Sorrel Leaves Farming/Chukka Kura Cultivation Practices
Today, we are discussing Sorrel Leaves Farming.
Introduction to Sorrel (Chukka Kura):
Sorrel is a delicious herb plant from which the leaves are eaten. Their acidic taste is fairly distinctive. Sorrel is a cool-season perennial often developed as an annual. Sorrel is a small edible green plant from the Polygonaceae family, which includes buckwheat and rhubarb. Sorrel is a leafy green vegetable, developed for its pleasantly tart, lemon flavor. It sometimes gets classified as an herb & sometimes as a vegetable.
The zingy, lemony flavor of garden sorrel is at its best in early spring, the traditional season for the production of sorrel soup. The flavor of sorrel leaves is due in large part to oxalic acid, which is harmless consumed in small amounts but must be avoided by people with a history of kidney stones. The young leaves have a slightly more acidic taste but can use mature leaves steamed or sautéed like spinach. Sorrel is called sour dock and is a perennial herb that grows wild in many parts of the world. The Sorrel herb is widely used in French cuisine, but not as well known in the United States.
Sorrel plants prefer the cool seasons of spring & fall, quickly bolting to seed as the weather heats up. The two most commonly grown species are Garden Sorrel & French Sorrel. Sorrel plants have smooth, arrow-shaped leaves that develop from a center rosette. The Sorrel plant will send up a tall flower stalk as the temperature warms. The red flowers are quite insignificant whorled spikes, like rhubarb.
Origin and geographic distribution:
Sorrel plant is native from India to Malaysia, where it is commonly cultivated, and must have been carried at an early date to Africa. Sorrel seeds are said to have been brought to the New World by African slaves. Sorrel plants have been widely circulated in the Tropics & Subtropics of both hemispheres, and in many areas of the West Indies & Central America have become naturalized.
Types of Sorrel plants:
Sorrel only gets about 18 to 24 inches tall, although the flower stalks will get taller. It does spread out though, simply taking up 2 ft. in width. Sorrel is a slender herbaceous perennial plant about 60 centimeters or 24 inches high, with roots that run deep into the ground, as well as juicy stems & edible, arrow-shaped leaves. The Sorrel leaves, when consumed raw, have a sour taste. The lower leaves are 7 to 15 centimeters (2.8 to 5.9 in) in length with long petioles & a membranous ocrea formed of fused, sheathing stipules. The upper ones are sessile and regularly become crimson. It has whorled spikes of reddish-green color flowers, which bloom in early summer, becoming purplish. The species are dioecious, with stamens & pistils on different plants.
French sorrel: French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) plant is the traditional variety to grow. A staple in French cooking, French sorrel leaves taste much like spinach, but with a hint of citrus. It is a hardier plant than annual spinach & because it is perennial, the plant grows for many years.
Common sorrel: Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is also sometimes known as garden sorrel. The plant, which grows in erect clumps of narrow, arrow-shaped leaves, has a stronger, bitterer flavor than French sorrel.
Garden sorrel: Garden sorrel (Rumex acestosa) grows about three feet tall & produces leaves that can be better used fresh in salads.
Spinach rhubarb: Spinach rhubarb (R. abyssinicus) plant grows up to 8 feet tall; the leaves can be used like spinach & the stalks like rhubarb.
Herb patience or spinach dock: Herb patience or spinach dock grows to four feet tall with leaves that must be used either fresh or cooked.
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Site requirements/Land preparation for Sorrel Leaves Farming:
Remove all weeds and debris in the land. Land should be ploughed and refine up to 20cm deep. Furrowing and ridges must be established. Plant sorrel seeds in full sun. A Sorrel plant grows best in well-worked, well-drained soil rich in organic material. Add aged compost to planting beds previous to planting. The Sorrel plant prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
Sorrel prefers a light free-draining soil but can develop on all soils. It has a strong tap root system that penetrates deeply into the soil to uptake nutrients & water. Heavier soils will require proper soil tillage to ensure the soil is well & and loose enough to aid root penetration. On heavy soils, plough and purify the soil to a depth of at least 20 cm. Prepare ridges spaced one meter apart to ensure movement of water out of the root zone under high rainfall conditions. If seedlings are being used, plant holes are then dug 15 to 20 cm in depth on the ridges to facilitate the transplanting of the seedlings. On lighter soils, it may not be necessary to plough the soil, but ridges must be made as any water logging can be a detriment to the sorrel plants.
The Soil pH level for Sorrel Leaves Farming:
The Optimum soil pH range between 5.5 and 6.8. Sorrel plants will grow best in full sun, although a little partial shade will keep them going longer into summer.
Planting time of Sorrel:
Sorrel plants are very hardy. Sow sorrel in the garden as early as two to three weeks before the average date of the last frost in spring. Divide Sorrel plants to renew them every 3 to 4 years.
Spacing in Sorrel Leaves Farming:
Sow sorrel seed ½ inch deep & 2 to 3 inches apart. Thin successful seedlings from 12 inches to 18 inches apart when plants are 6 to 8 weeks old. Space rows 18 inches to 24 inches apart. Divide recognized sorrel in spring. Choose male Sorrel plants without flowers for divisions to avoid reseeding.
Water requirement in Sorrel Leaves Farming:
Sorrel must be kept evenly moist. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting & again at midseason. In the absence of adequate rainfall, plants will need to be irrigated on a regular basis to ensure adequate growth & development. The use of drip irrigation is recommended as it is acquiring common acceptance in the Caribbean. It regulates the amount of water that is dispensed to each plant root & it uses a small amount of water compared to other irrigation methods. Mulching can be practiced to conserve soil moisture.
Sowing method in Sorrel Leaves Farming
Before sowing sorrel, keep in mind that this Sorrel plant is very invasive because it propagates very fast. Sorrel plant is sown right at the end of winter with a cover, or in spring directly in the ground. Mark the rows at least 12 inches to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) apart. Sow in seed holes every ten inches (25 cm) and cover with a thin layer of soil. Keep the soil somewhat moist. Thin as they sprout, so as to only stay the most vigorous plants. Remember to keep watering frequently.
Cultivation Practices of Sorrel:
Sorrel plants are most successful in rich moist soil but can be developed in other types of soil as well. Seeds are planted in April or May a half an inch below the surface & distanced fifteen to eighteen inches apart. Most sorrel varieties are harvested for the leaf, like spinach & lettuce however, some are harvested for the stem-like rhubarb.
In July or August, the leaves are completely for harvesting. In order to grow a sorrel plant without purchasing new seeds the roots of a sapling should be divided in the proper way. In the summer a flower will emerge from the plant & must be cut off to encourage greater and more desirable leaves for harvesting.
As a perennial plant, the sorrel plant will reappear over the winter has passed. Before winter approaches it is advisable to turn the soil & cover it lightly with a straw compost mixture.
Propagating of Sorrel:
Dividing the sorrel clump is the simplest & most practiced manner for propagating your sorrel. Propagate sorrel equally well in spring or in fall. Dig out the sorrel plant clump, including as much of the surrounding root system as you can. Divide the clump into two parts or three parts with a sharp utensil or spade. You can split the clump into as many parts as you wish, as long as at least one leaf remains to be planted. Plant the mini-clumps that bear at least one sorrel leaf. Plan to thus split the clumps of sorrel plants that have been in place for 3 to 4 years, this will regenerate the plant support which tends to weaken with time.
Field planting of Sorrel:
Seedlings may be raised in the nursery and transplanted when 7.5 to 10 cm high. However, any damage to the roots during transplanting can raise the susceptibility of the seedlings to any soil-borne diseases. Seeds are generally set directly in the field, at four to six per hole and with holes spaced 1 m to 1.5 m. When two or three Sorrel leaves have developed, the seedlings are thinned out by 50%.
Sorrel is a short day plant & photoperiodic, the ideal planting time in the Caribbean is mid-May. The plants will then have enough time for adequate vegetative growth before flower initiation in September and October month. The calyces will develop and be ready to harvest in November and December month. The early-bearing red sorrel is able to be planted all year round & bear fruit within 3 to 4 months; however, the best yields happen when planted in the regular season of the last two quarters of the year when day length is shortening.
Plant sorrel seeds directly in the garden two weeks previous to the first average frost date in the fall or after all danger of frost has passed in spring. Sorrel thrives in any type of soil & either full sun or partial shade. Make shallow rows 18 inches to 24 inches apart. Scatter the seeds lightly in the row & cover the seeds with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil. Don’t worry about spacing, as you can thin the sorrel when the seedlings are about two inches tall. To thin the plants, leave the strongest plants & remove the weakest. Allow four inches between each plant if you intend to use the tender leaves in salads. Allow 8 to 10 inches if want to grow full-size plants.
Sow seeds for a sorrel plant in spring while the soil has warmed up. Prepare a well-drained bed with healthy tilled soil. Seeds should be six inches apart and just under the surface of the soil. Keep the bed moderately moist until germination and then thin the plants when they reach two inches high. Sorrel will not need a lot of supplemental care, but the bed does need to be kept weeded and the plants must receive at least one inch of water per week.
How to grow Sorrel Leaves:
Garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) & French sorrel are the two cultivated varieties of the herb. Garden sorrel plant needs damp soils and temperate conditions. French sorrel plant performs best when it grows in dry, open areas with inhospitable soils. The plants have very deep and persistent tap roots and develop well with little attention. Planting sorrel from seed or dividing the roots is the two most common ways to propagate the herb.
Sorrel will usually bolt when temperatures begin to soar, usually in June or July month. When this happens, you can allow the flower to bloom & enjoy it, but this slows the production of leaves. If you want to encourage larger and more leaf production, cut the flower stalk off & the plant will give you a few more harvests. You can even cut the plant to the ground & it will produce a full new crop of foliage.
Weed control in Sorrel Leaves Farming:
Weed control is necessary early in the life of the crop, but after the plants reach 45 cm to 60 cm in height, weeds will be shaded out. Manual weeding is, therefore, necessary to manage the spread of weeds within the plots during the 4 to 8 weeks after planting. The use of grass mulch to suppress weeds & conserve soil moisture under dry conditions can be beneficial.
Care of Sorrel plants:
The Sorrel plant is not demanding, requiring little extra care. Keep seedbeds weed-free. Once planted, the sorrel plant requires little care. Although a sorrel plant tolerates moderate drought, it performs best when the soil is evenly moist. Provide one inch of water per week during warm, dry weather. Although sorrel doesn’t need fertilizer, you can encourage more leafy growth by feeding the plants a compost tea a mix of compost & water in midsummer. Pour the compost tea on the soil beside the plants at a rate of five gallons for every 100 square feet of planting space. Remove weeds regularly, especially during the first year, as the weeds compete with the plants for soil nutrients & moisture.
How To Grow Sorrel in Containers:
Sorrel grows well in a six-inch pot. In larger containers, plant sorrel on eight-inch centers.
Integrated pest management:
IPM (integrated pest management): Integrated pest management is the safest approach to pest control. It uses a mixture of ways (Integrated) to prevent crop damage and protect man, caring creatures, and the environment (soil, water, air, and other creatures).
In integrated pest management, farmers use a better understanding of nature (soil, water, climate, creatures, and plants) to create it easier for crops to flourish but harder for pests. Harmful pesticides are utilized only when needed. As a result, crops produce better, pest problems are fewer & the environment gets healthier.
Normal fieldwork is used to make field conditions best of the crop & worst for pests. Site selection, preparing land early & properly. Using the pest-free planting material. Spacing to decrease overcrowding and disease build-up. Checking fields weekly for problems or scouting. Feeding the plants for early, healthy growth. Early elimination of sick plants from fields. Reaping with care to decrease bruises and rots.
Biological control: In nature, several creatures kill pests. The three types of beneficial or Natural enemies are parasites, predators, pathogens.
Chemical control: Pesticides are completed to kill pests. Most pesticides will kill or harm other living things. Some are very poisonous; others less dangerous to man, beneficial & the environment. Botanical insecticides are completed from plants. Some are safer & still quite effective against pests.
Mechanical and cultural control:
Control Sorrel in pastures or perennial crops by shifting to annual crops that require or accommodate tillage. Cultivation should be at short intervals to deplete root reserves, but plants must be allowed time to produce 2 or 3 inches of green tissue between cultivations for maximum depletion of reserves. Liming and nitrogen fertilization to increase soil pH & enhance other plant growth where practical may reduce red sorrel infestation. Remove small patches of sorrel from gardens and flower beds by aggressively digging with a shovel or potato fork to expose & remove the rhizomes.
Pests and Diseases in Sorrel Leaves Farming:
Slugs are one of the most easily recognized plant pests and normally found in gardens. Although there are over 30 species only a few are recognized as being Sorrel plant pests. Slugs are soft-bodied terrestrial mollusks that generally feed nocturnally. They are mainly snails that no longer have a protective shell, so they produce mucus on their upper surface to protect them from drying out. A thicker form of mucus is formed underneath a slug which allows it to glide across surfaces on its muscular foot.
Aphids are small sap-sucking insects & members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Common names contain greenflies and blackflies, although individuals within a species can vary widely in color. The collection includes the fluffy white woolly aphids. Maturing rapidly, females breed profusely so that the amount of these insects multiplies quickly. Winged females may increase later in the season, allowing the insects to colonize new plants. In temperate regions, a phase of reproduction occurs in the autumn, with the insects often overwintering as eggs.
Snails are soft-bodied, terrestrial mollusks that make hard shells that they can withdraw into. They progress by gliding their muscular foot over a layer of mucus that is secreted underneath. This enables them to simply climb vertical surfaces. Snails are usually nocturnal, feeding on a wide range of tender plants & seedlings. During spring and autumn, snails mate and lay clusters of almost transparent yellowy-white eggs under stones & logs. During the winter months, snails can often be creating dormant in large groups within sheltered locations.
Harvesting techniques of Sorrel Leaves:
Newly seeded plants take 35 to 40 days to reach “baby” size & 2 months to fully mature. Sorrel is ready to harvest when the leaves are about four inches long. Tender leaves are best for eating & if you harvest as cut and come again, you will have a steady supply of young, tender leaves.
Storing and preserving Sorrel Leaves:
Use sorrel leaves fresh. Sorrel leaves will keep in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Sorrel leaves can be frozen or dried & used as an herb; some taste will be lost.
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