Jerusalem artichoke plants are very easy to grow as they are very hardy plants and once roots are established on soil, they tend to grow vigorously with little nutrition and less care. A thorough soil preparation is normally done in commercial cultivation of Jerusalem artichokes. Soil is prepared well by adding and mixing bulk quantities of compost and well rotted farm yard manure liberally into the top soil and then adding a little lime just before planting Jerusalem artichoke tubers. After planting is done, soil is kept free from weeds all throughout its production duration. It is necessary to keep the soil slightly moist always.
Climatic requirements for Jerusalem artichoke
Jerusalem artichokes are better adapted to cool climates. Temperature requirements vary from 65 to 80°F and rainfall requirements vary from 50 inches or less. Crops are grown both as rainfed and irrigated crops. Irrigation may be necessary for rainfed crops also, if soil is dry.
Jerusalem artichoke is adapted to various soil types but the best soil is fertile sandy loams or well-drained, slightly alkaline soils. Generally speaking, soils suitable for potato and corn production are suitable for Jerusalem artichoke production also. Water logging must be avoided but soil moisture must be well above 30% of field capacity during the tuber formation period which starts from late August to early September and lasts up to November.
Propagation of Jerusalem artichoke
Vegetative propagation via seed tubers is generally preferred in Jerusalem artichoke. Tubers or pieces of tubers containing two or three vigorous buds and weighing approximately 50-60 grams are used for the propagation of Jerusalem artichoke. Tubers start sprouting after two to three weeks of planting. During plant establishment, grass and weed problems will be reduced by shading since plants grow over 6 feet high. Tubers begin to form in August and may become 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches in diameter upon full growth.
Recommended planting rate is 1,000 lb per acre of tubers which yield up to 10,000 to 15,000 plants per acre. Ideal planting time is spring through early summer (January to March). Ideal spacing is 12 to 25 inches between plants and 30 to 35 inches between rows at a planting depth of 2 to 4 inches. Tubers begin to form in August.
Fertilizer application helps produce a better yield. Fertilizer requirements of Jerusalem artichoke plants are same as that of potatoes. Generally it is suggested that 500 to 700 lb per acre of 6-12-6 NPK should be broadcasted in the row. This rate may be increased on low fertile soils.
Sunny position and water are two essential requirements for the successful production of Jerusalem artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes need to be watered deeply to force the production of large tubers. Less watering tends to produce less and smaller tubers.
Mechanical weed control is generally recommended for Jerusalem artichokes. Manual removal of weeding, by carefully pulling of any weeds that appear, until the plants get well established is highly recommended.
Sclerotinia rot is a major problem in Jerusalem artichoke. Other fungal diseases that affect Jerusalem artichoke include downy mildew, rust and southern stem blight. Since there are no major registered chemicals recommended for Jerusalem Artichokes, biological control methods may be adopted for disease control.
Insect Pest Management
Puccinia helianthi is the most serious pest that attack Jerusalem artichoke plants. Burning the tops of the plants and a change of locality is recommended for the absolute control of the pest.
Since Jerusalem artichoke plants remain dormant during winter season, cut the flower stalks off at the ground level in order to help this vegetable survive the winter. Then cover the plants with proper mulching to protect them from frost injury. Mulch can be removed during spring season.
Harvesting of Jerusalem artichokes is similar to that of potatoes. Manual harvesting using a modified potato digger is generally advised as the best option. Harvested tubers are stored in gunny/jute bags and transported immediately to pack houses to avoid damage of the tubers due to field heat. Ideal harvesting time is fall through early winter (November to January), when the foliage begins to change color. Harvesting should be done in early hours of morning to avoid extreme heat building in tubers. Tops should be cut down to 12″ above the ground with a mower and then plough open the furrow, pick up the tubers, place in field containers or jute bags, and remove the harvested produce from the field immediately. Harvest the tubers in 4 or 5 months as it is best to leave them in the soil and harvest as and when needed.
Yield: Average tuber yield ranges between 5 and 10 tons per acre. Alcohol yield is at 60–100 liters/metric tons of tubers. Yield of tops for forage is between 10 and 15 tons per acre.
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