Lemon Grass Cultivation
Lemongrass is a herb with a distinct citrusy flavour and aroma belonging to the grass family of ‘Gramineae’, popularly growing in the western ghats of India. It is native to Southeast Asia, and its scientific name is ‘Cymbopogon flexuosus’ which is alternatively known as Cymbopogon, barbed wire grass, or fever grass.
Lemongrass is a tall and perennial plant with a stout culm and erect upto 1.8 metres high. The leaves are long, green, linear tapering upwards and along the margins, and glaucous. The plant loves heat, light and moisture so if it is provided with these it grows quickly.
It is of high economic importance due to its oil which has a refreshing odour because of the high citral percentage in it. The oil is used in perfumes, detergents, soaps, cosmetics, beverages, insect repellents, and even in tea preparation. The leaves are used as a herb in different cuisines and in addition to this, it offers many medicinal benefits due to its antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties.
Lemongrass is a fragrant herb also known as a pest repellent and the smell of its oil deter unwanted insects like mosquitoes. Due to this insect repellent property, one can obtain ultimate profits from Lemongrass production by following proper crop management practices and a good marketing strategy.
Health benefits of Lemongrass
Lemongrass has a very refreshing flavour for which it is used in teas and several cocktails. It is even used for its fragrance in perfumes and soaps as well, but it has many medicinal properties too which is definitely a great option for maintaining one’s health and a good health is obviously a thing to be achieved.
Lemongrass contains antioxidants rich in essential Vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, B & C, Folate, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Manganese, Zinc and Iron.
Here we will mention some great health benefits of the plant.
- It promotes healthy digestion
- It helps in lowering Cholesterol levels
- It can cleanse & detoxify your body
- It can help in relieving from stomach disorders
- It treats insomnia
- It can act as a remedy for Respiratory disorders
- It heals cold, flu & fevers
- It treats infection due to its antiseptic property
- It reduces aches
- It helps in maintaining Type-2 diabetes
- It boosts immunity
- It acts as a Skin care
- It provides relief from Edema
- It can be used in Aromatherapy
- It reduces obesity
- It eliminates body odour
- It prevents from insect borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, & lyme diseases due to its insect repellent property
- It fights cancer
Cultivars/Varieties of Lemongrass
Lemongrass has many varieties that are grown throughout the world of which some are listed below:
- Sugandhi (OD-19)
- Jama Rosa
- CKP 25
- Other varieties
- Krishna, Pragati & Cauvery are improved varieties
The cultivation process is based on certain factors which are discussed below.
- Climate & Soil Requirement
The crop grows well in tropical and subtropical climatic conditions with an elevation upto 900 metres above sea level and the most ideal condition would be a warm and humid climate with plenty of sunshine and evenly distributed rainfall upto 250- 330 cm. A temperature ranging from 25-30°C is better for proper growth.
Lemongrass requires medium fertile soils with the soil pH ranging from 5.0-7.0, with moderate irrigation. Well drained loamy soil is best suited for growing the crops and it can also be grown in poor laterite soil but water logged soils should be avoided.
- Seed propagation
Propagation of seeds takes place best at nurseries through raised seeds. It can also be done by vegetative propagation by splitting the clumps into slips with a spacing of 60×80cm. For producing seedlings for 1ha of land, it requires about 2.5 kg of seeds or 55000 slips.
- Seed Production
The flowering time for the crops is November-December and the seeds mature in February-March. The plants are maintained in good health for proper yielding at the time of collection of seeds, as a healthy plant produces 100-200 g of seeds, the seed rate being 4-5 kg/ha.
- Nursery Raising
Nursery raised seedlings are recommended as it is better than direct sowing of seeds. The seeds are grown on raised beds on the onset of monsoon in a well pulverized soil. The nursery beds should be watered immediately after sowing and proper moisture should be maintained thereafter. Seeds start to germinate in 5-6 days and become ready for transplantation after 60 days.
- Land Preparation
Before plantation, the land should be cleared of any unwanted weeds or previous crop residues or dead plants and pits of 5×5×5 cm should be made at a spacing of 10×15cm.
Seedlings are to be planted at a distance of 40×40cm, 40×60cm, or 40×30cm apart, depending upon land fertility and Intercultural operations used on it. For areas of high rainfall it is better to plant the crops on ridges. For rooted slips, a deep hole of about 15cm is made and are placed with 1 or 2 slips in each hole.
Irrigation depends on the season & moisture holding capacity of the soil. After transplantation, irrigation is a must. For summer months 4 to 6 irrigations are recommended and in rainy months it is not required. If rains are unpredictable, the field should be irrigated after every 3 days for the first months and thereafter at a 7-8 days interval.
- Manures & Fertilizers
Before plantation, the soil should be added with organic compost or farmyard manure. At the time of planting of crops, it is recommended to apply 30kg of Nitrogen, 30kg of P2O5 and 30kg of K2O as a basal dose per hectare.
60 to 90 kg of Nitrogen should be applied during the growing season in splits of 3 to 4 as a top dressing, and for low fertile soils amount of Nitrogen should be increased. 25 to 60 kg/ha of Zinc Sulphate is also added in Zinc deficient soils. It also requires micronutrients in marginal lands, although it is free from pests & diseases.
- Intercultural Operations
After plantation, it is recommended to keep the field free of weeds for the initial 3 to 4 months and weeding plus hoeing should be done upto 1 month after every harvest, and 2 to 3 weeding operation is essential in 1 year time period. Tractor down cultivators or hand hoe can be used in case of row plantation.
For controlling weeds, the distillation waste is used as an organic mulch and is applied @3tonnes/ha. Among herbicides, Diuron @ 1.5kg ai/ha and Oxyfluorfen @ 0.5kg ai/ha are effective for controlling weeds.
- Pests & Diseases
Lemongrass records several pests & diseases which causes only minor damage and loss of crop is also very less. But for higher yields and quality crops, it must be kept free from these pests too.
Some of the pests and their control are:
- Stem Boring Caterpillar – It feeds on the stem of the plants making the leaves dry which results in significant reduction of yield of the grass.
- Apply Folidol E 605.
- Nematodes – It infects the plant.
- Apply Fenamiphos @ 11.2kg/ha.
Some of the diseases and their control are:
- Red Leaf Spot – Brown colored spots are seen on the lower surface of leaves and become bigger patches afterwards making the leaves dry.
- Apply 2 sprays of Bavistin @ 0.1% just after the emergence of the disease at 20 days interval.
- App 3 sprays of Dithane M-45 @ 0.2% at 10-12 days interval.
- Leaf Blight – Leaves are shown with reddish brown spots resulting in premature drying of leaves.
- Spray 0.2% of Dithane Z-78 or 0.3% of Copper oxychloride at 15 days interval.
- Little Leaf or Grassy Shoot – The growth becomes stunt and little leaves are formed in place of normal inflorescence.
- Spray 0.3% of Dithane Z-78 just before flowering stage at 10-12 days interval.
- Use fresh seedlings for planting and crop rotation.
The flowering season is in Winter and after transplantation the first harvesting is done after 4 to 6 months.
Thereafter, it is done after every 60-70 days depending upon the season and the soil fertility. Harvesting can be done using Sickles, where the plants are cut 10cm above ground level, and before taking it to the distillation site it is allowed to wilt in the field. Oil is extracted by water or steam distillation method.
Lemongrass plantation lasts on an average of 3 to 4 years. The yield depends upon the soil and climatic conditions. For the first year, the oil extracted is less, then it increases in the second year and is maximum in the third year and again starts declining after this.
From 4 to 6 cuttings per year, the yield is about 25 to 30 tonnes of fresh herbs per hectare on average, yielding 80kg of oil. Under irrigated conditions for newly bred varieties of the crop, the yield can be 100-150 kg/ha. Before distillation thick stems are devoid as it lacks oil and every fresh herb contains 0.3% of oil on average.
Cost Economics for Lemongrass Farming:
|Cost Economics for Lemongrass Farming
|Total Cost of Production
|Seed cost of Moringa
|Fertilizer & pesticides
|Irrigation & Harvrsting cost
|Cost of Production
|By the selling of fruit @ Rs 15/Kg
|Yield – Cost Ratio
- Post Harvest
- The grass is allowed to wilt for 24 hours before distillation as it reduces moisture and improves oil yield
- The oil is distilled using water or steam distillation and it takes around 4hours for completing the process.
- The insoluble particles in the oil are then removed by filtration method using anhydrous Sodium Sulphate mixed with it and kept overnight for 4 to 5 hours. Steam rectification process is used when the color of the oil changes due to rusting.
- The oil is stored in glass, aluminum,steel or galvanized iron containers depending upon the quantity of oil to be stored. The containers are to be kept away from direct heat/ sunlight.
Lemongrass requires a proper marketing approach for selling it at a high level. For bulk purchasing of the product, local herbal companies or oil seed companies should be contacted.