EXTENSION VEGETABLE CROPS
MIMEO REPORT 65-1
GROWING CASSAVA IN FLORIDA HUME LIBRARY
Prepared by J U L 11 1 972
James M. Stephens
Assistant Vegetable Crops Special st
Florida Agricultural Extension Se $JA.S. Univ. of Florida
Cassava is a shrubby perennial from tropical America. Known also as manioc, mani-
hot, yuca, mandioca, and tapioca, it is grown throughout the world for its starchy,
tuberous roots. While there are many uses of these roots or the starch from the roots,
the most common are livestock feed and tapioca flour useful in puddings and other con-
There has been some cassava grown in Florida since the late 1800's. Around 1895,
it was grown to such an extent that a few starch factories were established around the
state to process the crop. It became a common item in vegetable gardens all over Flo-
rida. As a result of research, the Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations issued a
bulletin on cassava in 1898. Since then, State Department of Agriculture Bulletin 104
was written. Both are now out-of-print. Although some plantings are made throughout
the state in home gardens, probably more cassava is grown in Dade County than anywhere
else in the state. In this South Florida county, 40-acre fields may be found with an
approximate total acreage of 250 acres being grown now.
The cassava plant is a shrubby perennial which grows to a height of 6 to 7 feet
on smooth, erect stems. The dark green, reddish-veined leaves are palmately divided
into 5 to 7 leaflets. Leaves of the most popular variety ii Florida, Aipi, have 7
leaflets. The stems contain a soft, white pith and possess nodes from which the next
generation of plants is obtained. The flowers, which are in loose, spreading, greenish.
purple to greenish-yellow clusters, seldom form seeds in Florida. The roots, which are
the only valuable portions of the plant, grow in clusters from one end of the planted
seed canes. Roots are usually from one to three inches in diameter and from one to
three feet in length as the result of a single year's growth/ Their pure white, soft
interior is harder and drier than potatoes and has a very high starch content. They
are covered with a thin, reddish-brown, fibrous bark which can be removed by scraping
and peeling. The roots contain a considerable amount of hydrocyanic acid which is lo- *
cated mostly in the bark. Because of this acid content the roots are supposedly
poisonous until washed and scraped; however, it is reported that cases of poisoning
from the consumption of the root by either man or beast are unknown in Florida. There
are two types of cassava recognized--';bitter';and 'bweet." The "sweet" type, which con-
tains a small amount of the acid appears to be the only type grown in Florida.
Soil and Climatic Requirements
The cassava thrives best in a climate which is free from frost at least eleven
months of the year, although eight months will suffice. It requires about the same
soil as the sweetpotato for good growth. Years ago, it grew best on moderately fertile,
sandy soil such as the vast areas of pine land in the state.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION ..WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECuNOMICS
(ACTS OF MAY 8 AND JUNE 30, 1914)
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA,
FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, COOPERATING
M. 0. WATKINS, DIRECTOR
Propagation -- Cassava is not propagated by seeds but by planting short sections/
cut from stems (canes) that are saved over the winter from the previous crop. The cane,
are stored whole, and at planting time they are cut into pieces from three to twelve
inches long. Canes from nine to twelve inches long seem to produce best.
obtaining Seed Canes -- One of the most difficult problems in growing cassava is
in obtaining seed canes or saving seed canes to plant. Gardeners around the state
often have canes for sale in the spring in the vicinity where they have been grown.
Occasionally these growers will advertise canes for sale thru such publications as the
State Department of Agriculture's Florida Market Bulletin.
Storing Seed Canes -- Except in South Florida where the canes may live over winter,
the canes must be properly stored in order to keep them in. condition for planting in
the spring. Various methods similar to those used with sweet potatoes have been used
ranging from storage pits to permanent structures. With all methods certain things
must be considered: 1) canes must be well-matured when stored; 2) they must not be
stored wet nor allowed to get wet; 3) and they must be covered lightly at first to per-
*mit escape of surplus moisture, then heavier later to exclude cold.
In years past in Central Florida, a common'method was to dig a ditch in well-
drained soil about 18 inches deep by 4 feet wide and as long as needed. The canes were
set on end in this ditch, packed as closely as possible, covered with straw or litter,
and finally covered with a little earth.
Planting -- Since cassava is susceptible.to injury from frost, planting should be
delayed until danger from killing frost in the spring is past. The seed cane pieces
are dropped into a furrow at a spacing of 4 feet and covered to a depth of 2 to 4
inches on 4-foot rows. Care should be taken to plant only live canes which show a
milky juice when scratched with the fingernail.
Fertilizing -- About the same fertilizer practices as are common with sweet
potatoes are also best for the cassava. At planting time, about 1,000 pounds of a
4-8-8 analysis fertilizer should be banded beside the planting furrow so that it will
remain 2 to 3 inches to the side of and slightly below the level of the seed canes.
One or two additional' applications of fertilizer may be needed later on in the season,
especially after any period of very heavy rains. Use 100 pounds of nitrate of soda and
25 pounds of nitrate of potash per acre scattered along the row and worked lightly into
the soil as a top-dressing.
Insects, and Diseases -- Cassava culture in Florida is reported to be relatively
free from insects and diseases.
Normally the stems (canes) are cut prior to harvest of the roots, whether for the
purpose of obtaining canes for seed storage or just for getting them out of the way of
the harvesting operation. A stub 5 or 6 inches high should be left to mark the roots.
Digging usually starts about the first of November and lasts until February for the
purpose of starch manufacture. For feeding and other purposes, it may be harvested
earlier and continued later. The roots may be pulled by hand or dug by plow. Useless
tops and remaining root pieces are usually cut into the soil in preparation for the
next crop. It is advisable to use the roots soon after harvest (within 2 days) as
they deteriorate rapidly, especially when washed or if not fully cured.
Products and Use
Vegetable -- It is the most common practice for the cassava to be eaten as a vege-
table -- peeled, then cooked in soups and stews.
Starch -- The most important product from cassava grown in other countries is
starch, which has been extracted by machinery and settling tanks. From this raw cassava
flour is made laundry starch, glue, adhesives, tapioca flour, and other products.
Tapioca Flour -- This product results from the heating of moist cassava starch on
iron hot plates whereby the granules are ruptured and formed into hard, translucent
pellets upon cooling. Tapioca flour is used for glue and for food in the form of pud-
dings and flavoring for pies, cakes, and other desserts.
Gaplek -- A Malay word used for the washed, sliced, and dried roots. A gaplek
meal is often made from this.
Cassareep -- A powerful antiseptic, capable of preserving meat is obtained by
boiling down the poisonous juice of the bitter cassava; it is the basis of famous sauces
such as the "pepper-pot" of the West Indies.
Bagasse -- A term also used in the sugar cane industry, is the fibrous waste left
after most of the starch has been extracted from the roots. The finer waste is called
Stock Feed -- At one time most domestic grown cassava was fed to livestock --
horses, cattle, hogs, poultry, and dairy cows. Because of its high starch content,
cassava was usually fed in combination with other feed-stuffs usually high in protein.
Roots may be fed as fast as they are dug, but need to be cut into small pieces so as to
prevent choking when fed to cattle. They do not have to be cut when fed to hogs, horses
Childers, N. F. "Vegetable Gardening in the Tropics," Puerto Rico Federal Experiment
Station Circular 32, October 1950.
Durre, Nolan L. Associate County Agent, Homestead, Dade County, Florida. Written
communication concerning cassava culture in Dade County, August 1965.
MacMillan, H. F. "Tropical Planting and Gardening," p. 291, 1935.
Moscrip, John. "Possibilities for Cassava Growing in Florida," Florida State Depart-
ment of Agriculture Bulletin 104, August, 1940.
Pope, F. T. "World Trade in Cassava, Tapioca, and other Farinaceous Substances,'
Foodstuffs, December 16, 1929.
Scott, J. M. "Root Crops Grown in Florida," Florida State Department of Agriculture
Bulletin 31, November 1948. (Includes abstract from Florida Agricultural Experi-
ment Stations' Bulletin 49--1898)
Tracy, S. M. "Cassava (Manihot utilissima)," USDA Forage Crop Investigations Pamphlet
34, August 1916.