Agronomy III BAG310

Learn to Grow Root Crops

Root crops are one of the most significant crop groups to humans the world over. A vital source of nutrition for people and livestock everywhere, root crops include potatoes, turnips, carrots, kohl rabi, celeriac, and more.

Compared to other crops such as rice and cotton, root crops use significantly less water. Growing crops that are water efficient can help boost a farm's profits while also being sustainable and environmentally friendly. Growing water-wise crops helps to address environmental issues caused by low rainfall and overuse of the most precious natural resource: water.

Course Duration: 100 hours

Course Structure

  1. Scope and Nature of Root Cropping and the Botany of Roots
    • What are root vegetables?
    • Human nutrition and root vegetables
    • Botany of roots
  2. Cultural Practices A: Soil Management, Crop Scheduling and Soil Water
    • General guide to growing root vegetables
    • Improving soils
    • Sampling soils
    • Cover crops
    • Cultivation techniques
    • Soil fertility and plant growth
    • Plant nutrition
    • Fertiliser
    • Soil and water
  3. Cultural Practices B: Weed control, Pest Management
    • Weed and weed management
    • Methods of weed control
    • Pest and disease management
    • Toxicity
    • Diseases
    • Common environmental problems
  4. Potatoes
    • Growing conditions
    • Nutrient requirements
    • Planting
    • Care
    • Watering
    • Problems
    • Harvest and post-harvest
  5. Carrots and their Relatives
    • Carrots
    • Parsnips
    • Bulb fennel
    • Turnip rooted chervil
    • Skirret
    • Celeriac
  6. Turnips and their Relatives
    • Turnips
    • Rutabaga (swede)
    • Radish
    • Horseradish
    • Daikon
    • Kohlrabi
  7. Beets
    • Growing conditions
    • Nutrient requirements
    • Planting
    • Care
    • Watering
    • Problems
    • Harvest and post-harvest
  8. Taro, Yams and Sweet Potato
    • Growing conditions
    • Nutrient requirements
    • Planting
    • Care
    • Watering
    • Problems
    • Harvest and post-harvest
  9. Other Root Crops
    • Salsify
    • Scoronera
    • Scolymus
    • Mashua
    • Jerusalem artichoke
    • Potato bean
    • Arrowroot
    • Oca
    • Dandelion
    • Chinese artichoke
    • Water chestnuts
    • Yacon or jicama
    • Root chicory
    • Ullico
    • American groundnut
  10. Harvest and Post-Harvest Management
    • Harvesting root vegetables
    • Cooling methods
    • Storage

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What are Root Vegetables?

Root vegetables are often botanical oddities; unlike other plants most of them develop specialised plant parts at or below ground level with the purpose of storing nutrients for the plant during difficult times. Root vegetables, in the culinary sense, includes more than what botanists term as ‘true roots’ - they may also include rhizomes, tubers, swollen roots and swollen stems.

Commonly grown root vegetables include:

  • Beets (sweet beets, beetroot)
  • Carrots
  • Daikon (Japanese radish)
  • Potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga (Swedes or Swedish turnips)
  • Salsify — Scorzonera hispanica (black salsify), Scolymus hispanicus (Spanish salsify)
  • Sweet potato
  • Turnip rooted chervil
  • Yams

Vegetables Commonly Known as Root Vegetables

A lot of vegetables commonly described as ‘root vegetables’ are actually not ‘true roots’, but for the purposes of this text we will include them as ‘root vegetables’. These include:

  • Corms: taro, Chinese water chestnut, Elephant root yam, Konjac
  • Rhizome: some ginger, lotus root
  • Swollen basal stems (above ground): Kohlrabi
  • Tubers (modified stems): potatoes, yams, Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), oca (also known as the New Zealand yam)
  • Tuberous roots (modified lateral roots): cassava, sweet potatoes, jicama

Human Nutrition and Root Vegetables

Root vegetables are packed with vitamins and fibre, both essential for good health. Contrary to popular belief, most are also quite low in calories.

  • Beetroot: Very low in calories but a high source of folic acid (a B vitamin), important for pregnant women. Also contain betalains which are a rich source of antioxidants.
  • Carrot: One of the best sources of beta-carotene (an anti-oxidant).
  • Celeriac: A very low calorie vegetable, great source of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
  • Daikon: A rich source of Vitamin C, and a very good source of folate, copper and potassium, very high in fibre but also very low in calories.
  • Jerusalem artichoke: A reasonable source of dietary fibre, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and magnesium and a good source of iron and potassium.
  • Kohlrabi: No fat, no cholesterol and low in carbohydrates and sugar a high source of Vitamin C and a good source of B6.
  • Oca (New Zealand yam): Extremely high in carbohydrates and energy; a good source of beta carotene (Vitamin A), B6, potassium and some fibre. The red varieties have the anti-oxidant anthocyanins and the yellow varieties beta carotenes.
  • Parsnip: A very high fibre vegetable plus a good source of folic acid.
  • Potato: High in B1 vitamin, an average source of Vitamin C and a good source of fibre; great as a quick energy supply.
  • Radish: Very low in calories and a reasonable source of Vitamin C and some folic acid.
  • Swede (Rutabaga): Very low in calories and a good source of Vitamin C as well as some folic acid.
  • Sweet potato: Low in calories, high in beta carotene, a good source of Vitamin C and low GI (glycaemic index) compared to potatoes; the purple fleshed varieties contain anthocyanins which are rich anti-oxidants.
  • Turnip: A good source of Vitamin C and fibre.
  • Yam: High in potassium and beta carotene (yellow types), low in calories, very high in starch but with a low GI (glycaemic index) with slow release glucose providing energy for sustained periods.

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