Lemongrass Farming Business Plan for Dummies

Introduction: Hello herbal farmers today we are back with a great information of Lemongrass farming business plan. Lemongrass is a very important aromatic cum medicinal herb. Lemongrass is a versatile herb with a wonderfully refreshing, lemony flavor and scent with a host of medically useful properties. Dried plant leaves are widely used as a lemon flavor ingredient in herbal teas. Once you have decided to go for commerical cultivation of lemongrass, you must have a proper Lemongrass farming business plan for good yield and profit.

A step by step guide to Lemongrass farming business plan

Lemongrass plant is a tropical perennial plant that yields aromatic oil. The lemongrass is derived from the typical lemon-like odor of the essential oil present in the shoot. It is tall, perennial sedge throwing up dense fascicles of leaves from a short rhizome. What are we waiting for? Let’s us get into the details of Lemongrass farming business plan.

Climatic and soil requirements for lemongrass farming

Lemongrass plant grows well at a temperature range of 10 to 33° C. The favorable rainfall for dryland cultivation of lemongrass must range from 700 to 3 000 mm, uniformly distributed throughout the year. It performs well on sandy to clay loam soils with a pH level of 5.0 to 8.4 and of good drainage. It comes up well under tropical and sub-tropical conditions with very high rainfall (200 – 250 cm) and humidity. It performs improved up to 1500m above mean sea level.

Agro-Climatic Conditions for Lemongrass Farming.
Agro-Climatic Conditions for Lemongrass Farming.

Lemongrass hybrid varieties

The different lemongrass varieties are Sugandhi, Pragathi, Praman, PRL-16, CKP-25, OD-408, RRL-39, Kaveri, and Krishna.

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Origin and distribution of Lemongrass

Lemongrass plant is distributed in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South America, Australia, Europe, and North America. In India, they produce wild in all regions extending from sea level to an altitude of 4200 m. Several plant species are endemic to India. East Indian Lemongrass plant grows wild in India and is cultivated well in Kerala, Assam, Maharashtra, and Uttarpradesh. West Indian lemongrass is believed to originate either in Malaysia or in Sri Lanka. It is generally distributed throughout the tropics and it is grown in West Indies, Guatemala, Brazil, Congo, Tanzania, India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Madagascar, and China. Jammu lemongrass is generally confined to North Indian states such as Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Assam, Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh. Lemongrass plant is cultivated on large scale at Chinnar wildlife sanctuary in the Western Ghats of India. Lemongrass is grown in a high rainfall area as a rain-fed crop in Kerala state. But under semi-arid tropical conditions, it is developed as an irrigated crop.

Area and production of Lemongrass

At present, India grows Lemon grass crop in 3,000 ha area, largely in states of Kerala, Karnataka, U.P. and Assam and the annual production range between 300-350 t/annum.

Economic importance of Lemongrass

The oil is distilled from plant leaves and flowering tops of Lemongrass. This oil has a strong lemon-like odor, due to a high percentage (over 75%) of citral in the oil. The characteristic smell of this oil makes its use in scenting of soaps, detergents, insect repellent preparations. The use of Lemongrass oil is a source of citral, which goes in perfumery, cosmetics, and beverages. Also, it is a starting material for the manufacture of ionones, which produces vitamin A. The Citral rich oil has germicidal, medicinal and flavoring properties.

Market potential and exports

During the early fifties, India produced over 1800 MT/annum of lemongrass oil and monopoly both in production and world trade. This situation no longer exists as Guatemala, China, Mexico, and Bangladesh, etc have developed its cultivation over large areas.  Currently, the world production of Lemongrass oil is 1300 MT/ annum. Though, another 600 MT of a substitute oil viz., Litsea cubeba (rich in citral) is exported by China which limits the scope for any faster growth in export trade of lemongrass oil. Synthetic citral is available which competes with this oil and natural citral in the market.  Cochin and Mumbai are the main trading centers for lemongrass oils. The essential oil of lemongrass from India is exported to West Europe, U.S.A. and Japan.

Agro-climatic requirements

The lemon grass crop grows well in both tropical and subtropical climates at an elevation up to 900 m. Ideal conditions for lemongrass farming are warm and humid climate with sufficient sunshine and 250 to 330 cm rainfall per annum, evenly distributed over most of the year. The range of temperature from 20 to 30°C and good sunshine throughout the year is conducive to high crop yield. Lemongrass can be grown in semi-arid regions receiving low to moderate rainfall.

Lemongrass can grow well over medium fertile soils and a moderate irrigation system. Well-drained sandy loam is suitable for the growth of the plant. It can be grown on a different variety of soils ranging from loam to poor laterite. Calcareous and waterlogged soils must be avoided as they are unsuitable for cultivation.

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Lemongrass uses
  • Lemongrass oil is used as a source of citral and the oil is also used for deodorants, waxes, polishes, detergents, and insecticides where its low cost is attractive.
  • The lemongrass oil is mostly used in the manufacture of perfume for soaps, hair oils, scents, and medicines. It has antibacterial properties.
  • Ionone prepared from the Citral present in lemongrass oil is one of the important raw materials for the preparation of vitamin `A’. In addition to its use in perfumery, Ionone is used in certain types of confectionery and liquors. Ionone can be formed either directly from the lemongrass oil or the citral obtained from the oil.
  • The Lemongrass leaves and the oil are used to make medicine. In some parts of India, the Lemongrass plant is considered to be an essential plant in the mind-body medicinal practice of Ayurveda.
  • It is used for high blood pressure, convulsions, pain, cough, achy joints, fever, the common cold, and exhaustion. It is used to kill germs and as a mild astringent.

How to propagate Lemongrass

As a clumping grass, lemongrass can be simply propagated by dividing stalks from the rhizome of a well-established plant. The rhizome is divided in the spring into areas where the plant can be overwintered outdoors. In colder areas, the bulbous shoot base can be saved after the time of harvest and stored for use the following spring. The bulb can be divided before planting by slicing through the rhizome with a sharp spade and ensure that each new plant has its rootstock.

For better quality and higher yield of oil, it is recommended to produce lemongrass from slips obtained by dividing well-grown clumps.

General care and maintenance of Lemongrass

Lemongrass requires regular rainfall and if being grown in drier climates the plants must be watered and misted regularly. Plants have a heavy requirement for nitrogen during the growing season and must be fertilized with a balanced soluble fertilizer once a month. Container grown plants must be fed more frequently. Lemongrass can grow large and will quickly out-compete weeds. However, younger plants must be kept free by carefully cultivating or hand-pulling any weeds from around the plants.

Lemongrass planting method

  • Lemongrass can be propagated by seeds as well as vegetatively by slips. For better quality and yield of oil, it is recommended to be grown by slips obtained by dividing well grown-up clumps.
  • Lemongrass planting is done in the last week of May or in the first week of June. Though, under irrigated conditions planting can be done during any part of the year, except October-November months.
  • Before planting, the field is thoroughly arranged and laid out into 6 m x 6 m size beds. The soil is incorporated with a full dose of both phosphorus and potash.
  • Nitrogen is applied in 6 equal split doses, the first dose, being at the time of planting, another after one month and the remaining after every harvest. Ridges are opened at 60 cms distance and slips are prepared by clipping all the old roots and removing the leaves completely for planting. They are planted at about halfway down the slopes of the ridges at a spacing of 60 cm x 60 cm.

Sowing time for Lemongrass

The best time for preparing nursery beds of lemongrass is from March to April. Though the spacing of lemongrass depends upon the growth habit that is 60 cm x 60 cm. Spacing from seedlings and 90 cm x 60 cm spacing for slips is essential. Sowing depth must be 2-3 cm. Two-month-old seedlings are ready for transplantation in the major field.

Seed requirement for Lemongrass farming business

The soil must be well pulverized for forming the seedbed and it should be a raised bed one. Leaf mold and farmyard manure are added to the soil while forming the bed. Use a seed rate of 1.6 to 2 kg/acre. Before the sowing process does chemical treatment of seed with Ceresan @0.2 percent or Emisan@1 gm/kg of seeds. Seeds are sown in lines drawn at 10 cm interval in the beds and covered with cut lemongrass materials. When the seedlings are about 2 months old or about 12 – 15 cm high, they are ready for transplanting.

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Field preparation

The land is cleared of the underground vegetation and pits of 5 cm cube are made at a spacing of 15 x 10 cm and splits for old clumps can also be used for propagation.

Irrigation requirement for Lemongrass farming business

Where annual rainfall exceeds 650 mm per annum, irrigation is not essential after seedling establishment. Overhead, flood and drip irrigation can be used, and where rust is a problem overhead irrigation must be avoided. This should be considered as a key part of Lemongrass farming business plan.

Manure and Fertilization for Lemongrass farming

Apply FYM or compost at 20 to 25 t/ha as basal and apply 50 kg N/ha annually, half at planting and a half one month after planting. From the second year onwards, the first dose of fertilizer must be applied after cutting and again one month after the first dose.

The application of fertilizer must be dependent on soil analysis. All lemon grass species have a high potassium requirement in comparison to phosphate, in some areas exceeding the total nitrogen essential to produce optimum oil yield.

Weed control

This task is very important of your Lemongrass farming business plan. Hand weeding and hoeing are important as weeds affect the yield and quality of the oil. The inter-row cultivation process can be done by a tractor-drawn cultivator.

Harvesting and yield of Lemongrass

Lemongrass comes to harvest 90 days after planting and subsequently it is harvested at 50 to 55 days interval. The grass is cut 10 cm above the ground level and 5 to 6 cuttings can be taken in a year subject to the climatic conditions. Depending upon the soil and climatic condition, the crop can be retained in the field for 5 – 6 years. Depending upon the planting period, one or two cuttings are taken in the first year and from the second year onwards, 3 to 4 cuttings are available. Harvesting consists of fresh leaves and the dry or semi-dried leaves at intervals of 60 days. The crop must not be allowed to flower profusely as it reduces the overall yield.

The harvested plant leaves can be stored under shade for 3 days without much adverse effect on the oil yield or quality of the oil. They are then chopped into smaller pieces before the distillation process.

We may expect to get an herbage yield of 15 tons per harvest and recovery of 0.5% oil from fresh Lemon Grass. The yield of oil from the 2nd year onwards could be around 400 kg per hectare. Yield can depend on the variety of seed and crop management.

Lemongrass gives 250 to 300 kg oil and a net profit of Rs. 75,000 – 90,000 per hectare per year under irrigated conditions and 60 – 80 kg oil and a net profit of Rs. 18,000 to 24,000 per hectare per year under rainfed conditions.

On an average 25 kg of oil can be obtained from the first year per hectare plantation and 80 to 100 kg of oil per year from first year 2nd to 6th year if well maintained.

Markets

India is annually producing about 1000 MT per year while the world demand is much more. For annually, we are exporting Lemongrass oil to a tune of about Rs. 5 crores and our country are facing critical competition from Guatemala in the international market.

Cultivation cost of Lemongrass

The cultivation cost of Lemongrass is incurred in two different stages;

  • Planting Cost- It is nonrecurring, the average of which comes to about Rs. 70,381.
  • Maintenance cost and harvest stage cost- Maintenance cost and harvest cost are recurring which comes to Rs. 2,08,581 per hectare.

Therefore, the total cost of cultivation for Lemongrass comes to Rs. 2,78,961 per hectare. That’s all folks about Lemongrass farming business plan for maximun profits.

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