Organic Turmeric Planting, Growing, Harvesting Techniques
Today, we are discussing Organic Turmeric Planting, farming methods.
Introduction to Turmeric:
Turmeric (Curcuma longa L), the ancient and sacred spice of India called as ‘Indian saffron’ is an important commercial spice crop grown in India. It is used in diversified forms as a condiment, flavoring & coloring agent and as a principal ingredient in Indian culinary as curry powder. It has anticancer and antiviral activities and hence finds use in the drug industry & cosmetic industry.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family & shares many similarities to both ginger and galangal, demonstrable from the nature of their bulbous rhizomes. Organic farming of turmeric will rely on natural manures like compost & biological pest control method rather than spraying harmful pesticides which somehow enter into our body causing various health issues. Organic farming relies on the process such as crop rotation, salinity control of soil, predatory beneficial insects, turning soil after crops, etc. to make crop is weed free but without pesticides. Similarly, the manure is natural. An organic farm will use green manure or compost to compose the crop healthy.
Scientific name of Turmeric:
History and distribution of Turmeric:
Turmeric is a plant that has a long history of medicinal use, dating back nearly 4,000 years. In Southeast Asia, turmeric is used not only as the main spice but also as a component in religious ceremonies. Because of its yellow color, turmeric is known as “Indian saffron.”
While the precise origin of turmeric is not known, it appears to have originated from tropical Southeast Asia. It is most associated with India today. The greatest diversity of Curcuma species by number alone is in India, at around 40 – 45 species. Thailand has a comparable 30- 40 species, for example, but is much smaller than India. Other countries in tropical Asia have numerous wild species of Curcuma. Recent studies have shown that the taxonomy of Curcuma longa is problematic, with only the specimens from South India being identifiable as C. longa. The phylogeny, intraspecific & interspecific variation, and even the identity of other species and cultivars in other parts of the world still need to be established & validated.
The Turmeric Plant:
The turmeric plant grows up to about 1m in height with large oblong shaped leaves & incredible white or green flowers. A single turmeric plant can produce over 700g of its distinctive roots in one growing season & has between 2 to 5% curcuminoids and 5% essential oil.
Climate requirement for Organic Turmeric Cultivation:
Turmeric needs a warm, humid climate for development. It develops in hilly areas at an altitude of 1500m from sea level. The ideal temperature ranges between 20 to 30°C and the rainfall needed is 1500 to 2250 mm per annum for turmeric cultivation in India. It can be grown as an irrigated crop.
Sunlight Requirement for Organic Turmeric Planting:
Turmeric enjoys partial sun strong morning sunlight & afternoon shade or dappled shade all day. Turmeric can be developed in full sun, but make sure the soil temperatures do not get above 90°F in the summer.
Land Preparation for Organic Turmeric Planting:
The land is ploughed once with cultivated plough & then with disc plough. For a hectare, 12 tonnes of farmyard manure (FMY) & 120 kg of neem cake are incorporated in the soil.
While preparing the land, minimum tillage operations can be adopted. Beds of 15 cm height, 1 m width & of convenient length may be prepared to give at least 50 cm spacing between the beds. In the case of the irrigated crop, ridges and furrows are prepared & the rhizomes are planted in shallow pits on the top of the ridges. Spacing generally adopted is 45 cm – 60 cm between the ridges and 15-20 cm between the plants. Solarisation of beds is beneficial in checking the multiplication of pests & diseases causing organisms. The polythene sheets used for soil solarisation must be kept away safely after the work is completed.
Soil Requirement for Organic Turmeric Planting:
Clayey soil with a large amount of humus is best for increasing turmeric. It can, however, grow in sandy soil that is well-drained. Other types of soil that is appropriate for turmeric cultivation are red soil, ashy loam or light black soil. In other words, any type of loamy soil, with the natural drainage system is very good for turmeric plantation. The water must drain off & not stagnate at the place. In addition, soil acidity should be neutral. Alkaline or acidic soil would harm the rhizome of turmeric plant & it cannot grow.
Turmeric requires a warm & humid climate. It can be developed in diverse tropical conditions from sea level to 1500mm above MSL within a temperature range of 20 to 30°C with a rainfall of 1500 mm or more per annum or under irrigated conditions. Though turmeric thrives in different types of soil ranging from light black loam, red soils to clayey loams, rich loamy soils having natural drainage & irrigation facilities are the best. Turmeric will not stand water stagnation or alkalinity.
Turmeric can be cultivated organically as an intercrop along with other crops present that all the companion crops are also organically grown. In several areas, turmeric is developed as an intercrop with mango, jack and litchi and on the west coast with coconut and areca nut. Often castor & pigeon pea are planted on the borders and on irrigation channels to provide shade.
Effect of organic fertilizers on physical properties of soil:
Maintenance of optimum physical conditions is the main aspect of soil management. If the physical conditions of the soil are unfavorable, even at a higher stage of soil fertility management, poor crop yields will be realized. Several studies carried out in India have revealed beneficial effects of organic fertilizers on the physical properties of soil. The continuous use of nitrogen (N) & potassium (K) fertilizers slightly deteriorated soil physical properties that affect crop growth.
Cultivation Methods of Organic Turmeric:
Turmeric plant is planted in about September to October month. It grows in light black, black clayey loams, and red soils in irrigated & rainfed conditions. The rhizomes are planted 5 to 7 cm deep. This crop is planted by the small rhizomes with 1 or 2 buds. It is harvested after 9 to10 months of planting. The lower leaves are turning yellow & fall with age.
In order to cultivate turmeric organically, a buffer zone of 25 feet to 50 feet shall be maintained if the neighboring farms are non-organic. The generate from this zone shall not be treated as organic. Being an annual crop, turmeric wants a conversion period of two years.
Irrigation for Organic Turmeric Planting:
For the turmeric, the frequency of irrigation will depend upon the soil & climate conditions. Depending upon the soil & rainfall 15 to 25 times irrigation is done in medium heavy soil and in case of light textures red soil 35 to 40 irrigation is needed.
Turmeric needs plenty of moisture, however, does not like to sit in wet soil. Amend heavy clay soils to agree to good drainage. Water plants enough to stay soil evenly moist.
Fertilizing in Organic Turmeric Planting:
- Use a mild, balanced fertilizer at planting time & at each hilling.
- Well-aged compost is useful, but do not add materials that are actively decomposing.
- Decomposing materials will use nutrients in the soil & may cause the soil to heat up.
- Compost alone will not provide all the nutritional needs of turmeric.
- Apply fertilizer at a rate of one to two lbs (depending on soil fertility) per planting row foot. Good quality composted poultry-based manure is normally used.
- Early in the growing season, turmeric appreciates more nitrogen to support leafy development.
- In August & September when the rhizomes are forming, turmeric benefits from adding potassium.
Cultural Practices in Organic Turmeric Planting:
Mulching the beds with green leaves is the main practice beneficial to this crop when planting is done on raised beds. This helps to improve germination of seed rhizomes, prevents wash off of soil due to heavy rains, adds organic matter to the soil & conserves moisture during the dry period. Care may be taken to contain a mix of leguminous crops with leaves rich in nitrogen content, phosphorus content like Acalypha weed & potassium content like Calotropis as mulch. The first mulching is to be done at the time of planting with green leaves 4-5 tones per acre. It is to be repeated again two tonnes per acre at 50th day after planting. The Cow dung slurry may be poured on the bed after each mulching to enhance microbial activity & nutrient availability. Weeding can be carried out depending on the intensity of weed growth. Such materials can be used for mulching. Proper drainage channels are given in the inter-rows to drain off stagnant water.
Preservation of seed:
Rhizomes for seed are normally heaped under the shade of trees or in well-ventilated sheds & covered with turmeric leaves. Sometimes, the heap is plastered more with earth mixed with cow dung. The seed rhizomes can be stored in pits with sawdust. The pits must be covered with wooden planks with one or two holes for aeration.
Planting and Caring for Rhizomes:
Plant sections of rhizome three inches deep and oriented so any sprouts grow upward. The ideal spacing between plants rhizome segments is ten inches with about twenty inches between rows. Turmeric needs high levels of nutrients, so apply ample organic matter in the form of manure, compost during the growing season, or fertilize accordingly. Turmeric is ready for harvest & processing between 6 and 9 months after planting, depending on the specific variety.
Read: Organic Farming FAQ.
Role of Organics in Organic Turmeric Planting:
- Soil organic matter serves as a soil conditioner, nutrient source, substrate for microbial activity, preservation of the environment & major determinant for sustaining or increasing agricultural productivity.
- Turmeric responds to heavy dressings of organic matter & much experimental evidence are available on the useful effects of organic matter either alone or in combination with inorganic fertilizers on the growth & productivity of turmeric.
- Organic manures contain all the necessary plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, boron, zinc, copper, manganese & iron which are necessary for increasing the yield and quality of the turmeric rhizome.
- Generally, large quantities of organic manures in the form of farmyard manure, oil cakes & green leaves (as mulch) are applied in different turmeric growing states.
- Poultry manure is a concentrated source of nitrogen and phosphorus & it can be efficiently utilized along with inorganic fertilizers to boost yields of turmeric.
To control all pests and diseases we can use Organic fertilizers and organic Insecticides:
Organic fertilizers are fertilizers derived from animal matter, animal excreta (manure), human excreta & vegetable matter. Naturally occurring organic fertilizers contain animal wastes from meat processing, peat, manure, slurry & guano. Insecticides are substances used to destroy insects. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry & consumers.
Some of the Organic fertilizers
Neem cake organic manure is the by-product gets in the cold pressing of neem tree fruits & kernels, and the solvent extraction process for neem oil cake.
Corn Gluten Meal
Corn gluten meal contains trace amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous & potassium. It is a good soil stabilizer, but it works slowly.
This fertilizer is prepared from rocks that have been ground up. It contains large amounts of phosphate as well as other necessary nutrients. The main advantage of using rock phosphate is that the elements it contains don’t dissolve in water.
Greensand fertilize comes from ancient sea beds. This high calcium fertilizer contains iron, potassium, and other trace elements. However, the nutrient levels in greensand products can differ depending on their source.
Some of the Organic Insecticides:
Bacillus thuringiensis, more normally referred to as Bt, is a biological pesticide, which means it is a living organism that is in some way lethal to a garden or yard pests. Bt is ingested by insects & produces a protein that is toxic to some insects.
Neem oil is brown oil with an unpleasant taste & smell that acts as a repellent for insects and is non-toxic to humans & beneficial insects such as honey bees.
It is used on various types of produce to protect against mites, insects, fungi & harmful bacteria. It is sprayed on plants or trees in a powdered form to act as a physical barrier between pests & the plants.
Diseases in Organic Turmeric Planting:
Leaf blotch is caused by Taphrina maculans & appears as small, oval, rectangular or irregular brown spots on either side of the leaves which soon become dirty yellow color or dark brown. The leaves also turn into yellow color. In severe cases the plants present a scorched appearance & the rhizome yield is reduced.
Leaf spot is caused by Colletotrichum capsici & appears as brown spots of various sizes on the upper surface of the young leaves. The spots are irregular in shape & white or grey in the center. Later, two or more spots may coalesce & form an irregular patch covering almost the whole leaf. The affected leaves ultimately dry up. The rhizomes do not expand well.
The Rhizome rot disease is caused by Pythium graminicolum or P. aphanidermatum. The collar region of the pseudostem becomes soft & water soaked, resulting in a collapse of the plant & decay of rhizomes.
Root-knot nematodes and burrowing nematode are the two important nematodes reason damage to turmeric. Wherever nematode problems are general, use only healthy, nematode-free planting material. Increasing the organic content of the soil checks the multiplication of nematodes.
Insect pests in Organic Turmeric Planting
The shoot borer is the mainly serious pest of turmeric. The larvae bore into pseudostems & feed on internal tissues. The presence of a bore-hole on the pseudostem during which frass is extruded & the withered central shoot is a characteristic symptom of pest infestation. The adult is a standardly sized moth with a wingspan of about 20 mm; the wings are the orange-yellow color with minute black spots. Fully-grown larvae are the light brown color with sparse hairs.
The rhizome scale infests rhizomes in the field (at later stages of the crop) & in storage. Adult scales are circular (about 1mm diameter) and light brown to a grey color and appear as encrustations on the rhizomes. They feed on sap & when the rhizomes are severely infested, they become shrivelled & desiccated affecting its germination.
Adults & larvae of leaf-feeding beetles such as Lema spp. feed on leaves, particularly during the monsoon season & form elongated parallel feeding marks on them. The spraying of Malathion (0.1%) undertaken for the management of shoot borer is sufficient to control this pest.
The lacewing bug infests the foliage causing them to turn pale & dry up. The pest infestation is more common during the post-monsoon period, particularly in drier regions of the country. Spraying dimethoate (0.05%) is efficient in managing the pest.
Turmeric wants heavy manuring. The application of well rotten cow dung or compost from own farm 2 to 3 tons per acre may be given as basal dose while planting rhizomes in the pits. In addition, the application of neem cake 0.8 tones per acre is desirable.
Harvesting and Curing of Turmeric:
The crop has to be harvested at the right maturity & is ready for harvesting in about 7 to 9 months after sowing depending upon the variety. The aromatic types mature in about seven months, the intermediate types in about 8 months & the late types in about 9 months.
Usually, the land is ploughed & the rhizomes are gathered by hand picking or the clumps are carefully lifted with a spade. Produce rhizomes are cleaned of mud & other extraneous matter adhering to them. The average yield per acre is eight to ten tons of green turmeric. Fingers are divided from mother rhizomes. Mother rhizomes are generally kept as seed material. The green color turmeric is cured for obtaining dry turmeric. Curing involves boiling of rhizomes in freshwater & drying it in the sun. No chemical must be used for processing. The cleaned rhizomes are boiled in copper or galvanized iron or earthen vessels, with water enough to soak them. Boil till the fingers or mother rhizomes become soft. The cooked turmeric is taken out of the pan by lifting the troughs & draining the water into the pan itself. The same hot water in the pan must be used for boiling the next lot of raw turmeric, which is already filled in the troughs.
Alternatively, rhizomes may also be cooked using baskets with perforated bottom & sides. The mother rhizomes & the fingers are cured separately. The cooking of turmeric is to be done within 2 to 3 days after harvest.
The cooked fingers or mother rhizomes are spread on bamboo mats or a cement floor under the sun for drying. The rhizomes are spread in 5 to 7 cm thick layers of desirable color of the dried product. During night time the material must be heaped or covered. It may take ten to fifteen days for the rhizomes to become completely dry. Artificial drying using cross-flow hot air at a maximum temperature of 60°C is found to give a satisfactory product. In sliced turmeric, artificial drying has a clear benefit giving brighter colored product than sun drying, which tends to suffer from surface bleaching. The recovery of the dry product varies from 20 to 25%, depending upon the variety & the location where the crop is grown. Dried turmeric has a poor appearance and rough, dull color outside the surface with scales & root bits. Smoothening & polishing the outer surface by manual or mechanical rubbing improves the appearance.
Manual polishing contains rubbing the dried turmeric fingers on a hard surface. The improved process is by using a hand-operated barrel or drum mounted on a central axis, the sides of which are made of expanded metal mesh. The turmeric is polished in power-operated drums. The color of the turmeric attracts buyers. In order to impart an attractive yellow color, turmeric suspension in water is added to the polishing drum in the last ten minutes. When the rhizomes are consistently coated with suspension they may be dried in the sun.
Price of Organic Turmeric:
The cost of Organic turmeric powder is Rs. 160 – Rs.170/ Kilogram.
Cost of cultivation for Organic Turmeric:
The cost of turmeric cultivation for 1.0-acre organic turmeric cultivation is Rs 35,000/- per acre.
The yield of Turmeric:
The yield of crop varies from 7,000 to 9,000 kg per acre. Under exceptionally favorable conditions, copious irrigation may be as high as 11,000 kg per acre.