How To Plant Yam [ Full Guide ]

Yam (Dioscorea) is a starchy tuber vegetable that is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. It is a staple food for millions of people and provides essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Growing yams can be a rewarding experience, and with the right knowledge and preparation, you can successfully cultivate this versatile crop in your own garden. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricacies of planting yams, from understanding the basics to choosing the right varieties, preparing the soil, timing the planting, and ensuring a successful harvest.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Yam

Planting yams involves selecting healthy yam seed tubers, preparing the soil with adequate drainage and fertility, and timing the planting to coincide with the onset of the rainy season or a period of consistent rainfall. The process includes cuttings the yam seed tubers, preparing a planting bed, and ensuring proper spacing and depth for planting. Regular watering, mulching, and weed control are essential throughout the growth cycle. Harvesting occurs approximately 8-12 months after planting, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

Understanding The Basics Of Yam Planting

Before delving into the specifics of planting yams, it is crucial to understand the plant’s growth characteristics and the environmental conditions it requires for successful cultivation.

Growth Characteristics Of Yam

Yams are perennial herbaceous vines that belong to the Dioscoreaceae family. They have twining stems and heart-shaped leaves that can grow up to 7 meters in length. The edible part of the yam plant is its underground tuber, which is a rich source of carbohydrates. Yam plants also produce aerial tubers, known as bulbils, which can be used for propagation.

Environmental Requirements

Yams thrive in warm, tropical climates with well-drained, fertile soil and consistent moisture. They require temperatures above 20°C (68°F) and are sensitive to frost. Adequate rainfall or irrigation is essential for their growth, as they prefer a humid environment. Light plays an essential role in yam development, as they require abundant sunlight for optimal growth.

Understanding these growth characteristics and environmental requirements will inform the decisions you make when preparing for yam planting.

Choosing The Right Yam Varieties

Yams come in various species and varieties, each with different growth habits and culinary qualities. When selecting yam varieties for planting, consider the following factors:

Climbing Or Non-Climbing Varieties

Climbing Varieties: These yams are characterized by their vigorous, twining vines. They are well-suited for growing on trellises or other support structures. Examples of climbing yam varieties include Dioscorea alata (greater yam) and Dioscorea bulbifera (air potato).

Non-Climbing Varieties: These yams have a bushy growth habit and do not produce long vines. They are ideal for ground cultivation without the need for support structures. Dioscorea rotundata (white yam) and Dioscorea cayenensis (yellow yam) are common non-climbing varieties.

Culinary Qualities

Consider the culinary attributes of the yam varieties you choose to plant. Some yams are prized for their flavor, texture, and suitability for specific dishes. Research the culinary uses of different yam varieties to select those that align with your preferences and culinary needs.

Disease Resistance

Certain yam varieties exhibit resistance to common diseases and pests. When possible, opt for disease-resistant varieties to minimize the risk of crop loss due to infections or infestations.

Local Adaptation

Choosing yam varieties that are well-adapted to your local climate and soil conditions can contribute to the overall success of your yam cultivation efforts. Consider seeking advice from local agricultural extension services or experienced yam farmers to identify varieties that perform well in your region.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select the most suitable yam varieties for your planting project, ensuring a productive and successful harvest.

Preparing The Soil For Yam Planting

The success of yam cultivation hinges on the quality of the soil in which it is grown. Proper soil preparation is crucial for providing yams with the necessary nutrients, drainage, and anchorage for healthy growth.

Soil Type And Ph

Yams prefer well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH range of 5.5 to 6.8. Conduct a soil test to determine the pH and nutrient levels of your soil. If the pH is outside the ideal range, consider amending the soil with organic matter and appropriate amendments to optimize its pH and nutrient content.

Soil Texture And Structure

The soil should have a loose, friable texture that promotes root penetration and aeration. In heavy clay soils, incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve the soil structure and drainage. Conversely, in sandy soils, adding organic matter helps increase water retention and nutrient holding capacity.

Clearing And Loosening The Soil

Clear the planting area of weeds, rocks, and debris to create a clean and unobstructed bed for the yam planting. Use a hoe or a tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches, breaking up clumps and creating a suitable seedbed for planting.

Adding Organic Matter And Nutrients

Incorporate well-aged compost, manure, or other organic amendments into the soil to improve its fertility and texture. Additionally, consider incorporating a balanced fertilizer or a slow-release organic fertilizer to provide essential nutrients for the yams’ initial growth.

Soil Drainage

Ensure that the planting site has good drainage to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot and other issues. If the soil is poorly drained, consider implementing raised beds or mounding the soil to improve drainage around the yam plants.

Properly prepared soil sets the foundation for healthy yam growth and development, providing the essential nutrients and growing conditions necessary for a successful harvest.

Proper Timing For Planting Yams

Timing is critical when it comes to planting yams, as it influences the growth and development of the crop. Ideal planting times may vary depending on your local climate and the specific yam variety you are cultivating; however, there are general guidelines to consider.

Seasonal Considerations

In tropical and subtropical regions, yams are typically planted at the onset of the rainy season, when the soil is adequately moist and temperatures are favorable for vigorous growth. Planting yams during the rainy season ensures that the young plants have access to the moisture they need for establishment and early growth.

Temperature Considerations

Yams are sensitive to cold temperatures, and planting should occur when the threat of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to support germination and initial growth. Check local climate data and consult with agricultural extension services to determine the optimal timing for yam planting in your region.

Day Length Considerations

Yams are photoperiod-sensitive, meaning their growth and flowering are influenced by day length. In general, longer day lengths promote vegetative growth, while shorter day lengths trigger tuberization and bulbil formation. Understanding the day length requirements of your chosen yam variety can help you plan the timing of planting to maximize yields.

Variety-Specific Considerations

Some yam varieties have specific planting requirements based on their growth habits and environmental preferences. Research the specific planting recommendations for the yam varieties you are cultivating to ensure that you adhere to their unique timing and environmental needs.

By carefully timing your yam planting to align with favorable environmental conditions, you can optimize the growth and development of your yam crop, setting the stage for a bountiful harvest when the time comes.

Planting yams involves careful consideration of the plant’s growth characteristics, selecting suitable varieties, preparing the soil for optimal growth, and timing the planting to align with favorable environmental conditions. By understanding these fundamental aspects of yam planting and implementing best practices, you can set the stage for a successful yam cultivation venture. Whether you are a seasoned farmer or a novice gardener, the satisfaction of nurturing healthy yam plants and harvesting bountiful tubers awaits as you embark on your yam planting journey. With patience, diligence, and a deep-rooted appreciation for this versatile crop, you can enjoy the rewards of growing your own yams and savoring the delectable flavors they bring to your table.

Techniques For Planting Yam Cuttings

Yam is a popular tuber crop that is widely consumed in many parts of the world. It is not only a staple food but also a valuable source of income for small-scale farmers.

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Yam can be grown from seeds or cuttings, but the most common method is through the use of cuttings. This is because yam seeds take longer to germinate and require more care during the germination process. Yam cuttings, on the other hand, are easy to propagate and have a higher success rate.

Here are the steps to follow when planting yam cuttings:

Step 1: Selecting the Right Cuttings
Choose healthy yam tubers that are free from diseases and pest damage. Look for tubers that are firm, without any soft spots or blemishes. Avoid using tubers that are too small or too big, as they may not produce good yields.

Step 2: Preparing the Cuttings
Cut the yam tubers into sections, each containing a few buds (also known as "eyes"). Make sure to use a sterilized knife to prevent the spread of diseases. Each cutting should be about 20-30 centimeters in length, and preferably have a thickness of 1-2 centimeters.

Step 3: Treating the Cuttings
To prevent the cuttings from rotting and to promote root development, it is advisable to treat them with a fungicide or a mild disinfectant. This will help to protect the cuttings from diseases and pathogens in the soil.

Step 4: Preparing the Planting Site
Yam requires well-drained soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. Prepare the soil by loosening it with a garden fork or a tiller. Remove any weeds or debris, as they can compete with the yam plants for nutrients and water. If the soil is heavy clay or sandy, it is beneficial to amend it with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve its fertility and drainage.

Step 5: Planting the Cuttings
Dig furrows or ridges about 10-15 centimeters deep and 50-60 centimeters apart. Place the yam cuttings horizontally in the furrows or on top of the ridges, with the buds facing upwards. Space the cuttings about 30-40 centimeters apart. Cover the cuttings with soil, leaving the buds exposed.

Step 6: Mulching
Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or chopped leaves, around the yam plants. This will help to conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and protect the plants from temperature fluctuations. Make sure not to cover the yam buds with mulch, as this can hinder their emergence.

Caring For Young Yam Plants

Once the yam cuttings are planted, it is essential to provide proper care to ensure their healthy growth. Here are some important aspects to consider:

Sunlight
Yam plants require full sun to thrive. Ensure that the planting site receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Insufficient sunlight can result in poor growth and reduced yields.

Temperature
Yam is a tropical crop that thrives in warm temperatures ranging from 25 to 35 degrees Celsius. It is sensitive to frost, so avoid planting it in areas with a high risk of freezing temperatures. If you live in a colder region, consider growing yam in a greenhouse or using protective covers during the colder months.

Watering
Yam plants need regular watering to maintain consistent soil moisture. During the growing season, provide enough water to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while under-watering can stunt the growth of the plants.

Watering is particularly crucial during dry spells or when the yam plants are flowering and forming tubers. Deep watering once or twice a week is generally sufficient, but adjust the frequency based on your specific growing conditions. Avoid overhead watering to prevent fungal diseases.

Staking
As yam plants grow, they tend to produce long vines that can become quite heavy. It is advisable to provide support to these vines by staking them. This will prevent the vines from sprawling on the ground, reducing the risk of pests and diseases and making it easier to harvest the tubers.

To stake the yam vines, install sturdy stakes around the planting area at regular intervals. As the vines grow, gently tie them to the stakes using soft twine or plant ties. Be careful not to tie the vines too tightly, as this can restrict their growth and cause damage.

Pruning
Pruning is not a common practice for yams, but it can help to manage the growth of the vines and improve air circulation, reducing the risk of diseases. If the vines become too unruly, you can selectively prune them back to maintain their length and shape. However, avoid excessive pruning, as it can reduce the yield of the crop.

Fertilizing And Watering Tips For Yams

To ensure healthy growth and optimum yields, it is crucial to provide the right nutrients to yam plants. Here are some tips for fertilizing and watering yams:

Soil Fertility
Before planting yam, it is recommended to conduct a soil test to determine the nutrient levels in your soil. This will help you make informed decisions about the type and amount of fertilizers to apply.

Yams require fertile soil rich in organic matter. Prior to planting, incorporate well-rotted compost or manure into the soil to improve its nutrient content. This will provide a slow-release source of nutrients to the plants throughout their growth cycle.

Fertilizer Application
After planting yam cuttings, it is advisable to apply a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy growth. A recommended fertilizer formulation is one with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 or 15-15-15. Broadcast the fertilizer evenly around the yam plants, taking care not to let it come into direct contact with the leaves or stems. Lightly rake the fertilizer into the soil, and then water the plants to help the nutrients dissolve and reach the roots.

Repeat the fertilizer application every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season. Adjust the amount of fertilizer based on your soil test results and the specific nutrient requirements of your yam variety.

Watering
Water the yam plants regularly to ensure consistent soil moisture. Irrigate deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth. Avoid shallow watering, as it can lead to shallow roots and reduce the plant’s ability to withstand drought.

Consider using a drip irrigation system or soaker hoses to water yam plants. These methods deliver water directly to the root zone, minimizing water loss through evaporation and reducing the risk of foliar diseases. Mulching the planting area can also help to reduce water evaporation and maintain soil moisture.

How To Protect Your Yam Plants From Pests And Diseases

Yam plants are susceptible to various pests and diseases that can significantly impact their growth and productivity. Here are some strategies to protect your yam plants:

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Pests

  • Yam Beetle: The yam beetle is one of the most common pests that attack yam plants. To control this pest, regularly inspect the plants for eggs and larvae and manually remove them. You can also use organic insecticides or neem oil to deter the beetles from feeding on the plants.
  • Nematodes: Nematodes are microscopic worms that can cause stunted growth and reduced yields in yam plants. To manage nematode infestations, practice crop rotation and avoid planting yam in the same area for consecutive years. Solarization, a technique that uses plastic sheets to heat the soil, can also help to reduce nematode populations.
  • Rodents: Rats and mice can damage yam tubers by burrowing into the soil and feeding on them. To prevent rodent infestations, keep the planting area clean and free of debris that can provide shelter for rodents. You can also use traps or chemical repellents to control rodent populations.

Diseases

  • Anthracnose: Anthracnose is a fungal disease that causes dark, sunken lesions on the leaves, stems, and tubers of yam plants. To prevent and manage anthracnose, ensure proper air circulation by spacing the plants adequately and pruning any dense foliage. Apply fungicides or organic solutions, such as copper-based sprays, at the first sign of the disease.
  • Yam mosaic virus: The yam mosaic virus is transmitted by aphids and can result in stunted growth, discoloration, and leaf curling in yam plants. To reduce virus transmission, use insect-proof nets or row covers to prevent aphid infestations. Remove and destroy any infected plants to prevent the spread of the virus to healthy plants.

Regular monitoring of your yam plants is essential to detect pest and disease problems early. Implementing preventive measures and taking prompt action can help to minimize the damage and protect your crop.

Managing Weeds In Your Yam Patch

Weeds compete with yam plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight, and can significantly reduce their yields. Here are some strategies for effective weed management in your yam patch:

Mulching
Mulching the planting area with organic materials is an effective way to control weeds. Apply a layer of straw, dry leaves, or grass clippings around the yam plants, avoiding direct contact with the stems. The mulch will suppress weed growth by smothering the weeds, depriving them of light, and preventing weed seeds from germinating.

Hand Weeding
Regularly inspect your yam patch and manually remove any weeds that emerge. Use a hand fork or a hoe to carefully loosen the soil around the weeds, making sure to remove the entire root system. Be cautious not to damage the yam plants while weeding.

Herbicides
If manual weeding is insufficient to control weeds, you can consider using herbicides. Read and follow the label instructions carefully when using herbicides, and use them as a last resort. Select herbicides that are specifically labeled for use in yam crops and apply them according to the recommended rates and timings.

Crop Rotation
Practicing crop rotation can help to manage weeds in your yam patch. Avoid planting yam in the same area for consecutive years, as this can lead to a buildup of weed populations. Rotate yam with different crops that have different growth habits and weed control requirements.

Cover Crops
Growing cover crops in your yam patch during periods when yam is not cultivated can help to suppress weed growth. Cover crops, such as cowpea or lablab beans, can outcompete weeds for space, nutrients, and light. Just make sure to terminate the cover crops before planting yam to avoid competition between the two.

Effective weed management requires regular attention and timely action. Combining multiple weed control strategies will help to keep your yam patch free from weeds and ensure the optimal growth of your yam plants.

Growing yam can be a rewarding endeavor, providing you with a sustainable source of food and income. By following the techniques for planting yam cuttings, providing proper care to young plants, fertilizing and watering correctly, protecting against pests and diseases, and managing weeds effectively, you can increase your chances of success and maximize your yam yields. Remember to adapt these guidelines to your specific growing conditions and choose disease-resistant yam varieties whenever possible. With patience and dedication, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of this nutritious tuber crop.

Training And Supporting Yam Vines

Yam, scientifically known as Dioscorea, is a starchy tuber that is commonly grown in tropical and subtropical regions. It is a versatile and nutritious crop that can be used in a variety of dishes. Planting yam requires careful consideration of the growing conditions and proper techniques for optimal yields.

Proper training and support of yam vines are essential to ensure healthy growth and maximum productivity. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Selecting the planting site: Yam requires a warm and sunny location with well-drained soil. It is best to choose a spot with loamy soil that is rich in organic matter. Avoid areas prone to waterlogging as excess moisture can rot the tubers.

  2. Preparing the soil: Begin by clearing the area of any weeds, grass, or debris. Dig the soil to a depth of 10-12 inches, breaking up any clumps and removing rocks. Incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to improve its fertility.

  3. Planting the yam: Yam can be planted using two methods – vine cuttings or tubers. If using vine cuttings, select healthy and disease-free cuttings from mature yam plants. Cut the vines into 12-18 inch long sections, making sure each cutting has at least two nodes. If using tubers, use small yam tubers weighing around 6-8 ounces each.

    • Vine cuttings: Dig trenches that are 4-6 inches deep and 12-18 inches apart. Place the vine cuttings horizontally in the trenches, ensuring the nodes are facing upwards. Cover the trenches with soil, leaving the top of the cutting exposed. Space the trenches about 3 feet apart to allow for adequate growth.

    • Tubers: Dig holes that are 4-6 inches deep and 12-18 inches apart. Place the tubers in the holes with the sprouts facing upwards. Cover the tubers with soil, leaving a small part exposed. Ensure that the sprouts are not damaged during the planting process.

  4. Providing supports: Yam vines are vigorous climbers that require support to grow properly. Install sturdy trellises or wooden stakes at each end of the row, ensuring they are firmly anchored in the ground. You can also use a chicken wire fence, bamboo poles, or any other suitable material to provide support.

  5. Training the vines: As the yam vines start to grow, gently guide them towards the support structure. You can use twine or soft strips of cloth to tie the vines loosely to the trellis or stakes. Avoid tying the vines too tightly, as this can restrict their growth.

  6. Regular pruning: To encourage better airflow and prevent overcrowding, it is important to regularly prune the yam vines. Trim off any excessive growth or side branches, ensuring that the main vine has enough space to grow and produce tubers.

Harvesting And Storing Yams

Yams take several months to reach maturity, and proper harvesting and storing techniques are crucial for preserving their quality. Follow these steps to harvest and store yams correctly:

  1. Determining harvest time: The time to harvest yams depends on the variety and growing conditions. Generally, yams are ready for harvest when the foliage starts turning yellow or brown, and the vines have begun to wither. Carefully dig a few samples of yams using a fork or shovel to check if they have reached the desired size.

  2. Digging up the yams: To harvest yams, gently dig around the base of the plant to loosen the soil. Use a garden fork or shovel to carefully lift the tubers from the ground. Take care not to damage the yams during the digging process. Avoid pulling the vines as this can break the tubers.

  3. Cleaning the yams: After the yams have been harvested, remove any excess soil clinging to them. Gently brush or wash off the dirt, taking care not to damage the skin. Handle the yams carefully to prevent bruises or cuts, as this can lead to spoilage during storage.

  4. Curing the yams: Curing is an essential step in the yam harvesting process. It helps to toughen the skin, heal any wounds, and enhance the flavor and storage life of the tubers. Place the yams in a warm and well-ventilated location, ideally with a temperature of around 80-85°F (27-29°C) and high humidity. Leave them to cure for about 10-14 days.

  5. Storing the yams: Once the yams have been cured, they can be stored for several months in a cool and dry place. Choose a storage area with a temperature of around 50-60°F (10-15°C) and low humidity. Avoid storing yams in the refrigerator, as the cold temperatures can negatively affect their flavor and texture. Keep the yams in a well-ventilated container, such as a mesh bag or crate, to prevent moisture buildup.

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Tips For Successful Yields In Yam Planting

To ensure successful yields in yam planting, consider the following tips:

  1. Planting time: Yam should be planted during the warmer months when the soil temperature is consistently around 70-80°F (21-27°C). Avoid planting yams too early or too late in the season, as this can result in poor growth and low yields.

  2. Soil fertility: Prior to planting, conduct a soil test to determine the nutrient levels and pH of the soil. Yam thrives in a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5-6.5. If the soil is deficient in nutrients, amend it with organic matter or balanced fertilizers to ensure optimal growth.

  3. Watering: Provide regular and adequate water to the yam plants, especially during dry spells. Maintain consistent soil moisture, but avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot. Mulching around the plants can help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

  4. Pest and disease management: Monitor the plants for any signs of pest infestation or disease. Common pests that affect yams include nematodes, aphids, and leaf miners. Use organic pest control methods whenever possible, such as beneficial insects or neem oil. Fungicides may be necessary to control diseases like anthracnose and black rot.

  5. Crop rotation: Practice crop rotation to prevent the buildup of pests and diseases in the soil. Avoid planting yams in the same location for consecutive years. Rotate with other crops such as legumes, vegetables, or grains to maintain soil health.

  6. Weed control: Keep the planting area clean and free from weeds, as they compete with yam plants for nutrients and sunlight. Regularly remove weeds by hand or use mulch to suppress their growth. Avoid using herbicides near yam plants, as they can damage the vines.

Troubleshooting Common Issues In Yam Planting

Yam planting can encounter some common issues that may affect the growth and productivity of the crop. Here are some troubleshooting tips:

  1. Poor tuber development: If yam tubers are small or not developing properly, it may be due to insufficient nutrients in the soil. Amend the soil with compost or well-rotted manure before planting to improve its fertility. Additionally, ensure that the yam plants receive adequate sunlight and water.

  2. Yellowing leaves: Yellowing leaves in yam plants can be indicative of nutrient deficiencies or diseases. Conduct a soil test to determine if any nutrients are lacking, and amend the soil accordingly. If yellowing persists, it may be due to a fungal or viral infection. Remove and destroy infected vines and treat the remaining plants with appropriate fungicides.

  3. Pest infestation: Common pests that attack yam plants include nematodes, aphids, and leaf miners. Use organic pest control methods whenever possible, such as applying neem oil or introducing beneficial insects that prey on these pests. Regularly inspect the plants for pests and take appropriate action before the infestation spreads.

  4. Fungal diseases: Yam plants are susceptible to fungal diseases like anthracnose and black rot. Practice good sanitation by removing and destroying any infected plant material. Apply fungicides as directed to prevent the spread of diseases. Ensure good airflow around the plants and avoid excessive moisture, as these conditions promote fungal growth.

  5. Viral infections: Viral diseases such as Yam mosaic virus can affect yam plants and reduce yields. Use certified disease-free planting material to minimize the risk of infection. Practice strict hygiene by disinfecting tools and equipment before working with yam plants. Remove and destroy infected plants to prevent the spread of the virus.

Conclusion

Planting yam can be a rewarding experience, offering a versatile and nutritious crop for your consumption. By following the correct techniques for training and supporting yam vines, harvesting and storing yams, and implementing tips for successful yields, you can ensure a bountiful harvest. Additionally, troubleshooting common issues and promptly addressing them can help maintain the health and productivity of your yam plants. With proper care and attention, you can enjoy the delicious flavors of homegrown yams straight from your garden.

FAQS

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Plant Yam?

It is best to plant yam in the early spring, after the last frost has passed. This will give the yam enough time to grow before the summer heat sets in.

How Do I Prepare The Soil For Planting Yam?

The soil should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. Before planting, mix in compost or well-rotted manure to provide the yam with the nutrients it needs.

What Is The Best Method For Planting Yam?

The best method for planting yam is to use cuttings from mature yam tubers. These cuttings should be 10-12 inches long and have at least one node or eye on them. Plant the cuttings horizontally in the soil, about 4 inches deep.

How Much Space Do Yam Plants Need To Grow?

Yam plants can spread out quite a bit, so it is important to give them enough space to grow. Plant cuttings about 18-24 inches apart in rows that are 36-48 inches apart. This will allow enough room for the vines to stretch out and for the tubers to develop.

How Often Do I Need To Water Yam Plants?

Yam plants require consistent moisture, but not to the point of becoming waterlogged. Water them deeply once or twice a week, or as needed to keep the soil evenly moist. In hot or dry climates, you may need to water more frequently. As the tubers start to develop, reduce watering to avoid rotting the tubers.