This is a water crop, very popular in most Kenyan parts, particularly those in the marshy zones where water is never a limiting factor. However, the crop is now well spread in the country, thanks to the upland arrow root technology. Nyando, ahero muhoroni and most parts of Kisumu, western and Victoria lake basin provide ideal environmental conditions for the propagation of the crop.
Arrow-root tubers is gaining a lot of popularity in Kenya and the demand has risen over the last few years due to increased health attributes associated with the crop. For instance, the crop’s leaves have been found to be nutritionally rich in energy, fibre, vitamins (vitamin B6 and C), amino acids, minerals, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, and a very good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, copper, and manganese.
Why grow arrow root?
- It is a low perennial herbaceous plant with thick, fleshy and creeping roots and long white fibers and is a good source of flour.
- Arrow root flour has a very high commercial value in the international market because it is best ingredients in making high quality biscuits and cookies.
- Can grow anywhere as long as there is moisture in the soil
- It iss not affected by many pest and diseases
- Little agronomic practices
There has existed a lot of arguments on the actual number of varieties available for propagation of this crop. The center of discussion has always been the adaptability to different ecological zone with varied environmental conditions like water shortages, maturity rate amount of yield, disease resistance among many other factors. However there are two main varieties well defined:
- Dasheen arrow root variety – This variety is well known for its outstanding larger tubers.
- Eddoe variety – The tubers are relatively smaller as compared to the previous variety. This is the most common variety among most arrow root farmers in the country especially those in the areas receiving low rainfall. The variety does pretty well even with reduced amount of water received
- Arrowroot thrives anywhere provided there is enough moisture in the soil for its normal growth and development.
- It grows best in places where rainfall is uniformly distributed throughout the year.
- The rhizomes are resistant to inclement weather and can stay long in the soil.
- They germinate in the same area where they have been planted.
- Arrowroot requires a friable, well drained loamy soil. However, soil at the foot of the hills,in valley and newly opened areas are preferable.
- Clayey soil must be avoided since it induce poor rhizome development and usually cause the deformation of the rhizome which tends to break during harvesting.
- It is advisable to plant this crop in an open field provided there is sufficient moisture throughout its growing period. Planting in partially shaded areas can also be done but with reduce yield.
- Prepare the land by plowing and harrowing two or three times depending upon the soil structure. Plow deep enough to provide favorable condition for better root development.
- The old tradition held that the crop would only do well along water sources like the along the river banks, lakes, dams etc.
- However, with recent advancements in the agricultural sector, there has emerged the upland arrow root technology that allows the propagation of the crop away from these water areas. The need for this has been necessitated by the fact that climate change is one of the reality of most ecosystems and there exists this need to ensure that measures are put in place to combat this problem.
- Yes, it is now possible to grow arrow roots where there is no river by creating the same conditions as in the river valleys using highland arrowroot technology a modern Agriculture technology in Kenya.
- The work involves planting the crop in trenches 60 cm deep, 1 metre wide and any desired
- Arrowroot can be propagated by suckers and rootstock or rhizomes with two or more nodes each.
- Two suckers may be planted to a ridge at a distance of 1.0 x 0.75 meters. Under poor soil condition, the ridges should be set closer about 0.75 x 0.30 meters apart.
- No irrigation needed provided there is enough moisture in the soil especially at the early stage of growth.
- The crop responds well to fertilization.
- Composite or commercial fertilizer can be applied to the plant.
- An application of 300 to 400 kg of 14-14-14 per hectare is recommended.
Weeding and Cultivation
- Simultaneous weeding and cultivation must be done during the first three to four months of establishment, depending upon the weed population in the field.
- During weeding, avoid stepping on the ridges to minimize soil compaction that will unnecessarily affect the rooting and tuber development
- Alternate hilling-up and off-barring must be employed until the plants are robust enough to cover spaces between rows.
Pest and Diseases
There are several diseases associated with arrowroot
- Bacterial Wilt
- Symptoms – it is a vascular wilt disease of arrowroot caused by bacterial pathogen called Xanthomonas marantae.
- Control Measure – Use healthy propagating materials. Planting should not be located in areas where disease has occurred and infected plants should be rouged and burned including roots.
- Banded Leaf Blight
- Symptoms – Evidence of infection is small, water-soaked spots that may enlarge rapidly by the formation of successive but sometimes discontinuous eccentric zones. Aerial mycelium quickly covers both leaf surfaces and basidia and basidiosphores are produce in the scant, whitish superficia growth. Affected leaves become completely necrotic and are rotten by a secondary organism. The disease is caused by Thanatiphous cucumesisFrank, an infectious fungus that infected leaves ofseveral plants that include rice, corn, sugarcane and even citrus. It is reported troublesome during periods of high rainfall.
- Control Measure – Foliar spraying (both leaf surface) prior to the onset of high rainfall seasonwith Zineb, Maneb, or cooper fungicide using the rate recommended by the manufacturer.
- Leaf Mosaic
- Symptoms – Presence of whitish small dots and narrow streaks. It is transmitted either mechanically or through an insect vector – aphids but not persistent.
- Control Measure – Methods include rouging selection of healthy planting materials, controlling of aphids, Avoid inter planting to susceptible host and weed control.
- Insect and Pest – Arrowroot is not normally subject to serious attacks by pest. In some arrowroot growing countries the only pest of any importance is the leaf roller, Colopedes etheus. Fortunately, this can easily be controlled by arsenical spray.
- The crop is ready for harvest 8 to 10 months after planting.
- Harvest when most of the leaves turn yellow in colour and have shrunken
- Produces higher yield when harvested in eleven to twelve months, with higher content of starch content (25%).
- Like any other root crops, it is harvested by passing a plow close to the furrows, exposing the tuberous roots, then cut-off the stem.
- Harvesting with the use of a fork may also be done or by pulling up the whole plant in case of sandy loam soil. However, the latter method is only applicable to small scale farmers.
General uses of Arrow root as a crop
- The rhizomes of arrowroot consist of an easily digested starch when extracted and so, it is a good source of a dry white powder. This powder is a source of one of the purest forms of natural carbohydrates.
- Superior quality starch is used in making a first class biscuits, pastries, pudding, cakes,
- It is highly digestible and able to prevent curdling. It is used mainly in preparation of infant’s milk food.
- It is also an excellent ingredient for thickening ice cream.
- The rhizomes are good rice substitute or extender.
- The tuberous root can be eaten when boiled or roasted before they become fibrous, and taste similar if not superior to corn.
- Arrowroot is also an effective substitute for broiler ration.
- Other plant parts like the leaves are excellent sources of roughage and silage for animals.
- The fibrous materials remaining after the extraction of starch can also be used as cattle feed.
- Arrowroot starch also possesses demulcent properties and sometimes used in the treatment of most intestinal diseases.
- Powdered rhizomes may be used as poultice for wound and ulcers.
- Plant leaves are occasionally used as packing materials, while the pulp is used in the manufacture of paper, cardboard, cushions and wallboard.