Effects of Watering Regimes and Planting Density on Taro (Colocasia esculenta) Growth, Yield, and Yield Components in Embu, Kenya


Joyce Wambui Njuguna, 1 Anne N. Karuma, 1 Patrick Gicheru, 2 and Richard Onwonga


Taro (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott) is one of the most underutilized crops in sub-Saharan Africa and an important staple food in the tropics. Understanding its growth response under selected watering regimes and planting densities underpins this research. A study was conducted at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Embu Research Centre, during the long rains (LR) in 2021 and the short rains (SR) in 2021–2022. A factorial experiment with a split-plot layout arranged in a completely randomized block design was used. The main factor was the irrigation levels, while the subfactor was the planting density, with three replications. The three irrigation levels were at 100%, 60%, and 30% based on the field capacity (FC). The planting densities used were 0.5 m × 0.5 m (40,000 plants ha−1), 1 m × 0.5 m (20,000 plants ha−1), and 1 m × 1 m (10,000 plants ha−1), representative of high, medium, and low planting densities, respectively. Time and season (P < 0.05) significantly influenced taro growth components (plant height, leaf area, leaf area index, and vegetative growth index) and yield components (corm length, corm diameter, corm mass, yield, and total biomass). Planting density influenced the leaf area and the leaf area index (P < 0.05). The watering regime did not affect taro growth or yield components. Corm mass (0.59 kg), total biomass (49.8 t/ha), and yield (13.38 t/ha) were all the highest in the 30% FC. The 1 m × 0.5 m spacing produced the highest corm mass (0.62 kg). The high planting density (0.5 m × 0.5 m) resulted in the highest total biomass (70.2 t/ha), yield (20.84 t/ha), and harvest index (30.44%). As a result, the 0.5 m × 0.5 m planting density and 30% FC watering regime are recommended to farmers in the area for increased yields and food security.