Introduction to Growing Lemon Grass:
The following infromation is about Growing Lemon Grass In India.
This plant is a perennial grass. It is famous for its fragrant leaves and stalks which are used for flavouring in food preparation. The scientific name of the Lemon Grass is Cymbopogon citrates. It belongs to Poaceae family. Lemon Grass has originated from the Cymbopogon genus. The common names of the Lemon Grass are gavati chahapati, fever grass, tanglad hierba Luisa, barbed wire grass , cha de Dartigalongue, and silky heads.
Lemon Grass is grown and used for medical and culinary purposes. This herb first originated in the continents of Asia and Australia. Oil is extracted from Lemon Grass called Cochin oil. This oil is popular as a world trade item. In India, Kerala is the only state which produces a high and monopoly yield of Lemon Grass and its oil. This is widely distributed in Europe, North America, Africa, Indian subcontinent, South Africa and Australia. In India, they are widely grown in states like Assam, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Uttar Pradesh. Lemongrass can be grown outdoors, in backyards, balconies, terrace (pots) and home gardens.
Characteristics of Lemon Grass:
- This grass grows with impenetrable clumps.
- The leaves of the grass are very sharp at the tip or edge; they are dense clumps, with stiff stems; leaf looks like a slender blade.
- They are blue – green in colour; when they fall, then they turn red in colour.
- When they are crushed, they emit a strong fragrance of Lemon.
- The grass reaches a height of 1.8 m.
- The life span of Lemon Grass is 4 years.
- When they are grown in the tropics, the lemongrass produces compound flower on the spike. Generally, the flowers grow well in Northern Latitudes.
- This Lemon Grass is also referred as ginger grass or citronella grass.
Properties of Lemon Grass:
Nutrients that are present in Lemon Grass are:
- Energy: 99 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 25.31 g
- Fat: 0.49 g
- Protein: 1.82 g
- Electrolytes: Sodium and Potassium
- Minerals: Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, Manganese and Zinc
- Vitamins: Niacin, Folates, Vitamin A and Vitamin C
Cultivars/varieties of Lemon Grass:
- This variety of lemon has very high tillering capacity
- The length of this Lemon Grass variety is medium- tall
- It is considered as high oil yielding and citral content variety
- Biogas from this variety is very high of about 25 – 28 metric tonnes per hectare
- The oil yield of this variety is 230 – 250 kg per hectare of land
- The yield of biomass from a hectare of land is 25 – 28 metric tonnes
- The oil yield from a hectare of land is 230 – 250 kg
- The length of the Lemon Grass variety is tall with high citral content
- This is one of the highest yielding varieties.
- The length of this herb grows up to 100 – 110 cm.
- The shape of the leaf is broad and dark purple sheath in colour.
- This variety of Lemon Grass has an oil content of 0.4 %.
- Citral content in this variety of 84 %.
- This variety of Lemon Grass stem is red in colour
- The length of this variety is 1 – 1.75 m tall
- Tillering of this variety is very high
- In this oil content is of 0.3 -0.4 %
- In a hectare of land 40 – 50 kg of oil is produced.
- Citral content in this variety ranges between 84 – 86 %
- These can be cultivated in rainfall areas also
- Pragathi is one of the high oil producing variety.
- This herb is erect and dwarf in nature.
- This plant has dark green colour leaves.
- The citral and oil content in this variety is very high.
- These varieties can be grown in fertile or irrigated soils.
- This variety can be grown in tropical – sub-tropical climates.
- The yield of this variety is good
- This variety is very good in oil content
- This variety needs a lot of soil moisture content to grow well
- They are mostly cultivated in riverside areas
- This variety plant stem is white in colour
Read: Stevia Cultivation.
Soil and climate requirements for Growing Lemon Grass:
For growing Lemon Grass, medium fertile soils are much suitable. The yield will be good if we grow them in fertile soils. For cultivating lemongrass sandy loam soils are considered best. They can also be grown in wide ranges of soils like loamy – laterite etc. Soils which are well drained and well aerated are essentially required. While growing them water should never be logged near the plants. The pH level, which should be maintained for growing the Lemon Grass is 6 – 9. Soil should be rich in organic matter.
This Lemon Grass is well cultivated in tropical and sub – tropical climates. They can be grown at an elevation of 900 m above the sea level. They will perform better at 1500 m above the sea level. Humid climate is more suitable for growing Lemon Grass. For growing the Lemon Grass plenty of sunshine is needed. The ideal temperature for growing Lemon Grass is 20˚C – 30˚C. These can be grown in semi-arid and light rainfall regions also. The rainfall, which is needed for growing Lemon Grass is 250 – 300 cm annually.
Land preparation and planting for Growing Lemon Grass:
The land which is selected for growing the Lemon Grass should be cleaned by removing all the weeds, stones, twigs and old material of the previous crop. The land should be ploughed several times so that the soil attains fine tilth and smooth texture. After ploughing, harrowing or tilling should be done. Based on the planting methods the furrows and ridges should be made. In the field proper drainage channels should be prepared. The manure should be well mixed with soil to make the soil more fertile.
Seedlings are better for transplanting into the main field. If we transplant the seeds directly there is very less chance for growth. After sowing the seeds immediate irrigation should be done. After 5 – 6 days, the seeds are germinated. The seeds can be transplanted to the main field after 60 days. After collecting the seeds and before sowing them, the seeds must be dried properly. Sowing of seeds should not be delayed. Seeds stored for more than a year tend to lose their viability. The soil should be pressed properly after the planting.
Propagation method for Growing Lemon Grass:
This Lemon Grass can be propagated through seeds and slips. The seeds which are selected for the propagation should be selected with care such that they are strong and healthy. Seeds which are disease free should be used for propagation. Propagation through slips is called vegetative propagation.
Manure and fertilization method in Growing Lemon Grass:
At the time of land preparation the field should be supplied with farmyard manure. The land should be provided with micronutrients. Proper amounts of nutrients like Nitrogen: Phosphorous: Potassium should be applied to the fields. If there is any requirement of micronutrients, then we should provide them to the main field in proper quantities. Before this, a soil test should be done, to know the requirements of the soil and its fertility level.
Irrigation methods in Growing Lemon Grass:
After transplanting, the first irrigation should be given. Less irrigation should be supplied in rainy season. In the field, there should not be too much of water logging as it will harm the root development. Drainage channels should be properly constructed. In summer, 4 – 6 irrigation cycles are required for the field. If there is irregular rainfall then as per the moisture in the field, irrigation must be given. In summer, for every 3 days irrigation should be given. In regular cases it should be given in about 7 – 10 days interval. For irrigating the field drip or sprinklers are most preferable.
Flowering of Growing Lemon Grass:
When we take a close look of the Lemon Grass we can find the flowers; stalks of the flower are similar to the ornamental grass and bamboo because Lemon Grass belongs to the same family. On the flower stalks there will be several seed heads. When we rub the leaves, then the aroma of the Lemon Grass flower comes out.
Intercultural methods in Growing Lemon Grass:
Weeding: After 3 – 4 months of planting, crop should be kept weed free. The unnecessary weeds should be removed from the field as they can harm the crop by spreading the pests and diseases. These can be controlled by using the herbicides.
Intercropping: Lemon Grass farm can be used for intercropping with crops like cashew, mango, and coconut. Regularly it is intercropped by cinnamon plantations. Intercropping is widely practiced during the initial stages (4 – 5 years) of lemon grass cultivation.
Mulching: By mulching, weeds can be controlled and soil moisture could also be retained.
Pruning: This process of facilitating air flow in between the plants by removing the dead branches and leaves. The occurrence of diseases can also be reduced by pruning the diseased parts of the plant.
Pest and diseases control measures in Growing Lemon Grass:
The pests that affect the Lemon Grass crops are Nematodes and Stem Boring Caterpillar.
Control for pest:
- By spraying the application of Fenamiphos @ 11.2 kg per hectare, nematodes can be controlled.
- The stem boring caterpillar pest intensity can be controlled by spraying the application of Folidol E 605.
The diseases that attack the Lemon Grass crop are Little Leaf, Leaf Blight and Red Leaf Spot.
Control of disease:
- The Little leaf disease can be controlled by spraying Dithane Z – 78 @ 0.3% per liter of water before the flowering stage at an interval of 10 – 12 days.
- By spraying Dithane Z – 78 @ 0.2% or 0.3% at an interval of 15 days, the leaf blight diseases can be controlled.
- The intensity of the Red leaf spot can be controlled by spraying two times of Bavistin 0.1% per liter of water at an interval of 20 days.
Harvesting techniques in Growing Lemon Grass:
Flowers for Lemon Grass bloom in winter season. After transplanting the seedlings, it takes 4 – 6 months for the first harvest. The next harvest could be done at an interval of 60 – 70 days as it depends upon the soil fertility and other seasonal factors. Three times the harvests are possible in the first year itself. Subsequently, in further years, it may increase to 3 – 4 times a year, but it also depends on the care and management practices. Harvesting is done using sharp sickles.
Post harvesting techniques in Growing Lemon Grass:
- Leaves should be allowed to wilt for 24 hours before the distillation process.
- After the leaves dry, they should be sent for further processing.
- They should be distilled and purified.
- The oil should be extracted from the grass by using any purifying methods.
- By using steam distillation, oil should be extracted.
Purification of Oil:
- The particles which are insoluble should be removed from the oil through filtration.
- Anhydrous sodium sulphate should be mixed.
- Then it should be kept for 4 – 5 hours or for an overnight for purification.
- If the oil colour is yellow then it is fine, if at all the colour changes due to the rust, then it should be cleaned by using the steam rectification process.
Storing and Packing:
- Oil should be stored in containers or bottles made up of stainless steel or aluminium.
- Oil should be packed and kept under the right conditions.
- The containers which are used for storing should be kept away from the direct heat or sunlight.
- They should be kept in shady areas.
- As the oil and herb both have high demand, some leaves should be kept aside for selling them at market with high demand.
Yield in Growing Lemon Grass:
In a hectare of land the average yield of Lemon Grass is 25 – 30 Tonnes. From this yield we could expect 80 kg of oil.