Amaranth

Amaranthus spp.

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Propagation


Basic requirements
Amaranth will grow best in a well-draining soil in full sunlight. Most species of the plant will thrive in soils with a neutral pH, whereas some are adapted to grow in acidic soil. The plants are drought and heat resistant but will not tolerate frost.

Propagation
Amaranths are propagated from seed and can be started indoors for transplanting or direct seeded. Transplants can be started approximately 6 to 8 weeks before the forecasted last frost but seeds should not be sown outdoors until all danger of frost has passed. Seeds should be sown to a depth of 1–2 cm (0.4–0.8 in) in rows spaced 50 cm (20 in) apart. The plants should be thinned to a final within row spacing of 20 cm (8 in).

General care and maintenance
Amaranth is easy to care for and requires little maintenance. While the seedlings are young, it is important to remove any weeds from around the plants to prevent competition. Applying a layer of mulch will help to prevent weeds and conserve soil moisture. The plants will benefit from supplemental irrigation during dry periods and the addition of fertilizer once or twice throughout the growing season.

Harvest
Grain amaranth varieties are usually ready to harvest after about three months. The flowers can simply be cut from the plant using a pair of scissors and set in a warm, dry place to finish drying out. When the flowers are dry, seeds can be removed by brushing or by beating the flowers in a bag. Passing the beaten flowers through a fine screen mesh can help to remove the seeds from the chaff.

Description

Amaranth is the name given to a group of approximately 70 species of annual or short-lived perennial plants in the genus Amaranthus including several species of aggressive edible weeds native to the US such as Amaranthus retroflexus (redroot pigweed). Amaranths are branching broad-leaved plants with egg-shaped or rhombic leaves which may be smooth or covered in tiny hairs. The leaves have prominent veins, can be green or red in color and have long petioles. The plants produce single flowers on terminal spikes which typically red to purple in color. Amaranths can reach up to 2.5 m (6.6 ft) in height and are usually grown as annuals, harvested after one growing season. Amaranth may also be referred to as Chinese spinach and their origin is unclear due to their worldwide distribution.

Uses

Amaranth leaves and stems are commonly eaten after cooking in a manner similar to spinach. There are four main species which are cultivated as vegetables; A. cruentus, A. blitum, A. dubius, and A. tricolor. Several species, such as A caudentis, A. cruentis and A. hypochondriacus are grown as a grain crop in places such as Mexico, Nepal and India and are used to produce cereals and snacks.

Diseases

Anthracnose Fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides

Symptoms

Necrotic lesions on leaves; dieback of leaves and branches

Comments

Management

Avoid damaging plants and creating wounds for pathogen to enter; plant resistant varieties

Damping-off Fungus Rhizoctonia spp.
Pythium spp.

Symptoms

Poor germination; seedling collapse; brown-black lesions girdling stem close to soil line; seedling fail to emerge from soil

Comments

Disease emergence favors wet soils

Management

Avoid planting seeds too deeply; do not plant seeds too thickly to promote air circulation around seedlings; do not over-water plants

Pigweed weevil Insect Hypolixus haerens

Symptoms

Withering plants; stems bending and collapsing

Comments

Adult weevils feed on foliage; larvae hollow out stems; damage promotes colonization of fungi and other pathogens

Management

Uproot and destroy infested plants to limit weevil population

Wet rot (Choanephora rot) Fungus Choanephora cucurbitarum

Symptoms

Water-soaked lesions on stems; lesions have hairy appearance due to presence of fungal spores; may cause loss of leaves

Comments

Fungus mainly attacks plants that have been damaged by insects or by mechanical means; spread by air currents and via infected seed; disease emergence favors warm, moist conditions

Management

Plant varieties resistant to disease; only use certified seed; do not plant crop densely; treat disease with copper fungicides if it emerges

References

Seymour, T. (2013). Foraging New England. Falcon Guides. 2nd Edition. Morris Book Publihing, LLC. Partial text available at: http://books.google.com/books?id=JDmn.... [Accessed 05 November 14]

Laux, M. (2005). Amaranth. Agricutural Marketing Resource Center. Available at: http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__pro.... [Accessed 05 November 14]. Free to access