How to farm big arrowroots
Arrowroots, locally known as "nduma", are traditional tubers loved by Kenyans for their sweet taste and as a healthy delicacy mostly enjoyed at the breakfast table.
For value addition, arrowroots are processed into powder or arrowroot flour that is easily digestible.
It is also used to make infant formula and as a thickener in baking.
Arrowroot powder can also be used as a stabilising agent in making biscuits and cookies.
The tubers' health benefits include regulation of the heartbeat and blood pressure, boost immunity, aiding in digestion and clear excess cholesterol.
Arrowroots take five to six months to mature. They are commonly grown in areas that have plenty of water, mostly river beds and swamps.
Trenches are the best way to allow the harnessing of water for the plants to grow without competing for vital resources.
Varieties commonly grown in Kenya include Dasheen and Eddoe.
The Dasheen arrowroot is known for its large tubers.
The smaller Eddoe variety is better suited to grow away from riverbeds because it can tolerate less water.
They require a temperature range of 21 to 30 degrees Celcius in a soil pH of between 5.5 to 6.5 for optimum growth.
Arrowroots are planted from suckers in deep, well-drained, loamy moist soils.
"They are planted in holes with a diameter of one and a half feet and a depth of one feet, while observing a spacing of 20cm to 30cm to give adequate space for the tubers to grow in size," Martin Muto, an arrowroot farmer told the Standard's Smart Harvest.
For big sized arrowroots, a farmer should observe a spacing of 30cmx30cm.
With four suckers in every hole, the farmer covers them with a little layer of soil. After about two weeks add manure mixed with fertiliser.
A farmer can use farmyard manure or inorganic fertiliser and ensure the garden is weed-free.
It is vital to ensure the crops are not water-logged as the tubers may rot.
A new farming technique known as upland arrowroots technology that is catching up in areas that have lesser water supply consists of planting the arrowroots on trenches or moisture beds lined with heavy gauge polythene papers.
The polythene prevents seepage of water from the soil mixed with manure.
After planting, the sucker is mulched to prevent moisture loss.
All that a farmer requires is a polythene paper, organic fertiliser, compost manure, and suckers.
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