Feedback: ABCs of growing arrowroots away from river valleys, other wet areas

Friday May 26 2017

A farmer harvests arrow roots in a farm in Nyeri.

A farmer harvests arrowroots in a farm in Nyeri. Although arrowroots are traditionally grown along the river valleys and on wet areas, with the upland arrowroots technology, they can now be grown away from river valleys. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By SEEDS OF GOLD EXPERTS
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TIPS ON GROWING ARROWROOTS

I have interest in farming arrowroots for commercial purposes. Would you please guide me on how to go about it, in terms of establishing, care and marketing?

Do they have to be grown along riverbanks?  

Are there varieties that can withstand conditions like those of mesophytes? 

Levis Ndirangu Mwangi

Arrowroot farmers in Kenya can now double their yields, thanks to a new high-yielding and fast-maturing variety from Rwanda that has an average yield of 3 tonnes per acre in just six months.

The variety is available at Kalro, Thika. This is good news to farmers who are currently harvesting an average of 1.68 tonnes of arrowroots from the same size of land in eight months.

The hybrid variety requires less water compared to the traditional one, which is popular in the Kenyan market hence can survive in semi-arid regions.

This new variety is expected to motivate more farmers to grow arrowroots and perhaps help reduce the current huge deficit and popularise the crop among the youth, who view it as at traditional food meant for old people.

However, there is a sudden high demand for the tuber in the country due to increased health consciousness. Arrowroot leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals.

They are a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, and a very good source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, niacin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Arrowroot corms are very high in starch, and are a good source of dietary fibre.

One acre of upland arrowroots technology grown tubers will accommodate 29,333 plants, which will yield 29,333 tubers sold at Sh15 each, which translates to Sh439,995 gross income.

Technology

Arrowroots are traditionally grown along the river valleys and on wet areas. With the upland arrowroots technology, they can now be grown away from river valleys.

This innovative farming method can contribute greatly to food and income security, while helping in climate adaptation, bearing in mind many river valleys have dried up due to global warming.

Upland arrowroots technology involves planting the crop in trenches lined with polythene paper and filled with soil manure mixture at a ratio of 2:1.

Planting trenches are spaced at 0.5m. In this technology, crop and water management is done when avoiding stepping on the trench while weeding to prevent compaction.

Tubers grown using upland technology require ample moisture throughout the growing season and therefore, irrigation is required once per week. Soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5 is favourable.

Please guide me on how to plant the crop and manage it

Remove all weeds along the designated area and dig a straight trench, 1m wide and 60cm deep.

Remove top soil (40cm) and subsoil (20cm) put them in separate side of the trench, put the polythene sheet to line the trench.

Mix the top soil with manure and return the mixture in the trench leaving a depression of about 10cm, then wet to saturation. 

Plant the suckers in a spacing of 30cm by 30cm inserting the plant up to 20cm.

Spacing between beds should be 0.5m

Farmers attend to the crop.

Farmers attend to the crop. Arrowroot farmers in Kenya can now double their yields, thanks to a new high-yielding and fast-maturing variety from Rwanda that has an average yield of 3 tonnes per acre in just six months. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mulch the area when planting during the dry spell and water once a week to maintain wetness. Old and dry leaves should be removed regularly and corms are ready to harvest between six to eight months.

Finally, ensure the trench soil is always moist and should be watered on a weekly basis. Weeding should also be done frequently.

Maturity index

When mature, the leaves start shrinking. At that time of harvest, ensure the soil is moist to prevent breakage of the root tubers while uprooting.

The arrowroots are now ready for the market.

Advantages of upland technology (mesophytes)

Security of the harvest is guaranteed since the crop can be grown on a normal farm.

It curbs damage from floods and production is throughout the year and easy to enrich the soils by adding manure and making the trenches.

With good management, there is higher yield since more suckers are produced and there is low labour requirement.

Are there varieties which can withstand conditions like those of mesophytes? 

Yes. Eddoe type has small tubers and this is best for upland technology due to its productivity in low water. On the other hand, the Dasheen type has large tubers.

It is reported that currently, a piece of Eddoe arrowroot is retailing at Sh80 while the Dasheen variety, which is a little larger is going for Sh100 in various markets in Nairobi.

Just like Eddoe variety which can do well away from river bed, this hybrid variety has thin small leaves and deep roots to minimise on water use.

Peter Caleb Otieno,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.

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GATUMANI GARLIC

I would like to get advice on the purchase of the Gatumani garlic cloves. Kindly advise and or refer me to the best person who can assist.
Caren

Garlic.

Garlic. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Please provide additional information on what aspect(s) of Gatumani garlic cloves you would want to be advised on.

There are several experts from Egerton who will advise you depending on the specific information you need.

Sylvans Ochola,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.