Note number: AG0834
Published: February 1999
Updated: May 2012
Jerusalem artichoke is a recent introduction to Australia. Its tubers are the edible part, which resembles ginger roots, and they are elongated and uneven, growers up to 10 cm long with up 5 cm thickness. The texture is crispy when raw and vary in color from pale brown to white, red or purple
A Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L) is a member of the Compositae family, which also includes sunflowers. In fact Jerusalem artichokes are sometimes referred to as wild sunflower. It originated in the USA where it was used by the North American Indians. It was introduced to Europe in the 17th century and is now grown in a wide cross section of countries including Europe, Asia and America.
It is a perennial plant but because it is generally harvested for its tubers (or roots), the crop is effectively an annual. Generally it is used as a vegetable but it has commercial potential as a source of fuel, a high protein stock feed and in the confectionary and pharmaceutical industries.
The crop has the potential to produce large quantities of biomass as top growth year after year. It also has potential as a crop to utilise wastewater and sewerage effluent. Some research work has been done in Australia on its protein contents, salt tolerance, bio fuels etc.
The artichoke is a tall plant, usually 2-3 metre in height. It can be grown in a wide range of conditions, including being able to withstand drought, mild frosts or saline conditions which opens up another possibility as a crop on moderately saline areas.
Its growth requirements are similar to sunflowers in that it is a summer crop, and irrigation is essential to achieve maximum economic yields. It prefers deep, well structured, sandy loam soils to allow for optimum tuber development. The crop cannot stand water logging but can grow in soils that range in pH from 5-8. The crop is also susceptible to strong winds.
Artichokes are generally sown in October and harvested 150-180 days later, depending on the growing conditions. Because artichokes do not produce much viable seed, the crop is generally planted using tubers (similar to potato crops).
The tuber seed pieces are sown 30-40 cm apart in 90cm rows at a depth of 8-10 cm. The optimum plant density is about 40,000-50,000 plants per hectare. A modified potato planter can be used and, after the plant emerges, the rows are ridged up, very similar to potato crops.
Weed control is necessary in the early stages but as the plant grows, it smothers out any later weed growth. There are varieties of cultivars available in Australia, mainly as a result of a CSIRO breeding program that has produced a number of artichoke hybrid varieties. Each cultivar has its own characteristics as far as the top growth or tuber size and shape.
The main fertiliser requirements are generally phosphorus and nitrogen which are usually applied and mixed in with the topsoil prior to planting the tubers. Irrigation is generally recommended to achieve the top yields.
There does not seem to be any major pest or disease problems however caterpillars, snails and slugs could cause damage as can the disease Sclerotinia which can be a major problem with sunflower crops. Chemically treating the tuber seed stocks prior to planting is generally recommended.
Harvesting is done when the plant tops are starting to die off. This means slashing and disposing of the tops so that the tubers can be harvested with a potato digger. This is generally done from May to August and the tubers can be stored for several months in the right conditions.
Average yields are of the order of 60-70 tonne/ha of tubers although 100 tonne/ha have been recorded.
Parameswaran, M (1997) Jerusalem artichoke - How to grow and use. University of Melbourne, Dookie College, Victoria 3647.
Newton, P.J et al (1991) Reduction in growth and yield of Jerusalem artichoke caused by soil salinity, DEPI Victoria.
John, B (2005) Growing Jerusalem artichoke in Western Australia. Farm Note 10/2000, Dept of Agriculture and Food
This Agriculture Note was developed by Farm Diversification Information Service, Bendigo in February 1999.
It was reviewed by Neville Fernando, Farm Services Victoria in May 2012.