Last modified January 4, 2010
Interest in Jerusalem artichokes extends beyond the use of this crop for food purposes. The primary interest, since the early 1900s, has centered around the use of this crop for alcohol production as a fuel or fuel additive. Although research has shown that the Pacific Northwest is an excellent production area, economics of this enterprise, to date, have been such as to preclude large-scale production of this crop for fuel. Jerusalem artichoke has been also used as a livestock feed and a forage crop.
A book by Joseph A. Amato, Jerusalem Artichoke: The Buying and Selling of the Rural American Dream, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN chronicles a pyramid scheme to sell planting stocks of Jerusalem artichoke which resulted in large financial losses to growers in the early 1980's. Growers are urged to carefully examine the market for this crop before attempting any large-scale production.
VARIETIES (approximately 120 days)
Mammoth French White, Stampede, Brazilian White, Brazilian Red.
Plant as early in the spring as possible. Planting should be completed by May 15 if possible. Late plantings result in low yields and small tubers.
Use about 1,200 lb of seed pieces that are 2 ounces each. Spacing should be 12-24 inches apart with 36-48 inches between rows. Seed pieces should be planted 3-4 inches deep in fairly well drained soil. Deeper or shallower planting will result in slightly lower yields. Deeper planting results in a crop that is more difficult to harvest. Planting may be done with a standard potato planter.
For the most current advice, see Nutrient Management for Sustainable Vegetable Cropping Systems in Western Oregon, available as a free download from the OSU Extension Catalog
A soil test is the most accurate guide to fertilizer requirements. The following are general guidelines:
Nitrogen: 150-200 lb N/acre. Apply no more than half the total before planting.
Phosphorus: 80-150 (P205) lb/acre
Potash: 80-100 lb K2O/acre
Sulfur: 15-20 lb S/acre
Four to five irrigations may be needed for optimum yields.
HARVESTING, HANDLING, AND STORAGE
Yield of Jerusalem artichokes depends on plant population, length of season and management of the crop. In a three-year study in southwestern Oregon, yields of tubers averaged 29 tons/acre when tops were left on to maturity. When tops were removed for silage prior to root maturity, fresh weight yields of tops averaged 27 tons/acre and tuber weights ranged from 3 to 27 tons/acre depending on date of top removal, year and row spacings.
The large, woody foliage has to be cut and removed before harvest. Tubers may then be dug with a potato digger. Tubers are sorted to size and washed before packaging. Some tubers will remain in the field and sprout the next year. The resulting stand would be too thick for good tuber size. Fields should be replanted annually. Volunteer plants may be troublesome for a number of years.
STORAGE (Quoted or modified from USDA Ag. Handbook 66 and other sources)
Jerusalem Artichoke tubers may be stored at 31 to 32 F and 90-95% relative humidity for 4-5 months. At low humidity they shrivel badly and are more likely to decay than if kept in a moist atmosphere. Their thin skin is easily injured and allows moisture to be lost readily, causing shriveling. If stored 5 months, losses due to decay and shrivel may amount to 20 %.
Jerusalem artichokes may be packaged in cartons and boxes, loose packed, 20-25 lb each.
Jerusalem artichokes have been considered as a source of raw product for fructose sugar and fuel alcohol production. Considerable promotion and research on this has occurred over the past 60 years. Although Jerusalem artichokes are known to be one of the best sources of raw product for the manufacture of fuel alcohol and fructose sugar, because of alternative raw products and other considerations these uses have not been economically successful in the Pacific Northwest to date.