The following article is all about Asparagus growing.
Asparagus is a perennial crop that will take around two to three years to produce. For this crop it will aptly justify the proverb – ‘ fruits of patience are always sweet’, after waiting for two to three years, the plant will be productive up to 25 years.
Asparagus growing is produced for, both as vegetable and for its high medicinal properties. Growing Asparagus for its shoots and roots is simple and profitable. The stems grown underground and berries are used to cure bee stings, toothache, heart troubles and other ailments. The plants are shallow-rooted and the crop prefers lateritic, sandy loamy soils with proper drainage. The plant requires a good supply of water but will not tolerate wet soils. They grow up to 100 cm to 150 cm in height.
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) comes from the lily family (Liliaceae). The plant produces both male and female flowers in older varieties. But in newer hybrid varieties produce all male flowers. Female flowers produce more fruits called berries which take away all the energies and weaken the plants and shorten the life span.
About Asparagus plant growing.
Immature shoots or spears are the edible parts of the plant. They are juicy and thick in right temperature (spring season) while tough and slender in hot temperatures (summer season). Roots of the plant grow horizontally in the ground, they are fleshy and numerous. The fleshy roots grow both in size and number year after year, while the stems of the plant die each year. The plant grows bushy with long heavily branched stems and finely divided simple leaves.
Asparagus root (Shatavari) medicinal uses.
The plant roots for medicine are prepared in the form of juice, decoction and powder. In Ayurveda medicine, shatavari roots are used to treat intrinsic haemorrhage, piles, voice hoarseness, arthritis, poisoning, cough, diarrhea, diseases related to female genital tract, crysipelas, as aphrodisiac and as rejuvenate. It Increases the flow of breast-milk when pounded and taken with milk.
Indian names in Asparagus growing.
The common names for asparagus in regional languages are as follows:
- Hindi : Shatavari, sootmooli, Shatwar
- Kannada : sallagadde, Shataavari, Ashadhi, Majjigegadde, Sipariberuballi
- Malayalam : Sathavari
- Marathi : Shatavari
- Tamil : Thanneervittaan
- Telugu : Pilli peechara, chandravankagaddalu, challagadda
Cultivars and varieties in Asparagus growing.
No varieties are developed in India. There are more varieties developed in other countries. All male hybrids varieties – Jersey Gem, Greenwich and Jersey Giant. And other varieties are – Mary Washington, California 500, Connover’s Colosal, UC72, and UC66.
Climate and Soil requirement for Asparagus growing
Asparagus grows in wide variety of weather conditions. The ideal temperatures for high yield are between 16°C to 25°C. The yield depends on the fern growth and in winter as the fern production is limited, asparagus growth is shortened. In well-drained, fertile, sandy loam soils the plant grows well while they also do well in heavy soil but more care will be required. The soil must be deep and free from stones and gravel. As the roots grow deep the soil must have a depth more than 150 cm. Soils with pH 6 to 6.6 levels is preferable. Apply lime to soils that have pH less than 5.5 while the plant is sensitive to high soil acidity.
Land preparation in Asparagus growing
Loosen the soil with a deep ploughing about 20 cm to 30 cm, it is recommended to remove weeds by two to three harrowing. Broad ridges of 40 cm to 50 cm are prepared over properly leveled land for plantation. For irrigation, build a furrow width of 15 to 20 cm.
Propagation in Asparagus growing
The crop is propagated both by root suckers and seeds. Usually for commercial farming, growers prefer roots suckers over seed. The germination of seeds is slow and take longer time to begin bearing. It is recommended to plant with a year old well developed dormant crowns as this will cut time for harvest by a year.
Seed Treatment in Asparagus growing
To speed up the germination by a week, asparagus seeds must be soaked for three to four days in cold water at 30°C to 35° C before sowing. By doing this, the seeds will swell and the seed coat will get soften. If sowing into a dry soil, soaking seeds will be of no use.
Seed rate, sowing and spacing in Asparagus growing
While sowing, asparagus seeds must be sown 3 cm to 4 cm in depth. Seed rate of 4 kg seeds per acre seed-bed will produce somewhere around 100,000 crowns. In commercial farming, crowns should be placed between 40 to 45 cm apart and leave 100 cm to 120 cms between rows. Do not plant young seedlings or plants in an old planting, the old plants will inhibit the growth of young plants. It is recommended to transplant young seedlings that appear in an old planting to another place.
Irrigation in Asparagus growing
Drip irrigation is recommended than sprinklers. Foliage diseases will be reduced in this type of irrigation. Sufficient water must be applied 1 foot deep once in a week during the first growing seasons to wet the soil. Watering every other week must be given after the first growing season. Apply two to three inch layer of organic mulch to retain the soil moisture and to reduce the weed growth.
Weed Control in Asparagus growing
Weeds will reduce the production in asparagus farming. For a good harvest its recommended to pluck or remove weeds with a hoe, cultivator or rototiller, but should be done in shallow without damaging asparagus roots. Dry leaves and twigs or straw and grass clippings will help control weeds.
Manures and Fertilizers in Asparagus growing
Applying fertilizers must be based from a soil test. Asparagus responds well to manures and fertilizers. Apply manure before planting the crowns or before sowing seeds and with yearly top dressings. Apply lime to maintain the soil pH in the range 6 to 6.7. In cases of magnesium deficiencies, Dolomitic lime 2000 kg per hectare must be applied. For new plantings, a fertilizer mixture of 1500 kg per hectare in the ratio 2:3:2 (22) must be applied before planting and 900 kg per hectare in the ratio 2:3:4 (21) fertilizer mixture is recommended on established farms annually. Depending on the plant species, organic manures such as farm yard manure, vermi-compost maybe used as per requirement.
Pests and diseases in Asparagus growing
Fusarium root or crown rot, asparagus rust are the common diseases found in asparagus growing. Reddish-yellow small spots appear on the stems near the ground. Plant varieties that are rust resistant must be used to effectively control rust. Fusarium rot weakens the plant by attacking feeder rootlets and the main storage roots.
Blackish beetles with yellow to orange markings on the wings called asparagus beetles are the main insect that attacks asparagus farm. The beetles larva feed on the plant while adults feed on young spears. By using home garden chemicals, asparagus beetles are easily killed and controlled.
Harvesting in Asparagus growing
The roots come to maturity in about year and half after planting, but it is not recommended to harvest for the first two years after planting. As soon as the spears appear above the ridges, grower can go for an asparagus harvest by cutting or snapping spears when they reach 18 to 25 cm tall. Before the tips begin to spread and grow too long the spears must be cut. A light harvest in new plantings can be harvested for two to four weeks in the third year will increase the number of buds on the spears and thereby resulting subsequent higher yields. In the third year harvest for about four weeks and six to eight weeks thereafter.
Immediately after harvesting, peel off the roots by a sharp knife. It is observed removing skin will be difficult after delay. At such situations the roots are boiled for about 10 minutes in water and while cooling down it will be easy to peel off.
Terminate harvesting if the spears are thin and spindly which indicate the plants have weak storage roots. It is advised to cease harvest for the current season if too many thin spears appear.
Post-harvest handling in Asparagus growing
At high temperatures fresh asparagus deteriorates quickly and is highly perishable. At moderate high temperature there will be loss of vitamin C, vegetable flavor and tenderness. As soon as the crop is harvested, before packing it is recommended to precool the produce by hydro cooling. Asparagus decaying and toughening can be reduced by controlling the storage atmosphere.
Yield in Asparagus growing
Plants harvested from strong and productive plants will yield more harvest. According to reports, a three and above year old each plant on an average produces two and half kilos. A yield of approximately 12 to 14 tonnes per hectare of fresh roots and one and half tonnes per hectare of dry roots is reported.
Marketing of Asparagus.
Asparagus is marketed either fresh or canned. The vegetable can be marketed in local markets or by marketing agency. It must always be transported under refrigeration. For canning, the harvest must be transported to factories immediately.
Asparagus growing Tips.
- Using table salt or any other salts to control weeds is not advised. This will reduce yield and shorten lifespan of the plant.
- Apply phosphorus for root growth during establishment but needed only at planting time.
- Organic fertilizers are not recommended to fertilize asparagus growing.
- Being a climber, four to six feet long stakes are used for support for its proper growth.
- In its early period of growth, frequent weeding is required.
- Weeds are the biggest threat in asparagus yield, keep the farm field free from all kinds of weeds.
- If the purpose of asparagus growing is for medicine, chemical fertilizers and pesticides must be avoided.
- At the time of weeding proper care should be taken to avoid any damage to its growing roots and shoots.