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Garlic (Allium sativum) is a spice crop belonging to the family Alliaceae along with onion (A. cepa. L), leek (A. ameloprisum L.), chives (A. schoenoprasum L), and shallot (A. asaclincum). It is the second most widely used amongst cultivated Alliums after onions (Allium cepa). The crop consists of an underground bulb and vegetative shoot which consist of leaves and flower. They are 40 cm tall when fully grown. The leaves of garlic are flat and very slender, in contrast to other alliums whose leaves are cylindrical and hollow. The garlic plant, both the green tops and the bulbs are used as spice, flavoring and seasoning vegetables and meat dishes. Its pungent smell could be very unpleasant when perceived fresh but when added to meals gives the meal a delightful fragrance. Today garlic is a widely recognized health enhancing supplement. Its medicinal value is also recognized in the treatment of hypertension, diabetes, bacterial and fungal diseases, cancer, rheumatism, ulcer, whooping cough, etc. garlic is rich in protein, sugar, fat, calcium, Sulphur, silicon, iodine, fibre and vitamins.
Garlic is said to have originated from central Asia and spread to the Mediterranean. Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world and has been grown for over 5000 years. Garlic was introduced into various regions throughout the globe by migrating cultural tribes and explorers. By the 6th century BC, garlic was known in both China and India, the latter country using it for therapeutic purposes. It was probably carried to the western world by Spanish, French or Portuguese. It is said to have been grown in England before 1548. The crop spread to Nigeria and Africa as a whole through the activities of the colonial masters and Arab traders. Sokoto is among the leading garlic producing states in Nigeria, followed by Kano and Borno. Production of the crop dates back several decades in these states. It is mainly grown under irrigation during the dry season when the temperature is low. Currently, China, South Korea, India, Spain and the United States are among the top commercial producers of garlic.
It is recommended that farmers select varieties with desired qualities for planting as many types are available for cultivation across the country with varying characteristics from size, shape, colour, yield, time of maturity, etc. Garlic has over 70 varieties grown in the world which are grouped into three major types which are discussed below:
1. Soft neck varieties
2. Stiff neck varieties
3. Great headed varieties
Soft neck varieties: it is grown in the warmer climates such as Nigeria. Most of the garlic we consume falls under this variety. Soft neck as its name implies have necks that stay soft after its harvest. It has a strong and intense flavor. The soft neck variety is more versatile and can be grown in all zones. It requires a well-drained loamy soil with organic matter.
Stiff neck: this produces fewer cloves than the soft neck and thrives very well in the cooler region like the Northern part of Nigeria. It produces garlic scape and has a central shoot. It can be broken down into five main types which are: Porcelain, Purple stripe, Marble purple stripe, Glazed purple stripe, Rocambole.
Great headed varieties: its bulb and cloves are large, with about four cloves to a bulb. These varieties are not recommended. They are less hardy and are more like onion than traditional garlic.
Cloves or bulblets are used in the cultivation of garlic. The required cultivar with large cloves should be carefully selected before planting. Garlic thrives well in both tropical and subtropical regions. It requires rainfall ranging from 600 mm to 1200 mm and minimum temperature of between 5-25 c and maximum temperature of between 25-40 c. In Nigeria garlic is grown commercially in the FADAMA regions which include Sokoto, Borno and Kano under irrigation during dry season between the months of November to March when the temperature is low.
Site selection: the site selected should have a well-drained fertile loamy soil free from stones and gravel. Heavy soils (soils which contain stones and gravel) are not suitable for garlic production as it deforms the bulbs, cause difficulty during harvest. The cutting and pulling out of bulbs in heavy soils can also result in badly bruised and broken bulbs which render the bulbs unmarketable and causes loss to the farmer. The site should also be close to a reliable source of irrigation. In a poorly drained soil, the garlic comes out being discolored.
Land preparation: this involves ploughing and harrowing in order to pulverize the soil for easy making of ridges or formation of basins for planting. In order to further smoothen of the soil, manual pulverization can be done. Basins are formed in order to allow for easy irrigation water control on the field. The basin can be of any suitable size depending on the soil type, field gradient and irrigation water stream size.
Planting: garlic should be planted during dry season when the weather is cool i.e. between November to March. The selected garlic bulblets to be planted should be detached from their bulbs and soaked in clean water for at least six hours after which the outer skins on the bulblets should be removed and the water be drained. The bulblets should be dried in a mixture of fungicide and insecticide to control fungi and seed attacking insects. The methods of planting garlic include; dibbing, drilling and broadcasting. Dibbling method is the most practiced. It involves placing one clove per hole with the growing part facing upward 3-6 cm deep covered lightly with soil. An average of 475 kg cloves is required per hectare which will produce an average of 450,000 plants per hectare.
Irrigation practices: when producing garlic during dry season, the supply of additional water through irrigation is required for the plant to thrive. There are various methods of irrigation which include; simple irrigation-which involves the use of a bucket or watering can to fetch the water from its source to water the crop. It requires hard work and is mostly done on small plots. In larger plots of lands more sophisticated methods of irrigation are used. Commonly used methods are surface irrigation, sprinkler and drip irrigation.
Fertilizer application: fertilizer application is required in the production of garlic especially in soils that are poor in nutrient. Farm yard manure can be applied on the field at land preparation. Alternatively, mineral fertilizer at the rate 45:30:30 NPK per hectare. For good crop growth and high yield, the phosphorus and potassium should be applied at planting while the nitrogen should be applied twice (i.e. 3 and 6 weeks after planting).
Weeding: weeding should be done as often as possible in order to avoid competition between the plant and weed for nutrients. Weed could be done manually or chemically. During the period of bulb formation, the weeds should be removed using the hand to avoid bulb injury. Chemicals like propyzamide in combination with diuron at recommended quantity can also be used at pre-emergence or early post emergence of weeds.
Pest and Disease of Garlic: garlic has very few problems of pest; in fact it is a natural pest repellent. Although, pests like Thrips tabaci, Laodipax stratella, Hylemya Antigua, Carpophilus spp., and a number of mites such as Rhizghypha echmopus attack the garlic plant. The insect feeds on the crop and cause serious damage that may inhibit or retard growth. White rot disease is a serious concern to any farmer cultivating garlic. White rot is a fungus that attack garlic in cool weather. It attacks the base of the leaves and roots. Nothing much can be done in controlling this disease except from rotating the crop in the farmland and cleaning up the area after harvesting.
Harvesting: the garlic bulbs are mature for harvest about four to five months after planting. The crop is usually harvested when the leaves turn yellow or brown and begin to fall over. Harvesting the bulbs too early would reduce the quality of the crop. A month before harvest, watering should be discontinued. To harvest, lift the bulb below the fibrous root with a spade, hand hoe or tractor drawn implement. Pull the plant, carefully remove soil, and leave them to cure in an airy shady spot for two weeks. The bulbs are cured and ready to store.
Storage: Garlic bulbs are stored individually with the tops removed. Bulbs should be stored in an uncovered or loosely covered container in a cool, dry, dark place. The flavor will increase as the bulbs are dried. Garlic can be stored in jute sacks, preferably in a mud house with thatched roof. It is not advisable to freeze garlic because it changes its texture and reduces its flavor profile.
ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF GARLIC
Garlic is one of the most important herbs found in Nigeria. It is used for flavoring food. But over the years, it has also been used as a medicine to prevent or treat various types of diseases. The following are the economic importance of garlic:
Cash crop: USA is said to be the world’s largest import market of fresh garlic, followed by Indonesia, France, Germany, Australia and Brazil. Nigeria has a great potential in the export of garlic, if only we can cultivate it in larger quantities using improved methods and advanced cultural practices. Therefore, serving as a source of foreign exchange as the local export price of garlic ranges from N170,000 to N210,000 per metric tonne depending on the purchase country.
Medicinal purposes: garlic is used as herbal medicine for many conditions related to the blood and heart. It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Flavoring in food: garlic is a common flavoring used in cooking. It serves as a food additive which prevents food poisoning.
Raw material: garlic is used as raw material in pharmaceutical industries. It is used to produce supplements which have enteric coatings.
Low capital requirement: in the presence of a good farm site, garlic production does not require a huge start-up capital. It is less affected by destructive pests and diseases unlike the other vegetables. It does not require sophisticated storage facility and can be stored for a very long period of time (up to 12 months) after harvest.
S.S.Abubakar, G.B.Murtala, Sani Inusa and M.M Jaliya. Garlic production under irrigation.(2008). Extension bulletin no. 205. NAERLS press, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. http://www.naerls.gov.ng
H.G. Ahmed, M.D. Magaji, A.I. Yakutu, L. Aliyu and A. Singh, 2007. Response of Garlic (Allium sativum L.) To Irrigation Interval and Clove Size in Semi-Arid, Nigeria. Journal of Plant Sciences, 2: 202-208.
Lachica, J. F. 1982. The effect of tillage, NPK levels and population density on the growth and yield of Garlic. Scientific Journal 3 (2) 9-19 (cf; Soil and fert. Abst. 48 (5): 630 Abst. 5594)
The old farmer’s almanac. http://www.almanac.com
George Mateljan. The world’s healthiest foods. http://www.whfoods.com