Murithi an arrow root farmer in Imenti, Meru County harvests more than 5700 kg or arrow-roots s s every eight months. According to muriithi, the arrow-roots that he grows does not require much water but yields in plenty. The crop is planted in what he calls moisture beds lined with polythene. The polythene prevents seepage of water while the top is mulched to prevent moisture loss.
According to Kiambi an expert in arrow root farming, a farmer needs 11m by 2m polythene liner, organic fertilizer, well-composted manure, ash and arrow-roots corms to start. Each moisture bed measures 10m by 1.2m. You remove about 0.3m of the top soil, which is then mixed with manure. Five wheelbarrows of manure are required for one moisture bed that costs about Sh5,000 to prepare.
The polythene liner is laid on the floor of the bed and covered with the soil mixed with manure. A farmer has to apply ash on the soil to regulate acidity as well as control worms that destroy the tubers.
After watering and saturating the bed, you should make holes spaced 9 by 9 inches. You then plant the arrow-roots corms while putting 150ml of organic fertilizer in each hole. Up to 10 moisture beds can be prepared on a quarter of an acre, with each holding up to 220 arrow-roots corms. With good husbandry, a farmer can harvest tubers weighing up to 2kg per corm, which translates to an average of 400kg per bed in six to nine months, earning Sh20,000.
A farmer has to maintain the moisture by watering the beds once every week and mulching with grass during the dry season. The size of the bed allows for weeding and harvesting without stepping on it. Mulching helps to control weeds, increases warmth in the bed and prevents moisture loss.
Three months after planting the arrow-roots corms, a farmer should add three inches of soil mixed with manure on the beds to get bigger tubers.
How to Prevent Pests and Diseases Affecting arrow-roots
End users want bigger tubers. Earthening up ensures that we have tubers measuring 4 by 9 inches and weighing 2kg. That is good quality for the local and international market. As the crop grows, one should scout for pests and diseases like tuber rotting caused by worms that bore into the produce. The worms are kept at bay by use of ash to lower soil acidity, which makes them thrive. Withering of leaves before maturity is an indication of pests and diseases.
Before harvesting, starve the beds of water for two weeks to allow them to harden. This gives room for the tubers to shed much of the water and develop a floury texture when cooked. The moisture bed is watered on the harvesting day to ease uprooting of the tubers
The leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, copper, and manganese.