce gastritis
  8. It fights against fatigue.

Okra contains magnesium and calcium

Calcium and magnesium are among the vital elements good  for the human body. Okra contains these elements

Improvement of the eyesight

Okra has vitamin A which can improve eye sight. It contains beta carotene which are primary nutrients. Beta-carotene and vitamin A can reduce diseases from age. 

Reduction of malnutrition

The pods of okra contain zinc, calcium, iron, protein and fibre which are  primary nutrients for the body. Eating okra makes someone not to get hungry immediately and can  reduce weight. 

Reduction of bleeding and osteoporosis

Okra has vitamin A and can cause blood clotting which can  reduce bleeding. The vegetable crop can cut down osteoporosis and enhance the health of bones. 

Reduction of cholesterol in the body

Okra can cut down the level of cholesterol because it contains  soluble fiber which can reduce fat. This helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases. 

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Eradication of cancer

Eating okra can eradicate cancer of the breast and is one of the benefits of the  vegetable crop. 

Reduction of gastritis

Okra reduces bacteria which leads to gastritis (inflammation). This reduces the  infection of the stomach lining. H. pylori is more common among children who are 2 to 5 years in age so  children have to eat okra regularly. 

Fighting against fatigue

Polyphenols and flavonoids has okra seeds which can enhance the storage of  glycogens inside the liver. This prevents someone from getting tired very fast. 

Okra farming was practiced long ago as subsistence farming alone. These days the story has changed, it  has been found to be a sustainable farming business that is issuing out millions to farmers who engage  in the business.

It is a profitable business, since Okra has high demands as it’s sustainability is sure, because of the increased level of consumption, there is a gap which has to be filled since the demand for  it far outweighs supply. Okra is a kind of vegetable which has a short season as such you will realize your  money within a year of planting. 

Okra
Picture Credit: Sujeeth Potla 

Basic steps involved in okra farming. 

The steps involved in Okra farming are as follow;

  1. Prepare your land for the Okra farming
  2. Select the best variety for the Okra farming business
  3. Plant your okra seeds
  4. Plan your Irrigation for the Okra farm
  5. Make arrangements for weeding of the Okra farm
  6. Apply fertilizer to your okra farming business
  7. Control pests and diseases
  8. Prepare for storage for your okra farming business
  9. Harvest your Okra
  10. Market and sell your okra.

Prepare your land for Okra Farming

The land should be sandy loam rich in organic matter. You can dress the land with  manure after clearing especially if the soil is not fertile. Okra grows well under a hot sun, if you plant  them under shade it will not produce much fruit. 6 hours of sunlight is needed in a day.

Till and make ridges or beds. If your farm is located in the south, you do not need ridges or beds because the soil is  already arable. The two should be high during raining season and low during dry season. This is to  achieve a successful water retention.  

Select the best variety for the Okra Farming business

There are different varieties of okra, but, it would be advisable to plant  the one that best suits the soil and the most demanding type in one’s location. Below are some of the  varieties of okra. 

Varieties of Okra farming

Lee Okra

Dwarf Green Long Pod

Emerald Okra

Prelude Okra

Lousiana Green Velvet Okra

UGA Red Okra

Clemson Spineless Okra

-Lee Okra: Lee is spineless too but has angular pods which are straight and green. It is semi-dwarf specie  and takes between 55 and 58 days to mature. 

-Dwarf green long pod: The plant has multiple branches and the pod has the shape of a star. It matures  from between 52 and 55 days. 

-Emerald: Emerald is spineless and has leaf which is smooth, semicut leaf with the shape of a round pod.  It takes between 58 and 60 days for maturity. It is preferable for processing and canning purposes. 

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-Prelude: This has no spine and has open pollination. It comes with glossy, dark green and fluted pods.  Prelude okra takes between 50 and 55 days to mature and can yield more than others. You can harvest  it when it is between 1/2 and 3/4 inch length. 

-Louisiana green velvet: This retains seeds when you slice them. It has a shape that is round and takes  56 to 59 days to mature. 

-UGA Red: This has red pods which are beautiful and can function as ornamental plants which grows in  the garden. 

-Clemson spineless: This has much yields and is spineless. The shape is angular and matures in about 55  to 58 days. This specie yields much and is recommended for commercial cultivation. 

Planting of the Okra seeds

You can plant okra manually or with seed planters. Sow it for 1/2 to 1 inch inside the soil,  space it between 12 and 15 inches in row. The space between the rows should be between 24 and 36  inches. Use the space for efficient moisture, sunlight and nutrients.

Soak the seeds overnight inside  water before planting to promote growth. You may not have to plant only okra but you can intercrop  with onions and maize. Depending on the choice, the okra can firstly be planted in the nursery site  before transplanting to the field or it can be planted directly on the field. Mulch the farm after planting  especially during the dry season in other to avoid too much loss of moisture to the sun 

Irrigation of the Okra farming business

You have to irrigate your farm during draught or more especially during the dry season. Although, the plant can do well with less water adequate water is necessary for optimum growth.

Weeding of the Okra farming business

Just like every other plant weeding is very necessary in other to eliminate competition. To  avoid pest attack weeding should be done early. Remove weeds using herbicides before cultivation.  Ensure that the herbicides are applied according to the instruction of the product label. 

Application of fertilizer

Animal dung or compost can be added to the soil at different times – when  the plants are 6-8 inches tall and after 2-3 weeks. After properly using nitrogen to dress the soil for quick germination, reduce their application in the next manure addition. Until fruiting begins in other to  checkmate the growth if not the plant will produce more foliage with little flowering. 

Control of pests and diseases:

Early identification of pest and diseases is key to successful  management in okra production. Insects that feed on okra foliage are: 

Aphids which suck the foliage. 

Caterpillars which eat leaves. 

Flea beetles which eats leaves. 

Blister beetle which eats the blossom and foliage of the plant. Blister beetle has narrow neck and are  soft. They are between ½ and ¾ inch in length. 

Insects that feed on the pods are: 

Leaf footed bugs which suck the pod and the blossom. 

Corn ear worms which leaves tunnels and holes and chew pods. 

Stink bugs which causes distorting, twisting and has irregular shape. 

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Nemicides can reduce Fusarium wilt. Cultural practices like crop rotation, soil solarization and  suppressive crops can control diseases and pests. Crop rotation can reduce leaf spot. Apply chemicals  with some measures to avoid contamination. 

anil kumar EWQ38KVYnmg unsplash
Picture credit: anil kumar 

Harvesting of Okra

Harvesting of the okra farming produce starts 2 months after planting when the pods are still soft for consumption and  should be done every 5 days; this also helps to stimulate the formation of more pods. This process  should be done carefully, to avoid bruises because at this stage they are still tender. You can even  harvest twice in a day use knife or scissors to cut the pod above the cap.

That is where their stem joins  with the branch, another pod will still come out from the very spot where it was detached and will  continue like that until it stops producing. 

Okra is self-pollinating but is sometimes pollinated by insects. During this process, the flower will not  open but self-pollination is going on inside. It should be 2-3 inches in length before harvesting or 5  inches depending on the variety planted.

Once the harvest is delayed, you will end up with fibrous, woody, tough and non edible pods. Except the planting is mainly for the seeds. Leave the pods to dry properly until they starts splitting, before  harvesting them. 

Storage of the Okra

Depending on the variety planted, okra can last for more than 3 years when dried. However, it  is advisable you leave the seeds in their pods, and keep them in a warm place. If you have to remove  them from the pod then they have to be kept in an air tight container. Another way of preserving the 

fresh okra is to wash and cut them into smaller sizes as we normally do when we want to cook them,  Then dry them under sun to be very dry pack them into containers for use whenever you need them. It  is equally as good as the fresh ones. 

However, it should be noted that while harvesting okra, the prickly stems are irritating to the skin. So, it  is advisable that one should wear long clothes and gloves to cover oneself during harvest because okra  leaves and pods have spines that cause irritation. Also, You can counter crop inter-cropped with beans,  

waterleaf and other vegetables. But do not plant them where other Solanaceous plants have been  cultivated before examples of solonaceous crops are: potatoes tomatoes and so on or brassicas like: cabbage,  broccoli. etc.

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I am Israel Otoijamun, the Founder of Ofarms.ng. I am a blogger, web and graphics designer, brand manager, product manager and farmer. I have interests in crypto currency, technology, business and agriculture.

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Israel Otoijamun

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