Today, we discuss Herbal Farming, Cultivation Practices.
An herb farm is a farm which is dedicated to growing the herbs for commercial purpose. The herbs are not yet commercialized to large extent, hence herbal farming is done on a small scale in most parts of the world. Herbs are basically used for medicinal purposes and also to get the oils which are essential for mankind. Herbs are also used in their raw forms in order to use in the preparation of herbal products.
Conditions for herbal farming:
Suitable soil: For growing herbs, the soil should be drained well and be in such a way that it crumbles easily. Because of this, the roots will be able to get sufficient water without rotting the roots and at the same time strengthening them. If the soil is not proper in any area of the farm, then there should be some changes made by adding soil amendments so that there would be good and healthy growth of herbs. If the herbs are grown outdoors, then the soil should be checked before the farming starts. All the vegetation should be removed and the pH levels of the soil should be analyzed. The farmer should also be able to analyze the amount of fertilizers which will be needed for the growth of the herbs. In the commercial farms, in order to remove the diseases of crops, pests, and weeds which are derived from the common soil, sterilization of the soil is done additionally. Crop rotation is another agricultural technique which would decrease the chances of diseases which occur to common crops.
Greenhouse Production or Nursery production:
Greenhouse production is an agricultural process which would help the farmer to grow the herbs all around the year. This would be comfortable as there would be a chance to control the temperature and water. In the greenhouse method, the farmer would be able to plant the seedlings prior to the season and then plant them outside as per the suitable conditions of the environment. The selection of the greenhouse type would be completely dependent on the needs of the farm on a long term basis by considering the costs of utility like the size of the greenhouse, etc. The factors which are necessary for the growth of the seedlings are temperature, water, the content of minerals in the soil, control of the gases which take part in photosynthesis, management of pests and crop diseases.
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Control of diseases and pests:
In order to control the pests in the herbal farming, insecticides are used or the predators are left in the farm. Ladybugs, lacewings, mantids, mites, etc. are some of the insects which are used as predators in the herb farm. After checking and confirming the type of pests in the herb farm, insecticides or pesticides are used.
Types of Herbs:
- Medicinal Herbs
- Perennial Herbs
- Biennial Herbs
- Culinary Herbs
- Aromatic Herbs
Medicinal Herbs Farming:
The medicinal herb farming has been increasing in India in a rapid way. These are the cash crops which are considered very profitable and also the ones which are most valued. Medicinal herbs also have a very good opportunity for the exports. The medicinal herbal farming is the one which is a very good opportunity for the farmers in recent times. This farming is also termed as Commercial cash crop cultivation. Recent researches in medicine have proved that the herbs can be used as an alternative to medicines which are expensive and also come with side effects. As most of the population is wanting to lead a healthy life, the demand for the herbs which are medicinal is growing day by day.
Below are few medicinal herbs which are grown commercially:
- Aloe Vera: This is the medicinal herb which has the highest value. It is used in medicines, beverages and also cosmetics. The aloe vera farming can be started with less investment.
- Ashwagandha: This is one of the medicinal herbs which is mostly grown in dry regions and also the subtropical ones. This is the one which is also considered as the most valued medicinal herbs and is used for the cure of many diseases related to nerves
- Brahmi: This is the herb which is traditional and also the one which has a high medicinal value. The leaves are oval shaped and this plant will have flowers which are white in color and blossom all around the year.
- Amla: This is a popular medicinal herb in India because of its medicinal value which is high. This herb is mostly preferred in medicinal and cosmetics industries. As this plant can be grown in tropical regions, this can be grown in light soils and also in the soils which are slightly heavier.
- Calendula: This can be grown easily and has high medicinal values. This can be grown even in the land which is poor and the sunlight cannot affect the growth of the plant. Watering should be done regularly.
- Basil or Tulsi: This is considered as the Queen of herbs because of its medicinal properties. This can be grown in any type of environmental conditions.
- Daru Haridra: This is a very important medicine in Ayurveda. This is used in the production of juice and also in the commercial business of cosmetics. To grow this plant, the soil which is light, medium and heavy can be preferred. This can also be grown in soils which are very poor in the levels of nutrition.
- Jatropha: This is the best plant among all the oilseed plants. This plant has got the best medicinal values and this can be grown in the land which is wasted and not in use. This can be grown even in areas which have very less rainfall and also the drought ones.
- Lemon Balm: This plant which has leaves which have a strong scent and can be used to make herbal teas which would boost the immune system and improve digestion.
- Marsh Mallow: This can be used as a treatment for skin ailments, cough and also it can improve the functioning of the digestive system.
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Perennial Herbs Farming:
Perennial plants are the ones which live for at least three years. The foliage which is at the top will go back to the ground every winter and then grows again in the next summer from the roots which are existing at present. Perennial herbs are the herbs which are grown from the herbaceous plants which can live for more than two seasons. For the farmers which are growing herbs and vegetables, farming of perennial plants would be more time saving and also effort saving with great profits too. Though these plants do not survive in temperatures, which are low, there are few types of perennial plants which can survive in winters too. When you are considering to grow perennial plants, you should select a space which would be permanent to grow them.
Asparagus: The pH level of the soil to grow Asparagus should be between 6.5 to 7.5. The plants which are new and mostly male should be selected such as jersey prince, etc. The female species are not preferred as the spears of these are small and the seeds of these species are converted to weeds. These should be planted in the starting of the spring. One thing you should remember while growing Asparagus is that the harvesting of the crop should not be done in the first year as the roots will be receiving the food from the produce of the plant and hence it takes time to get established. Few spears should be harvested in the second year. During the third year, the harvesting can be done in a normal way, but make sure that it is not exceeding 20 days.
Coriander: This is called as Cilantro in the west side of the world. This herb adds freshness and is mostly used in India for cooking. This farming will be very profitable if it gets started just before winter.
Chives: Chives are small onions. These are grown for the sake of their leaves. The leaves of the plant are hollow and can be grown in the grass. The plants are compact in nature and grow well in containers too. The leaves can be removed before cooking them.
Mint: This can be used for soups, for making tea, mojitos, and for goods which are baked. Mint is the type of a plant which spreads vastly and hence it can be grown in containers to restrict its spreading and occupy most of your herbal farm.
Rosemary: This is a plant whose native is the Mediterranean and hence grows in hot and dry spots. Few hard varieties of rosemary can survive winters too. The leaves of this plant are used as a flavor while cooking chicken, potatoes, etc. This is also considered as an ornamental plant and can be kept in containers.
Oregano: This is mostly used in Italian foods for making tomato ketchup, pizza, etc. It is an herb which grows low and hence it can be kept in containers for growth. The leaves can be cut before cooking and you need to remove the flowers regularly to ensure a long life of the plant.
Tarragon: This perennial plant is shrubby and its smell and taste is similar to anise. This is mainly used to season meat, eggs, etc. The leaves of this plant can be used for cooking.
Curry leaves: This is a must in every Indian cooking. The flavor of these leaves is distinct and thus possess very good medicinal values.
Biennial Herbs Farming:
The term biennial refers to the longevity of the plant. The plants which are grown annually will live only for one season and their entire life cycle will be completed in that time. The seeds which are dormant will go to the next season of growing. These plants are the ones which take almost two years to complete their life cycle. The plant will be growing leaves, roots and stems in the first year and in winter, it reaches the dormancy period. The stems will be small and the leaves will be very low which form a rosette. Before the flowering starts, the biennial plants will treat a cold treatment. In the next summer, the stem grows well and the plant starts flowering. It also produces a good number of fruits and seeds before death. If the environmental conditions are extreme, then there is a chance that the plant completes in life cycle quickly.
Examples of Biennial Herbs:
- Evening Primrose
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Culinary Herbs Farming:
These herbs will have the properties which are aromatic and savor. These are used as flavors in food and also for the purpose of garnishing. Most of these herbs are annual and few of them live for many years. The culinary plants which have long life will also serve as plants which are pest repellant, companion plants, etc. The culinary herbs will need full sun. These are tolerant to drought after their establishment.
Bay Tree: This tree grows slowly up to a height of 10 meters. It can grow quickly in proper environmental conditions. It spreads vastly and hence chooses growing it in a pot. If it’s grown in outdoors, then you should prune it regularly. This is mostly used as a topiary specimen
Parsley: There are two popular species of parsley. One is common curled and the other is strong flavored. It does not grow well in dry environmental conditions and it requires nutrients in high quantity.
Peppermint: It acts as a deterrent for pests such as ants, spiders, etc. This can be planted at home or in your garden to keep the harmful pests away. When used as an herb, it can reduce a headache, cures sinus, etc.. Thyme: This seems different in appearance. Few plants grow close to each other in groups and a few grow like ground covers. This grows well in containers and is used as a border plant in gardens and can be spilled over the walls.
Aromatic Herbs Farming:
Aromatic herbs which are used in cooking will enhance the taste of the food and the dishes will be converted into delicacies. These herbs are used to season the stews and add extra flavor to the recipe. These herbs are mostly used in the foods of the Mediterranean because of their aromatic, medicinal values which have come with the seasoning qualities in cooking and have the ability to convert our dishes as delicacies. The aromatic herbs are also used to treat the nose in terms of cold. These herbs are also used in the preparation of incense. The oils which are extracted from the aromatic herbs are used in the preparation of fragrances. The surveys proved that few smells when inhaled give therapeutic effects by calming the mind and inducing sleep. Many scents are made by taking the oils which are essential from the aromatic herbs.
- Chamomile: This is an herb which smells like fresh apples and if anyone inhales it, it calms the nerves. This is popular as sleep herbal tea.
Other Aromatic herbs are:
- Lemon Grass
- Basil or Tulsi
- Sweet basil
Contract Herbal Farming:
Contract farming is an agricultural system which works as a contract between the farmers and the producers. The producer will be providing all the commodities to the farmer to produce the crop and helps him produce the required quantity of crops for the buyer. The farmers will have to raise the crops as told by the producer. For this, the producer and the farmer will be coming to an agreement and the price for the farmer will also be set before production of the crop. The producer will help the farmer to maintain a good quality of the crops and also the consistency.
Read: Spirulina Farming.