Introduction to Chia Seeds Cultivation
The following information is about Chia Seeds Cultivation and Growing Methods.
Salvia hispanica is the scientific name for Chia seeds, and is commonly known as China, and it is a flowering plant from the mint family, Lamiaceae, which is native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is considered a pseudocereal, mainly cultivated for its edible, hydrophilic Chia seed, grown and commonly used as food in several countries of western South America, western Mexico, and the southwestern United States.
Chia seeds are one of the nutrition and healthy food items nowadays. Chia seeds are edible in several ways. There are a lot of Chia recipes you can discover yourself. There are many more recipes that you can experiment yourself.
Chia seeds are full of essential nutrients that are not produced by our body. Chia seeds are omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for the heart. There is a huge market for Chia seeds for their amazing health benefits. A whole Chia plant used in many ways.
Chia grows well in tropical and subtropical regions; it is optimally established from 400 to 2500 m a.s.l., but the areas below 200 m elevation are not good for Chia cultivation). Chia crop is intolerant to freezing at the early stages of growth.
It can grow it successfully at altitudes up to 3200 ft. It thrives light soil, and benefits from good nutrition. It is a hardy plant, which makes organic farming a great success. Yields of Chia seeds are around 2880 kg per acre are common. Harvesting and processing depend on the location and the size of the farm, but the commercial farms would harvest with a combine harvester and then process it similar to quinoa, wild rice etc.
Chia seeds vary in size, the sizes of the seeds depend on the moisture available there and its range. Chia plants grow up to 3 cm to 4 cm under dry environmental conditions and up to 60 cm, if grown in optimal growth conditions.
The leaves of the plant are thick and wrinkled and are dark green in color. The leaves are deeply lobed with a thin cover of fine, soft, grayish hairs are available on its upper surface. The plants have many stems which emerge from the base of the plant. The flowers of the plants have with two lips in pale blue to deep blue. Each flower has 13 tiny flat seeds which is 1.5-2 mm in length and is gray to light brown in colors.
Chia seeds are popularly known as “Sabja” in hindi in India.
Types of Chia Seeds
There are mainly two different kinds of Chia seeds one is black Chia seeds and another is white colored seeds, which belongs to the family of mint plants. Both the variety if Chia plants, flowers, and yield tiny, healthy seeds. And each variety of Chia seeds have different nutritional values.
Chia plants that produce purple flowers will yield brown seeds. These brown colored seeds are called “Black Chia”, though each seed Is a variety of different colors of brown, mottled together in a unique pattern. Chia Plants which produce white flowers will produce only white seeds. White Chia seeds are a marbled mixture of white, gray and yellowish.
Propagating Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are propagated from both the seeds and seedlings, growing Chia plants from seeds can be best job. Prepare the soil for the crop, just sprinkle the seeds over the soil. And stab them gently and cover them with soil. Watering should be done at regular intervals. Chia seeds start sprouting within 7 to 10 days. After the seedling grows up to 4 to 5 m tall with 5 to 6 pairs of true leaves, thin them as they grow.
Soil for Chia Seeds Cultivation
The cultivation of Chia seeds requires light to medium clay or sandy soils. The crop can give good yields in well-drained, moderately fertile soils, it can also resist acid soils and moderate drought.
For Sowing Chia seeds, you need fully moistured soil for seedling establishment, while the maturing Chia plant cannot resist wet soils during growth.
The traditional cultivation techniques of Chia seeds include, soil preparation by disruption and loosening followed by seed broadcasting.
The modern commercial Chia cultivation includes, a typical sowing rate of 6 kilograms per hectare (5.4 lb/acre) and row spacing of 0.7–0.8 m (2.3–2.6 ft).
Temperature for Chia Seeds Cultivation
- The minimum and maximum growth temperatures for Chia seed crops are 11° and 36 °C, respectively, with an optimum temperature range of 16-26 °C.
- Chia plants are short-day plants with a threshold of 12-13 h, its period of growth and fruiting depend on the latitude where it grows.
- In Northern Hemisphere Chia begins to flower in October and in the Southern Hemisphere in April.
- At higher latitudes, the maturity rate of crops is very low, since plants die due to early frosts.
- Efforts to induce Chia to flower with day lengths greater than 12 h have failed, with the idea of widening the cultivated area to temperate zones.
- Sowing period is an extremely relevant variable, since it determines the duration of the development period of the crop due to variations in environmental temperature and day length. Above growing climate is mostly responsible for the potential yield and seed quality.
- Like many types of vegetable seeds grow at temperatures ranging from 20 °C degrees to 25 °c, Chia seeds grow well in slightly warmer temperatures. You can use a space heater or special heating system to maintain a temperature of 20 to 25 °C degrees around the Chia seeds during the germination and growth period.
Climate and growing cycle length of Chia Seed crop
- The growing cycle period of the for Chia seeds is based on location and the growth is influenced by elevation.
- For production sites located in different ecosystems, the growing cycles are between 100–150 days in duration. In commercial production fields are in the range of 8–2,200 m altitude across a variety of ecosystems ranging from tropical coastal desert, to tropical rain forest, dry valleys. In northwestern regions, the crop cycle from planting to harvest of 120–180 days for fields located at elevations of 900–1,500 m (3,000–4,900 ft).
- Chia plants are short-day flowering plants. This indicates photoperiodic sensitivity and lack of photoperiodic variability in traditional cultivars, which has limited commercial use of Chia seeds to tropical and subtropical latitudes.
- In traditional domesticated lines of Chia species are grown naturally or can be cultivated in temperate zones at higher latitudes.
Seed yield and composition of Chia
- Yield of Chia seeds vary on cultivars, mode of cultivation, and growing conditions by geographic region. For example, in commercial fields the yield ranges from 450 to 1,250 kilograms per hectare (400 to 1,120 lb/acre). In small-scalecultivars grown the yields are up to 2,300 kilograms per hectare (2,100 lb/acre), the most favorable growing environment and cultivar interacted to produce higher yields.
- Genotype shows the greater impact on yield than on protein content, oil content, fatty acid composition, or phenolic compounds, whereas high temperature reduces oil content and the degree of unsaturation and raises protein content.
Process for Growing Chia
- Chia seeds are very tiny seeds. There is no need of soaking or digging holes to sow them. Soil should be weed free, you just need to ruffle the soil lightly, with a rake or, sow them carefully by giving enough space. Sprinkle a few seeds over the soil and rub gently to cover them with the soil.
- Water the seeds at regular intervals, and within about a week you can expect to see Chia sprouts.
- If you are growing Chia plants from seeds, create a carpet of Chia seedling and then thin the plants as they grow. Thinned seedlings can be used as feed to the hens, or can be used as mulch, and some young to dry the leaves are harvested for making Chia tea.
- You can also grow Chia seeds successfully in pots. If you want to start your Chia plants indoors or in the backyard garden tap, just sprinkle the seeds lightly in your pot and water regularly. When the sprouts are about three inches tall, then transplant them in the garden.
- Mulching is very important as your Chia plants grow, and water them regularly. Chia plants thrive in an organic soils and they are not resistant to weeds.
Important Tips for Chia Seeds Cultivation
Below are some important tips to grow Chia seeds:
- Don’t pick off the weeds until you are ready to fill the space.
- At the time of planting, take up work very gently. Don’t dig up or turn all the top soil, there will be more chances to expose lots of new weed seeds.
- Sow the new seeds in a freshly cleaned soil, without giving a chance to deeper weed seeds to grow up.
- Regular application of mulch and compost will improve the growth of plants and also controls the growth of weeds. Compost application will make the crop healthier as your plants grow, top dress the soil with the compost or organic manure which gives a constant supply of nutrient to the soil.
Fertilization and irrigation
- Chia seeds can be cultivated under low fertilizer application, the recommended fertilizer application is kg/ha (89 lb/acre) nitrogen or in some cases, no fertilizer is used.
- Chia crop should be irrigated frequently for better yields. In Chia plantations, the crop may need, from none to eight irrigations per growing season, depending on climatic conditions and rainfall.
Genetic diversity and breeding
- There is a wide range of wild and cultivated varieties of Chia seeds are based on seed size, shattering of seeds, and seed color.
- The weight and the color of the seed may have high heritability, with a single recessive gene responsible for white color.
Diseases and crop management of Chia
- Chai crop is not affected by major pests or diseases affects Chia production. Essential oils in Chia leaves make more resistant against insects, making it suitable for organic cultivation. Virus infections, sometimes transmitted by white flies, may occur.
- Weeds can create a major problem during the early growing period of the Chia crop until its canopy closes, but because Chia is sensitive to most commonly used herbicides, mechanical weed control is preferred.
- Some viruses that infect the genus Salvia are Cucumber mosaic virus, Broad bean wilt virus, Mung bean yellow mosaic virus, Tomato yellow leaf curl virus, and other putative golden mosaic China virus. These viruses can affect the crop production to a greater extent. Take necessary action as soon as the crop is infected with these viruses.
Suitable Season for Chia Seeds Cultivation
- Chia seeds need a schedule for planting them because in some seasons as well as some weather conditions, when plants cannot resist, and they easily die.
- Winter is the ideal time to plant and grow your Chia seeds and the very early spring, because it is considered a short-day plant which cannot grow in long day seasons.
- Chia seeds are the best to be grown in winter, but theycannottolerate frost or snow and that is why they might easily die.
Cultivation and Care of the Chia Plant
- The Chia is the annual wild flowering, which are planted in prepared beds.
- Chia crop requires full sunlight, good drainage and water for good yields. The Chia seeds can be sprinkled into the soil in autumn.
- Then charate is spreaded over the bed of seeds. During the growing period, seeds must not be watered regularly.
- Seeds can be sown in plain land in early spring in porous soil. Then sprinkle seeds and press little to ensure seed’s contact with soil. Water gently and reduce watering after the seedlings emerge.
- Chia seeds can be self-sowed, be sure that they are not eaten by ants and birds. There are bees that pollinate Chia. It is capable of self-pollinating in absence of ants and birds.
How long does it take to Grow Chia Seeds?
- Chia seeds it takes four to six weeks for the sprouts to reach 6 inches and then it is the best time to transplant them into the soil. Make sure that the seedling has six or eight leaves by the time you transplant them.
- You take special care when you plant sprouts in the soil, make sure to leave some space between them because when they grow they might reach about 4 feet tall and 18 inches wide, and that is why trying to leave about 12 to 18 inches apart between them.
- Chia plants required sunny, wet-drained, and plants are drought resistant, but it thrives when watered regularly; only water it when the soil is dry to the touch.
- Chia plant starts flowering after four months after the germination, the blue to lavender flowers will begin to appear and this will probably be in the months between July and August. These flowers very attract native bees, honey bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
- Once they are pollinated, they die back, and the tiny seeds start to develop; deadhead these flowers in order to ensure continued blooming and frost.
- Chia seed preparation phase might be considered the easiest in this harvesting process, but to separate the seeds, you need to pay attention to the color of it.
- Collect the seeds from the flower when the it starts to turn into its lavender color and it starts to dry, once it gets completely dry, pick off these mature heads when they turn into a brown color, and save them in a paper bag, and then dry them out well.
- Leave the bag for several weeks, after that just scrunch up the paperback and shake it around; the seeds will fall out of their seed heads and into the paper bag. In this way the seeds can be separated from the chaff.
Harvesting Chia Seeds
The harvesting period depends on the days required to separate the seeds from flowers, some farmer store dried flower heads in a large calico bag till next seed separating session.
A Successful collection of Chia seeds will take a lot of time. For mass harvesting you do it manually or by using a harvester.
You should wait until the flower head turns brown, you risk losing the seeds.
- You can start harvesting your Chia seeds, as soon as most of the petals have fallen off the flower.
- Cover the flower buds with paper bags or on a drying rack.
- Do not hang the plants upside down.
Depending on the customer request, it is recommended to pack the Chia seeds in a 25 kg plastic woven sack, which can be stored in a dry area, and are easy to handle and ship.
Commercially grown Chia seeds are shipped from the processors to warehouses to oversea markets, where it is processed into flours, retail packs or used as an additive in retail or industrial products.To control the shipping costs, the best standard shipping method is pack them in a 20 ft dry container, with multiple humidity absorbent pack sand lined with corrugated cardboard or kraft paper. The 25 kg sacks are loose loaded.