Lemongrass has high economic value because of the strong lemon odor used in many applications. The tall sedge aromatic grass is found in many countries.
It grows in tropical and subtropical regions of India, South East Asia and Africa. Some farmers invest in high quality commercial cultivation of the grass.
Description and Origin
The grass is native to Australia, East India and South East Asia. The grass has short rhizomes and dense fascicle leaves. The leaves are linear taper upwards along margins are green, glacucous and long.
The south Indian verity is a short day plant that produces profuse flowers. The flowers are found on decompound spatheate. Lemongrass also features a meter in long inflorescence spike.
Cultivation of Lemongrass
Top producers are Australia, Thailand, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Vietnam. Others are Southern Asia, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Nepal. More are Africa, Madagascar, New Guinea, Bangladesh, and Oman
There are many species of lemon grass such as the cymbopogon dependens, calcicola,distans, gidarba. Others are cymbopogon coloratus, gigantus, exertus, ambiguous, obtectus and rectus.
Uses of Lemongrass
The economic importance of lemongrass is the lemon like odor it produces. The oil is used in many products and applications. The high prevalence of citrus oil produces a strong scent used in the manufacture of detergent, soap.
It is common in insect repellent preparations, cosmetic products perfumes and beverages. The citrus oil have flavoring properties is used to manufacture ionone, germicides and traditional medicine.
- Insect repellent
- Cosmetic products
The costs are land development, drip, irrigation and cultivation. Irrigation cost are pump, electrical installation submersible pump.
Others are labor, agricultural equipment and storage. More includes land development projects, fencing, digging and soil leveling. Cultivation costs are insecticide and planting material.
- Land development
- Drip system
- Electrical installation
- Submersible pump
- Agricultural equipment
- Land development projects
- Soil leveling
- Planting material
The ideal temperature to grow lemon grass is 10-33C, sowing temperature of 20-27 degree. The average rainfall is 250-280cm and harvesting temperature is 30-34 degree.
The grass is hardy and grows in variety of soil composition. It grows easily in loamy soil, alluvial soil and sandy soil. Avoid growing on waterlogged soil or soil with poor drainage.
The production is through rain-fed grass or irrigation. Ideal soil condition is marginal soil and alkaline soils. The soil PH level is from 9.6, grow in medium fertile soil and requires moderate irrigation.
The grass grow in tropical and sub-tropical regions, well-drained sandy loam soil conditions. Ideal weather condition is warm humid 300cm rainfall per year and adequate sun. Waterlogged soil would kill the grass and the crop is susceptible to certain pest and diseases.
Lemon grass can be vegetable propagated or raised via seeds. Propagation through seeding is encouraged and a plant can produce 150 g seeds. They flower November and seeds mature in 2 months.
Nursery operators cut the inflorescence and dry in sun for 3 days then thresh. Seeds dried still attached to mass and removed by beating the seed bag.
The dry seeds are durable in storage and last eight months. Vegetable propagation is by splitting the clumps then spaced 60 x 70cm.
The seeds are a sown by hand in beds 1m x 1.5m width. 2.5 kg seeds can produce enough seedlings for 1ha land or at a rate of 4kg/ha.
The seeds are sown and covered with top soil then watered immediately. It is important to maintain soil moisture in nursery. The seeds germinate in 6 days and are ready for transplanting in 2 months.
Plant on ridges in area with high rainfall and adequate sun. Space the seedlings 40 x 40 cm apart and water immediately or establish an irrigation schedule.
Introduce nitrogen, zinc sulphate to soil with low fertility. Hand hoe, weed to remove competing plants and apply herbicide as specified.
Pests and Diseases
Lemon grass are susceptible to different pests and diseases. Common pests are nematodes and stem boring caterpillar. Diseases include leaf blight, grassy shoot and leaf blight.
- Stem boring caterpillar
- Leaf blight
- Grassy shoot
- Leaf blight
Harvesting and Post-Harvest
Harvesting is done 6 months from planting the seedlings. The post-harvest management involves drying, distilling and oil purification. Other post activities are storage and packaging of oil.
The grass is cultivated worldwide and has huge demand. The top producers of lemon grass are Bangladesh, Mexico, china, Guatemala and India.
In India the grass is grown on 3,000 ha area while world production of lemon grass exceeds 600 t/annum. China export amount to 600t of substitute oil while India is largest producer of lemon grass.
Other exporters include japan, United States of America, and Western Europe.