Commercial Mint Farming
Peppermint is easily established in sunny climate with good results. The fresh/dried leaves or essential oils has many industrial applications. Peppermint is essentially a sterile hybrid therefore propagation is done through cutting, runners or root stocking.
Once the plant is established commercial peppermint farmers will obtain products for many years. Commercial mint farming focuses on essential oil extraction for various industries.
It is essential for farmers to choose local stock best adapted to their climate and market. Highly resistant to climatic conditions peppermint plant is easy to grow.
Normal farming methods of fertilization, weeding are practiced. Including planting or crop rotation, irrigation for best results. Other considerations are first cut, harvesting, essential oil distillation, storage facility and marketing.
Peppermint crop is a hybrid mint indigenous to Middle East and Europe. Although there are 25 species only one is used for peppermint. The plant is used for culinary purpose or industrial applications.
Commonly used in medicinal products it is prevalent in toothpaste because of the menthol. The herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant grows maximum of 4cm wide,3.5 in long and bear fibrous roots.
Peppermint has purple flowers is sterile and only propagated vegetative though rootstock runners. Commercial cultivars are clone 80-121-33, mitcham Ribecourt 19, Zefir and Dulgo. Others are Bulgarian population #2, Todd’s#x2019, Todd’s Mitcham, Clone 11-6-22 and Mitcham Digne 38.
Different types of peppermint plant
There are 4 varieties of peppermint original wild plant Black Mitcham and three developed verity Murray Mitcham, Todds Mitcham and Robert’s Mitcham.
Types grown for their essential oil are Scotch spearmint (Mentha cardiac), American spearmint (Mentha spincata), peppermint (Mentha piperita). Scotch peppermint is used for flavor in dental toothpaste.
Uses of peppermint
Peppermint is used for it oil, dried or fresh leaves in production of many products. Common products include carbonated drinks, detergents and soaps.
Other applications are found in the tobacco industry, essential oil industry, perfumes, food and cosmetics. Commercial production focuses on essential oil extraction for various industries.
- carbonated drinks
- tobacco industry
- essential oil industry
Mint pests and diseases
Mint diseases include mint rust, verticillium wilt, anthracnose, septoria leaf spot, and fusarium crownroot. They suffer from root lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus penetrans).
Insects or mites are mint flea beetle (longitarsus waterhousei), Mint bud mite. More are corn borer, cutworms, spotted spider mite, mint looper, variegated cutworm.
- mint rust
- verticillium wilt
- septoria leaf spot
- fusarium crownroot
- root lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus penetrans)
- mint flea beetle (longitarsus waterhousei)
- mint bud mite
- corn borer
- spotted spider mite
- mint looper
- variegated cutworm
How to grow Peppermint Commercially
Commercial Mint Farming
Commercial mint farming involves investment in mechanization, acre, labor, and equipment. Initially grown as short term perennial crop will later established as meadow crop. Minimum requirements for long term commercial production is 250 -300 acres.
Mint requires loose soil texture, abundant moisture, irrigation and at least 15 hours in midsummer. The roots are shallow and require soil with well drained mineral soil, high water table and high presence of organic matter. Soil PH level is 5.5 -6.5, potassium 400p/acre, phosphorous 100p/acre.
Planting and irrigation
They require bright sun/warm temperature to grow optimally. Avoid water logged area however the crop require high water management. Irrigate appropriately, control water table and plant in mineral rich soil.
Propagation is through rootstock of a parent plant. There are two ways to propagate mint crop from establish nursery beds or harvest rootstock from existing field.
Highly perishable 4 inch rootstock is established within 24 hours. The amount of rootstock needed for an acre depends on soil condition, row width etc. Work the field lightly, use herbicides and maintain 35 inch rows the first year.
Maintenance involves adequate weeding, introduction of herbicides, use of supplementary nitrogen.
Time line for 2 years old meadow mint is crop planting early march. By April herbicide is applied before emergence of crop. In May herbicide is applied and chlorothalnil for mint rust.
June apply herbicide then July/august use malathion for flea beetle. By October clean plow and fertilize then in November cover crop in muck soil.
Things that affect oil yield are environmental conditions, crop verity, weather, water, nutrient rich soil. At vegetative maturity when peppermint crop is in full bloom optimum oil yield is attained. First crop year produces substantial oil yield then later years.
Harvesting involves cutting the mint and left to partially dry for 24 hours. Cured mint is transported to the distillery through a portable tub. Then it is collected and distilled for maximum oil production.
Distillery equipment are a receiver, condenser, pressure stem boiler. Others are re-distillation unit, portable table distillation tube. To extract the oil steam is applied then mixed oil/steam goes through condenser. The oil is sold to buyers who further refine or blend before selling.
- pressure stem boiler
- re-distillation unit
- portable table distillation tube
Post production and pest management
Farmers generally rotate mint crop after 4-5 years of harvesting. They grow new crop to start the process. Mint is susceptible to different pests, insects and diseases. Therefore introduction of herbicides, pesticides is mandatory for healthy yield.
Other management practices is crop rotation, weeding, tillage, planting of hardened verity. There are different types of weeds that affect mint production, common ones are perennial weeds, pigweed species, annual weeds and grasses. Control measure include chemical weed control and non-chemical weed control measures.