CULTIVATION OF DIOSCOREA

S.ESWARA REDDY

Dioscorea floribunda-a medicinal plant of great importance

can be

grown in a wide variety of soils. Best yields are obtained in medium loam deep soils, which are rich in organic matter. The structure of the soil influences the morphology of the tuber. Light soils allow the tubers to grow thinner, longer and deeper than heavy soils. Dioscorea tolerates a wide

range of soil pH but too acidic and highly alkaline soils should be avoided. They can be grown in tropical, subtropical and temperate climates in India. Land Preparation: The land should be ploughed and harrowed several times, so as to give a fine and deep seed bed. All the grass stubbles and the roots should be removed, the field leveled properly and proper drainage arrangements made to avoid water logging during the rains. D. floribunda has high requirement

of organic matter for good tuber formation. Spacing: A spacing of 60 cm between the rows and 30 cm between the plants in recommended for one year crop. For a two-year crop, spacing of 60cm between the rows and 45 cm between the plants should be given. D. floribunda requires a wider spacing-row to row distance will be 80-90 cm and plant to plant distance will be 45-60 cm. Method of Planting: Tuber pieces or any other plant material are planted in furrows about 5 cm below the ground level. The land is irrigated immediately after planting. In very light soils, the tuber pieces can be planted in furrows. Deep furrows should be made with the help of a plough. After sprouting is complete, the plants should be earthed up. Soil from the ridges should be used for earthing up so that the original furrows will become ridges and vice versa. Provision of support: Dioscorea plants are climbers, hence need support. This provides exposure of maximum amount of surface for photosynthesis. Provision of proper support gives better growth and also decreases losses due to diseases and pests, because of better aeration. Trellis system is suitable for growing dioscorea yams. It consists of high stone pillars and spaced at 10m apart in the field. Galvanised iron wires are used on the four ends of the field and they arc interconnected with wires.

Each plant is tied to the overhead wires. Inter culture: Young yam plants are weak and tender and cannot compete efficiently with the surrounding weeds. Inter-cropping of inter-row spaces with bean and horsegram has been found to smother the weeds. Periodic weedings as and when necessary are essential for the first few months. However once the plants have climbed up on the trellis, the weeds will be reduced considerably due to shading, in the second year. Fertilizer Application: Yams respond well to heavy fertilization. A complete fertilizer dose of 300 kg N, 150 kg P2O5 and 150 kg K2O per ha is recommended. P and K are to be applied as basal dose at the time of planting. N should be applied in two equal doses one after the establishment of the crop during May-June and the other during grand growth period of the crop (August-September). It is advisable to supply one third of the nutrients in the form of organic manures, and it has been found that organic manures give better results in tuber crop. Irrigation: The crop requires frequent irrigation in areas where rainfall is scanty or not well distributed. In the initial stages, weekly irrigations are required and the interval can be increased to 10-15 days at later stages of growth. Duration of the crop: Experiments have shown that D. deltoidea should be harvested only

after three years to get optimum yield from (he crop with the maximum diosgenin content. Similarly, D. floribunda should be kept in the field at least for two years to get the optimum yield and disogenin content. Diosgenin content increases with age, however, experiments in Puertorico have shown that after third year there is no change in the diosgenin content. Harvesting: Although tubers can be harvested at any time of the year, it is belter to harvest the tubers when the plants are dormant to get maximum yield of diosgenin. The tubers are harvested manually, washed free of soil and dried in the sun. It is preferred to chop the tubers into small pieces before drying. Dr_esreddy@yahoo.co.in 16th MAY 2013