Taro or colocasia is a popular tropical tuber crop grown for its edible root tubers and succulent, tender shoots and young leaves. Colocasia tubers are used as a staple food and as a vegetable in many countries. Colocasia leaves are used as a tropical leafy vegetable. There are many varieties of colocasia that are cultivated for edible purposes. Tubers of some varieties of colocasia may contain considerable amounts of an acrid compound called calcium oxalate which can be destroyed by proper cooking.
Origin and Taxonomy: Colocasia is believed to be originated in the tropics of the old world comprising of the regions of southeastern Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Common names of colocasia are elephant-ear, taro, and coco yam. It belongs to the family Araceae, genus Colocasia and species esculenta.
Plant Description: Colocasia plant is a dwarf-growing herbaceous perennial plant that arises from a large underground corm. Corm is a modified underground stem. Leaves are large and look like a large shield and sometimes reach up to 1-1.5 meter in length. Leaves are shaped like an arrowhead, with one point upwards and other two pointed lobes extending downwards. Its inflorescence is a spadix, a specialized spike of small, tiny flowers that are closely arranged round a fleshy axis and typically enclosed in a spathe, characteristic of all the arums (members of Family Araceae).
Growing Colocasia/Taro: A detailed account of various growing practices for taro plant is given below:
Climate Requirements: Colocasia is a tropical tuber crop and can be successfully grown in warm, tropical climates. Two crops of colocasia are possible in tropical regions: Summer Crop and Rainy Season Crop.
Soil Requirements: Just like other tuber crops, colocasia needs well-drained, fertile, loose sandy loam soils for its healthy growth.
Propagation and Planting: Colocasia is propagated through tuber/corm cuttings. Sprouted tuber cuttings are planted in the main field for raising a colocasia crop. Summer crop is sown in February-March in tropics while the rainy season crop in planted in June-July. Colocasia tubers need plenty of moisture in the soil for vigorous sprouting and leaf production.
Spacing: Sprouted tubers/corms are sown in rows about 45 cm apart and 30 cm within the row.
Watering and Intercultural Operations: Colocasia plants need moist soil throughout its life cycle. Once sprouted-tuber cuttings are planted, care should be taken not to dry the soil. If planted tuber cuttings are not germinated properly, one light irrigation may help quick germination process. In an established crop, intercultural operations such as hoeing, earthing up soil, weeding etc may be carried out regularly. One or two light earthing up operations are beneficial for a colocasia crop.
Fertilizers and Manures: Colocasia crop may be raised in a well-prepared field where plenty of organic manures and compost may be mixed thoroughly with the top soil to replenish the soil fertility.
Pest and Disease Management: Colocasia is a hardy plant and it withstands many insect-pest attacks. Generally there are no major diseases that attack colocasia plants in a serious way. However in some regions, colocasia is found to be susceptible to a disease called ‘Colocasia Blight’. It is a fungal infection. Colocasia blight attacks young leaves and petioles first and in later stages, tubers are also affected. Spraying Bordeaux mixture may control the disease very effectively.
Harvesting and Yield: Colocasia crop is ready for harvesting within four to five months after planting. In other words, colocasia crop matures in about 130 to 140 days after planting. Estimated yield is about 15 tons of tubers per hectare.
Food Uses and Nutrition of Taro Tubers: Colocasia tubers can be cooked in many ways such as by boiling, baking, steaming, etc. Sliced colocasia tubers may be deep-fried to make delicious colocasia chips.
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