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Colocasia - An Excellent Tuber Crop for Mississippi

Colocasia (Colocasia esculenta L. Schott), also known as Cocoyam and Taro, is a tuber crop and it is an important source of food in the tropics. It is a rich source of carbohydrates. Young leaves and petioles are cooked like other greens. The tubers of some varieties have acridity, which can be destroyed by boiling. Acridity-free varieties are now available.

Cultivation: This is a warm-season crop and can be grown in Mississippi from April to November. A deep, rich friable, well-drained soil is ideal. Sprouted tubers of Colocasia is sown in rows of 2 feet apart and 1foot within rows. At this spacing, more than 20,000 plants can be raised in an acre of land and it needs at least 3,800 to 4,000 pounds of seed-tubers. After the first harvest, most of the mother tubers can be stored and used for planting in the second year. Colocasia, grown in open and sunny area, will be ready to harvest in the last week of October. i.e, 7 months after sowing. It is a heavy feeder and requires at least 16,000 pounds of composted cow manure and 6,000 pounds of compost for organic production, depending on type of soil. The yield of tuber is about 19,000 to 20,500 pounds, and the fresh upper biomass (greens) will be over 23,000 to 25,000 pounds per acre. The tuber is a corm and can be stored cool, dark, well ventilated place as in potato. They would sustain chilling injury, if keep them in refrigerator. The greens can be kept in the refrigerator and cooked like other greens.

Nutritional values: Colocasia tubers and leaves have significant levels of phenolic flavonoid pigment antioxidants such as ß-carotenes, and cryptoxanthin along with vitamin A. 100 g fresh Cocoyam leaves provides 4825 IU of vitamin A. Altogether, these compounds are required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes, skin, and vision.

*Girish K. Panicker, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director, Center for Conservation Research, School of Agriculture, Research, Extension, and Applied Sciences (AREAS), Alcorn State University, Lorman, MS 39096. Tel: 601 877 6598/3372 E-mail: panicker@alcorn. edu

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