ARRACACHA, Peruvian carrot, Peruvian parsnip.
Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft syn. A. esculenta DC.
Apio (criollo) (Venez., P. Rico); Arrecate (Lat. Am.); Batata baroa, Mandioquinha salsa (Braz.); Pomme de terre cleri (Fr.); Racacha, Virrac (Peru); Zanhoria blanca (Ecu.).
A stout semi-caulescent herb, somewhat resembling celery but one of the largest of the cultivated umbellifers. Its coarse stems and leaves usually attain a height of 0.6-1.2 m, and the leaves are dark green or purple. The flowers are small, typical of the family, and usually purplish or yellow, but seldom seen because the crop is harvested before flowering. The subterranean portion of the plant is a compound structure consisting of a large, more or less cylindrical rootstock, indistinctly marked with a number of horizontal nodose rings, and with a coarse central core: from this root stock 6-10 irregularly spindle-shaped secondary tubers arise as off-shoots.
These are smooth skinned and resemble parsnips in texture, colour and odour. The crown of the rootstock gives rise to a number of shoots which arise from enveloping sheaths to form the stems and leaves. Three main varieties are recognised depending upon the colour of the flesh of the roots-white, yellow or purple-but several cultivars have been developed.
Origin and distribution
Arracacha originated in the Andes in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia but cultivation has now spread to Venezuela, parts of Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico and to parts of Africa.
Temperature-for optimum results an equable temperature of 15-20°C throughout the year is required. In Colombia, for example, high yields are obtained in the Andes, where the annual mean temperature is 16°C; in savanna areas where the mean temperature is slightly lower, about 14°C, the vegetative cycle is lengthened. Some varieties are sensitive to frost and are grown only at the lower altitudes but those adapted to the higher altitudes are resistant to occasional light frost.
Rainfall-arracacha requires a moderate, evenly-distributed rainfall of at least 60 cm but preferably 100 cm, and if the natural rainfall is insufficient it should be supplemented by irrigation.
Soil-deep, fertile, well-drained sandy soils with a pH of about 5-5.5 are ideal, and the application of a 12:24:12 or 10:30:10 complete (NPK) fertiliser at the rate of 500-600 kg/ha has been recommended. The application of phosphorus has been found to increase yields considerably, while heavy applications of nitrogen have an adverse effect.
Altitude-arracacha yields a crop at elevations above about 600 m in the northern Andes: in Colombia it grows best at elevations between 1 800 and 2 600 m; in Brazil it is successfully grown in the state of Sao Paulo at altitudes of 1 000-1 200 m.
Day-length-there is some evidence that arracacha requires short day-lengths in order to produce economic yields.
Material-although it is possible to obtain fertile seed with a good rate of germination, arracacha is traditionally propagated vegetatively by the use of offsets or shoots produced on the crown of the main rootstock. Only the basal portion of the shoot actually possessing a bud with leaves is used; this is cut to a piece 2-3 cm in length and the leaves are cut off to 10-20 cm above their points of attachment to the stem. After the offset is detached from the rootstock, the basal end is cut several times to stimulate sprouting of the shoot, and to ensure that secondary roots begin to form and are well-distributed laterally on the primary rootstock. After the offsets are cut they are left to dry for 2-3 days before planting. It is important to use only material from virus-free stock.
Method-arracacha is cultivated in a manner similar to potatoes, with which it is often interplanted. Although it may be grown throughout the year, the main crop is usually planted at the beginning of the rains in April and September. The normal procedure is for the offsets to be put in holes along furrows, with fertiliser placed in each hole before planting. Often the offset is positioned in such a way that the basal portion is covered and the shoot is left slightly above the soil level, but in some parts of the Andes the traditional method is to cover the offsets completely to a depth of 2-3 times their own length. After planting, the rows are mulched with trash and kept earthed up and free from weeds. Subsequent hand-weeding is usually carried out 2 months after planting and again after 5 months, but in Colombia the use of the herbicide linuron at the rate of 0.75 kg/ha has been found to give excellent control over broad-leaved weeds if applied 40-50 days after planting.
Field spacing-the furrows are normally about I m apart with 50-60 cm between the plants.
Seed rate-approximately 16 700-20 000 offsets are required to plant one hectare.
Pests and diseases
Among the pests reported to attack arracacha are the flea beetles Epitrix spp. and Systena s-littera, the swallow-tail butterfly Papilio polyxenes and the moths Automeris spp., whose larvae feed on the foliage, the leafhopper Erythrogonia quadriguttata, the tree-hopper Amastris simillima, the mole cricket Tridaclylus minutus, the scarab beetle Ancognatha scarabeoides, spider mites Tetranychus spp., nematodes, in particular Pratylenchus penetrans which may cause necrosis of the whole plant, and slugs.
Diseases include those caused by Cercospora spp., Cercosporidium depressum, Septoria apii, and Gloeosporium sp. The last is the most serious, though control can be effected by copper-based fungicides or thiabendazole. A bacterial necrosis, first appearing as yellow leaves and stunted growth, is caused by Erwinia amylovora. The disease is transmitted by infected buds of diseased plants used in planting, or the organism may penetrate from the soil into the root system. Two viruses-arracacha virus A and arracacha virus B-have been identified as causing yellow mosaic symptoms and poor growth. Neither appears to be transmitted by vector and spread is apparently by infected planting material. A strain of virus B has been found in oca (Oxalis tuberosa). The only known control measure for the bacterial and virus infections is avoidance of infected planting material. The symptoms are easily recognised in the growing crop and therefore rogueing can greatly minimise this danger.
The secondary tubers usually mature in about 10-14 months after planting; sometimes an early harvest of immature roots is taken after 4-8 months.
Harvesting and handling
The crop is judged to be mature when the leaves begin to yellow and production of new shoots ceases. Some growers accelerate the onset of maturity by breaking the petioles, often by twisting or doubling them over. Harvesting is usually accomplished by digging up the whole plant, detaching the offsets for the next crop, and collecting the tubers and main rootstocks. Harvesting cannot be delayed, because if the roots are left in the ground they become fibrous and tough, and develop a strong unpleasant flavour. After harvesting, the tubers have a very short storage life, and in Colombia were considered unmarketable after 3-4 days at 25°C and 40 per cent RH. However, after storage at 10°C and 90 per cent RH, or at 3°C and unspecified humidity for about I month, the roots maintained good condition. Irradiation with doses of 10-11 head has also been found to extend the storage life. Deterioration of the tubers is due mainly to fungal and bacterial rots and desiccation, and it has been shown that wrapping of individual tubers in plastic cling or shrink film of low moisture penetrability within 24 hours after harvest extended shelf-life to 7 days or more at 17-20°C and 68-70 per cent RH, and was economically advantageous for tubers that were to be marketed.
Tubers-the edible secondary tubers are the primary product and under good cultural conditions each plant can produce 6-10 tubers, weighing 2-3 kg. These tubers have a delicate flavour and a crisp texture, and the flesh may be white, creamy-yellow or purple, depending upon the cultivar; in many areas the yellow tubers are preferred.
Yields range from about 3 to 18 t/ha, depending mainly upon growing conditions, and in Colombia the best yields are obtained at altitudes of over 2 000 m in the northern Andes.
The secondary tubers are used as a source of carbohydrate, boiled, fried or as a constituent of stews, eg along with cassava in the Colombian sancocho. They are regarded in Venezuela as especially important for children because of their easy digestibility.
The tubers and main rootstock can be used as a source of an easily digestible starch, suitable for the preparation of invalid and baby foods.
Secondary and waste products
The coarse main rootstocks and mature leaves are used for livestock feeding; they have a higher protein content that alfalfa. In certain Andean communities the tubers are used in traditional medicine. The young blanched stems are utilised as a salad ingredient or as a vegetable.
Analyses of the edible portion of Colombian tubers (the lateral swollen roots) have been published as: water 71.9-73 per cent; protein 0.8-1.1 per cent; fat 0.1-0.2 per cent; carbohydrate 24.9 per cent; fibre 0.6-0.8 per cent; ash 1.6 per cent; calcium 24 mg/100 g; iron 0.7 mg/100 g; phosphorus 65 mg/100 g; vitamin A 20-60 IU/100 g (in yellow cultivars); thiamine 0.04-0.06 mg/100 g; riboflavin 0.03-0.04 mg/100 g; niacin 2.7-3.4 mg/100 g; ascorbic acid 15-28 mg/100 g.
The starch, which is similar in many respects to that of cassava, is easily digestible and is also suitable for laundry use. The grains are usually spherical or ovoid, ranging from 5 to 27 microns, averaging 14 microns.
Production and trade
Little statistical information is available although production was reported to be increasing in Colombia: average 1960-64, 111 000 t/a; average 1965-67, 123 000 t/a. For 1977 no figures of total production were available but 123 000 t was stated to have reached the markets.
Arracacha has been an important staple carbohydrate foodstuff in parts of South America for at least 300 years and today forms an important and popular item of diet, particularly amongst children, but because of its short shelf-life it has been relatively high-priced. However, recent work appears to have demonstrated that the shelf-life can be extended. It is expected to prove a valuable root crop if introduced into other high altitude areas of the tropics, and a considerable amount of research is currently being undertaken, in particular on the development of new cultivars and in breeding: a germplasm bank has been established at Campinas in Argentina.
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