Growing tasty taro in mud plots

Crop production

Notes to broadcasters

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Information on this subject area was requested by DCFRN Participants in Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Ponape, and Venezuela.

Presenter: George Atkins

Interviewee: Roberta Louch, Nutrition Education Training Co-ordinator, Bureau of Education, Koror, Palau, Western Caroline Islands

Special note
There are many different local names for taro (Colocasia esculenta (L. Schott)) including “old cocoyam,” dasheen, edible cole, malanga, kalo, eddo, and tuaro. If any of your farmers could grow this crop in muddy land, the information in this item is for them.


Suggested introduction
We at this radio station are part of a world-wide information network that gathers farming information from developing countries all over the world.

It’s the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency, Massey Ferguson, and the University of Guelph.

Through this Network, we bring you information on ways to increase food supplies for your family, or to sell—ways that other farmers have used successfully.

Today our topic is taro. Here’s George Atkins.

Palau is a small island country in the Pacific Ocean. In Palau, farmers grow taro in low-lying, muddy areas that don’t dry out. If there’s land like this where you are farming, perhaps you might like to try growing taro in it. If you’re already doing this, but aren’t using the method you’ll hear about now, why not try it?

When I was in Palau, radio broadcaster Roberta Louch and I went out with Martha Aderiano to see how she grows taro for her family.

A long time ago, she cleared several plots in a low-lying, muddy area and that’s where she grows her taro.

But why would she take the trouble to grow her taro in low-lying, muddy land? I asked Roberta if Martha’s taro is any different than taro grown in drier soil.

It’s much different, George. The taro grown in taro plots is more tasty than taro grown in dry land.
There was taro ready for harvesting when I was there, so, as we stood on a bund between plots, Roberta told me this:
When you harvest your taro, you harvest the amount you need for your family.

When harvesting, remove the roots, scrape off most of the mud, then wash the roots and put them in a basket. In the basket, use taro leaves under, around, and on top of the taro roots to keep them from drying out too fast.

You can then take them home this way in the basket and prepare them for family use.

How do you store taro?
If you’re going to store taro, don’t scrape the mud off the roots when you remove them from the taro plant. Just cut them from the stem, take them home, store them in the shade, and cover them with leaves to keep them from drying out.
What is the longest time that you can store taro in this way?
It can be kept for one month, but you have to put water on them now and then to keep them moist. This way, they’ll keep quite well for up to a month.
After Martha had a nice full basket of taro ready to take home, she went into another plot and started planting for the next crop. While she was doing this, Roberta told me this:
When you are going to plant taro in taro plots, first you have to clear up the weeds. Then you till the plot, then, using taro leaves for fertilizer, you mix them with the mud. After mixing, you plant the taro. After planting, you cover the ground between the taro plants with big leaves. The leaves on top of the ground keep weeds from growing and they keep moisture in the ground for the taro to grow. These leaves will stay there for 8 to 10 months until harvest time; so, as long as the leaves cover the ground, you won’t have to weed your taro plots during that time.
So there are some of the special things you can do when you’re planting taro in mud plots. Martha never buys any fertilizer for her taro; she uses leaves for fertilizer from the crop she has just harvested. She takes a good bunch of them and puts them down in the mud right in the place where the new taro plant and roots will be growing.

And how does she keep weeds from growing around her taro plants? She covers the soil with big leaves—taro leaves, banana leaves—any kind that will cover the soil and stop weeds from growing. These leaves on top of the mud also help to keep it from drying out.

There’s another thing about growing taro in wet lands like this. While a lot of people harvest it after it has been growing for 10 months, the word we have from three scientists in the Gambia and in Hawaii is that by simply letting it grow for 2 more months, their yield of taro was much higher (40% higher).

Well finally, I asked Roberta how long it is between the time Martha harvests her taro and replants for the next season.

After you have harvested all the taro in the plot and have tilled the soil—maybe it will take a week or up to a month—you can then replant your taro plot right away.
Thank you very much, Roberta Louch, here in Palau in the Western Caroline Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Serving Agriculture, the Basic Industry, this is George Atkins.

Information sources

Information on yield tests referred to in this item came from a paper presented in 1979 at the 5th International Symposium on Tropical Root Crops, Manila, Philippines. The paper is entitled Yield and Related Components of Flooded Taro (Colocasia esculenta (L. Schott): as affected by land preparations, planting density and planting depth, by Robert B. Kagbo, Donald L. Plucknet, and Wallace G. Sanford.