A step by step guide to hydroponic Ginseng
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium L.) is a relatively new crop to hydroponic cultivation and one which has substantial potential to increase both yields and quality of the harvestable produce. Dried ginseng root is slow-growing and low yielding compared to most other fast-growing hydroponic crops.
One of the main requisite of growing ginseng is that it should have very low light, cool environment and is thus suited to indoor growing where these factors can be easily regulated.
However, the high prices and requirement for ginseng due to its slow rate of growth and reproduction has meant that wild populations are often exploited at an early age before it begins flowering and seed production, thus the plant faces the threat of extinction in the wild conditions. Due to the high prices paid for wild ginseng, hydroponics is a better substitute for quality and high yield ginseng supply.
Cultivated plants are a long-lived crop, with the roots becoming larger each year until harvest, often in the fourth year — at this stage roots are usually forked and around four inches long and one inch thick. Mature plants are between one to two feet tall and enter into a dormancy phase in autumn when the leaves turn yellow and stem dieback.
Propagation of ginseng is somewhat time-consuming as the seed requires at least 12 months of after-ripening (stratification at low temperature) before germination will occur. However, for quicker crop establishment, growers can start with one- to two-year-old roots which are precisely spaced to maximize plant density in the growing area. While starting a crop from young roots is more expensive than raising planting stock from seed, it reduces the time to harvest and allows only healthy roots to be selected for planting out. One should purchase healthy disease-free ginseng roots or seedlings from a trustworthy retailer or ginseng nursery.
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A potentially profitable option for indoor hydroponic growers with limited space is to not grow ginseng for the harvest of the mature product (which then needs to be carefully dried before the sale), but to propagate from seed and sell only one- to two-year-old roots to other growers. Ginseng seedlings can be grown at a much higher density than mature plants and respond well to hydroponic nutrition — this allows the production of high-health planting stock which has not been in contact with soil and is well suited to further soilless production.
Raisng ginseng seeds for ginseng plants are a long process and it do not sprout the next year of its harvested. They will sprout the year after falling to the ground as it will take them a year to come out of the flesh of the berries that enclose them and gain enough energy to sprout out. This is course of action is called stratification. Starting with stratified seed which is usually for sale in fall, this needs to be sown a half-inch to one-inch deep, with an average germination rate of 70 percent. Seedbeds containing a mix of fine grade perlite and coconut fiber and a high-quality, low-mineral water source are suitable for the germination process
Hydroponic systems for ginseng has limited research, however, there is a possibility to improve yields and growth rates through climate and root development control as well as most favourable nutrition. Ginseng requires low light levels (heavy shading can be used for outdoor crops). Too much light reduces its yields, burn leaves, and lead to plant growth declination, while an excess of shade depresses the yield potential. Much of the photosynthates produced by the ginseng leave ends up in the thickening the root system, however, the yield of the roots can be elevated by up to 25 percent if the flowering stems are removed as they form.
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Ideal temperatures for ginseng are like those for other cool-season crops, around 68-73°F (20-23°C). Growing mediums for ginseng should be free draining, but at the same time not obstruct the development of the forked roots — coconut fiber or mixtures of fiber and perlite under drip irrigation are appropriate for hydroponic ginseng. Fill the growing pots with peat moss as a growing media for raising ginseng. Peat moss mimics the natural environment, since ginseng grows naturally on forest floors.
Overly wet or soggy substrate conditions should be avoided as they catch the attention of fungus gnats, the larvae of which can damage the roots and infest infection. High-quality root production of ginseng can also be achieved aeroponically without the necessity of any growing medium. Spraying roots with the nutrient-laden solution for 30 seconds in every 10 minutes during the light period and for 30 seconds every 30 minutes during the dark has been suggested. Ginseng can be susceptible to root rot and physiological disorders, so the use of disease-free rootstock is suggested along with high-quality water and solution disinfection. Install the hydroponic system in a place which receives filtered sunlight. There is very less information on the suitable nutrient ratio for hydroponic ginseng, however, a low EC of 0.5-1.1 has been recommended for nutrient culture system. A high concentration of potassium has also been recommended to result in an increased in ginseng root growth. You can purchase ginseng or herb-specific nutrient solution from a garden or hydroponic store. Hydroponic nutrient solutions are formulated to address the requirements of specific plants, so always look for the right solution for what you’re cultivating.
Harvesting ginseng roots at the end of the growth period is suggested when they have reached a fresh weight of about an ounce. Harvesting should be carefully done as the damaged roots fetch lower prices than intact ones. As mentioned previously, it will take anywhere from five to eight years for your plants to mature if you can bear to part with them with patience you can fetch a price 10 or 20 times higher than cultivated ginseng which is another benefits of hydroponics as it eases the process of cultivation.
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