Unlocking the Millions From Arrowroot Farming in Kenya: Types and How To Grow
Unlock the secrets of successful arrowroot farming in Kenya. This article covers everything from cultivation methods to market demand and potential earnings.
Arrowroot farming is gaining significant traction in Kenya, particularly in regions with marshy zones and ample water supply. The cultivation of arrowroot has expanded due to the introduction of upland arrowroot technology, allowing it to thrive in various environmental conditions. The western parts of Kenya, including Nyando, Ahero Muhoroni, and the Victoria Lake Basin, provide ideal settings for cultivating this versatile crop. Arrowroot tubers have recently experienced a surge in demand due to their nutritional benefits, including high energy content, fiber, vitamins (B6 and C), amino acids, minerals, and more. This article will explore arrowroot farming, its varieties, cultivation techniques, and potential for lucrative earnings.
Types of Arrow Roots in Kenya
Two primary varieties notable in Kenya are:
Dasheen Arrowroot Variety
This variety is celebrated for its larger tubers, contributing to its popularity.
It is known for its adaptability to areas with reduced rainfall; this variety boasts relatively more minor tubers but maintains robust growth even with a limited water supply.
Other Arrowroot Varieties
1. San Pablo
San Pablo is a notable arrowroot variety cultivated in Kenya. It is recognized for its reliable yield and adaptability to various agro-ecological zones. San Pablo arrowroot is favored for its resistance to diseases and pests, making it a preferred choice among farmers. Its consistent tuber size and shape contribute to its market value, and is often used for local consumption and processing.
2. Tissue Culture Variety
Tissue culture arrowroot varieties have gained popularity due to their uniform growth and enhanced characteristics. These varieties are developed through advanced propagation techniques that ensure genetic uniformity and disease-free planting material. Tissue culture arrowroot offers improved yields, quality, and resistance to environmental stressors, making it a promising option for modern arrowroot farming.
3. Indigenous Variety
Indigenous arrowroot varieties have been traditionally cultivated in Kenya for generations. These varieties have adapted to local conditions and are often well-suited to specific ecological zones. While they may exhibit some variations in tuber size and yield, indigenous arrowroot varieties hold cultural significance and continue to be cultivated by farmers who value their heritage and traditional farming practices.
4. Cuenca Strain
The Cuenca strain of arrowroot is recognized for its unique attributes. Developed through selective breeding, the Cuenca strain aims to enhance specific characteristics such as yield, disease resistance, and tuber quality. This strain may be favored by farmers seeking specific traits to meet market demands or to address challenges associated with pests and diseases in their region.
How do you Grow Arrowroot in Kenya?
Arrowroot, scientifically known as Maranta arundinacea, is a low perennial herbaceous plant with thick, fleshy, creeping roots and long white fibers. This crop holds immense potential as a source of flour, mainly arrowroot flour, which commands high commercial value in the local and international markets. Its nutritional attributes and ease of cultivation make it a profitable venture for farmers. Here are the steps to follow:
- As long as the soil has enough moisture for regular growth and development, arrowroot can grow in any place.
- It thrives in regions with yearly rainfall that is evenly distributed.
- Rhizomes can survive long in the soil and resist bad weather.
- They take root in the same place where they were planted.
- A friable, loamy soil that drains well is necessary for arrowroot. However, the soil in valleys, at the foot of hills, and in recently developed places is best.
- Clayey soil must be avoided to prevent poor rhizome development and typical rhizome deformation, which tends to break after harvest.
- If there is enough moisture for the crop to have a healthy growth season, it is best to sow it in an open field. Although the yield will be lower, planting in slightly shaded locations is still possible.
- Depending on the soil's structure, prepare the land by plowing and harrowing it twice or thrice. Create suitable conditions for enhanced root development by plowing deeply enough.
- The ancient belief was that the crop would only grow well near water sources, such as lakeshores, riverbanks, dams, etc.
- The upland arrow root technique, which enables the crop to be propagated away from these water locations, has evolved due to recent developments in the agricultural industry. Climate change is a reality for most ecosystems; it is essential to ensure that steps are taken to address it. This has made the need for it necessary.
- Yes, it is now possible to cultivate arrow roots in areas without rivers by simulating the conditions found in river valleys utilizing Kenya's highland arrowroot technology.
- The task entails planting the crop in 1 meter wide, 60 cm deep trenches and any required depth.
- Suckers, rootstock, or rhizomes with two or more nodes each can be used to spread arrowroot.
- A ridge can have two suckers planted on it at a distance of 1.0 x 0.75 meters. In poor soil conditions, the ridges should be placed closer together at a distance of 0.75 x 0.30 meters.
- Irrigation is unnecessary if the soil has enough moisture, especially in the early stages of growth.
Which fertilizer is best for arrow roots?
- Experts' advice: Farmers to use D.A.P. fertilizer when planting arrowroots. 50 kg is the recommended amount per acre. This fertilizer is essential to the arrowroot plant as it adds nitrogen and phosphorus for good crop nutrition. The plant may get fertilizer that is composite or commercial.
Growing and Weeding
- Depending on the amount of weeds in the field, the first three to four months after establishment require simultaneous weeding and cultivation.
- Avoid stepping on the ridges when weeding to reduce soil compaction, unnecessarily hindering tuber and root development.
- It is necessary to alternate hilling-up and off-barring until the plants are strong enough to cover the spaces between rows.
Diseases and Pests
Several illnesses are connected to arrowroot. These include Infection Wilt, Leaf Banded Blight, and Leaves Mosaic.
How to Prevent pests and diseases
- Use healthy propagation materials as a control measure. Infected plants, including the roots, should be destroyed, and planting should not be done in diseased regions.
- Foliar spraying (leaf surfaces) with Zineb, Maneb, or Cooper fungicide at the rate advised by the manufacturer before the start of the heavy rainfall season is a control measure.
- The control measures include Aphid control, healthy plant material selection, avoiding interplanting with susceptible hosts, and weed control.
Insect & Pest
Serious pest assaults on arrowroot are uncommon. The leaf roller, Colopedes etheus, is the sole pest that is significant in some countries where arrowroot is grown. Fortunately, arsenic spray can quickly and effectively control this.
- Eight to ten months after planting, the crop is ready for harvesting.
- Harvest when the majority of the leaves have shrunk and turned yellow.
- When harvested in eleven to twelve months, it yields more and has a more excellent starch content (25%).
- It is harvested like other root crops: a plow is passed close to the furrows to expose the tuberous roots, and the stem is cut off.
- Harvesting with a fork or pulling up the entire plant is also possible in sandy loam soil. The latter approach, however, is only helpful for small-scale farmers.
Health Benefits of Arrowroots
- Nutritional richness with vitamins and minerals.
- Easily digestible starch for energy.
- Source of dietary fiber for digestive health
General Uses of Arrowroots
- Superior starch for baking and cooking.
- Thickening agent in culinary preparations.
- Enhancer for ice cream texture.
- Substitute for rice or extenders in dishes.
- Gluten-free arrowroot flour for various recipes.
- Animal feed and roughage source.
- They are utilized for demulcent properties in medicine.
- Versatile materials for paper, packaging, and more.
Market Prices and Expected Earnings
The profitability of arrowroot farming is influenced by factors such as soil fertility, labor costs, and market demand. With the growing trend of embracing traditional foods, arrowroot's market is expanding. A quarter-acre plot can yield around 5,000 kgs of arrowroot, potentially generating between Kshs 250,000 to Kshs 300,000. The market encompasses open-air markets, hotels, caterers, and value-added processing.
Arrowroot farming presents a promising avenue for lucrative agribusiness in Kenya. Farmers can tap into the rising demand for this versatile crop with exemplary cultivation practices and proper management. By adhering to best practices, understanding varieties, and maximizing the potential of arrowroot cultivation, farmers can contribute to their livelihoods and meet the growing demand for this nutritious root crop.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can arrowroot be grown in areas with limited water supply?
Yes, arrowroot can thrive in areas with limited water supply, thanks to advancements in upland arrowroot technology.
2. What are the primary varieties of arrowroot?
The two main arrowroot varieties are Dasheen and Eddoe.
3. How do I manage pests and diseases in arrowroot cultivation?
While arrowroot is generally not highly susceptible to pests, employ consistent pest and disease control measures, such as using healthy propagating materials and recommended fungicides.
4. What is the optimal time for arrowroot harvesting?
Arrowroot takes 5 to 6 months to mature, but harvesting should occur after 10 to 12 months for higher starch content.
5. How should I store harvested arrowroot?
After harvesting, properly peel and wash the arrowroot tubers. It can stay in a refrigerator for up to 14 days, but proper cleaning and handling are crucial to maintain the quality.
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