Try Intercropping with Taro

Taro is an important food crop in many humid regions of the tropics. In the South Pacific islands and some parts of Asia it is a staple food crop. Taro has potential to become a commercial source of feed and fuel. In Hawaii, taro is being made into chips, as in potato chips. With taro's increased popularity, its production is increasing.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii recently studied management techniques which would make taro production for the chip industry more attractive. They investigated the effects of intercropping on growth and yield of the upland taro. variety Bun-Long, or Colocasia esculenta. They hoped that intercropping other valuable crops with taro would expanded taro production for the chip indstry. The intercrops used were beans, alfalfa, sweet corn, sweet potatoes and peanuts.

They used plastic mulch for weed control and drip irrigation tubes. 16-16-16 fertilizer at 440 lb/acre was broadcast and mixed with the soil by rotovation. The plastic mulch was 1.5 mil and 90 cm wide. Taro plants were planted in double rows through the plastic mulch at 45 cm between the rows and 60 cm within the rows.

The experiment consisted of six intercrop treatments, each one covering six double rows of taro per plot. The intercrops were planted one month after the upland taro. All intercrops were planted in the unmulched areas between the plastic. Plots were side-dressed with 500 kg/ha of 16-16-16 three months after the taro was planted.

The taro intercropping system developed by the Hawaiian researchers should be studied in a low input system. More sustainable resources may be found to replace the fertilizers, drip irrigation, and plastic mulch which they used.


The intercrops were harvested as soon as they matured. Only one cutting of alfalfa was made before it was completely overshaded by the taro. Sweet potato and beans were overshaded by the taro plants an did not give marketable yields. A yield of 550 kg per hectare (oven dried) was obtained from one cutting of alfalfa. Peanuts yielded an average of 1030 kg per hectare, and the sweet corn gave a mean yield of 6015 kg per hectare (husked). Overshading by corn reduced early sucker development in the taro plants, but leguminous intercrops favored sucker development. Although taro intercropped with sweet potato had the lowest number of suckers and the shortest plants, the sweet potato's profuse development of vegetation helped maintain moist soil conditions and controlled weed growth.

The intercrops did not adversely affect corm yields of the taro. Corm yield ranged from 37.04 tons per hectare in the control plot to 50.58 tons per hectare in the peanut plot. Leguminous crops appeared to provide beneficial effects on taro's growth and yield. Although taro yields from all treatments were not statistically significant, (See table) the added benefits from the intercrops indicates that intercropping in upland taro is feasible.

For more information contact:

Ramon S. de la Peña and Florendo M. Melchor
University of Hawaii
Kauai jBranch Station
7370-A Kuamoo Road
Kapaa, Hawaii 96746