Author Topic: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?  (Read 16778 times)

Offline timbo

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Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« on: July 19, 2013, 06:36:42 PM »
Please bear with me but, It's my understanding that cultivated roots grow fast , four years or so , but are not well ringed or formed. How come they can't space them further apart and let them go longer. Is the artificial environment become to clogged with nutrients or some such? This leads me to my next question , why don't cultivated growers plant rows of trees to plant under. here in NY maples grow like weeds and would be ready in about five years if large saplings were planted.

Offline Brad

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2013, 09:25:02 PM »
I like the way you think!

You are correct.  Farm raised cultivated ginseng is normally harvested at four years of age.  There are several reasons, but I think it ultimately boils down to risk.  Shade costs about $10,000 per acre.  Then add seeding at about 80-100 lbs per acre, nurse crop seeding, growing clean straw to avoid weed problems, spraying for weeds, spraying for disease, irrigation, drainage where necessary, fumigation, and many other incidentals such as labor, and you can see ginseng farming is a big money game. 

One of the key components is that ginseng farmers will not grow ginseng where it has grown before.  Replant failure is a mystery for the most part, although there are theories.  If you are putting the kind of money in they are, and must wait and fight disease and weather for four years to recover any of it, you would not do anything that jeopardizes your chance of a good return either.  So, once you grow ginseng on a field, you rend new ground or buy a new farm.  That gets very expensive.

The farmers I know work with potato growers.  Sometimes the potatoes go in before most always after ginseng.  They often grow their rye which they use for straw mulch before the ginseng on the same fields.

So, planting trees might cause more trouble than it is worth for a lot of reasons.

Now, more generally, they fertilize farm raised plants to death.  They are very big and very smooth.  But, cultivated ginseng is not the same market at all as wild ginseng.  The two go by very different standards.  Big chunky roots that are not branched is good for cultivated ginseng.

I"m sort of in a hurry at the moment, and guess I might have rambled a bit...if I didn't really get to the heart of your question, just point me in the right direction and I'll give it another shot   ;)

Offline timbo

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2013, 09:27:27 AM »
No , thats fine. I am new to this and don't mean to sound like I am going to re-invent the wheel. I am sure growers have thought ( and tried) many of these things I have mentioned. I think I may try to plant a half dozen rows of maple and ash and try planting between them in four or five years. I need some low shade on the west side of my woods where I intend to plant anyway. I love to experiment with growing things anyhow.
So if I understand you as far as you know the main reason is economics and ease of cultivation. Trees would get in the way? It seems to me trees may absorb the excess nutrients to keep the soil biology healthy. Has Cornell or anyone done studies on this subject?

Offline Brad

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2013, 03:43:41 PM »
I am not sure about studies on those specific topics.

Yes, i think trees get in the way.  Consider this, commercial ginseng farmers may use ground for 4 or 5 years before it is ready to be planted in ginseng.  Then, they care for the ginseng for 3-6 years. I've seen them leave particularly healthy fields in the ground longer if there is no disease...and those larger, older roots command very high prices in the cultivated world.  On the other hand, I've seen them dig at 3 years rather to lose the rest of the field to a troublesome disease.

In any event, they are going to use the ground for ginseng relatively only a very short time.  So, if you take top notch clear farmland and plant trees on it, you effectively lower its value for other uses or sale/rent after the ginseng is done.

Offline timbo

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2013, 04:35:57 PM »
Yeah I see your point. From what I've been reading it seems there isn't a very bright future for cultivated ginseng in North America. What with falling prices and competition from everywhere. Do the Koreans have the same trouble with cultivated ginseng? Do they grow panax or the North American strain?

Offline Brad

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2013, 05:54:32 AM »
Actually, there are several varieties of Panax, one of which is Panax quinquefolius...North American Ginseng.

In reality, the price for cultivated root is at the highest in recent history right now.  I talked to a friend in Ontario late last year and he was still holding his 2011 crop as well as the 2012 crop.  The 2012 crop was light and not as high quality as they are accustomed to seeing.  I talked to him again in February, and he has sold all his ginseng at around the $30-32 mark.  In recent history, $25-28/lb is about what cultivated ginseng was going for.  However, some very nice selections were still selling for as high as 32$.

I talked to my friend again in April, and found that the buyers for the first time ever as far as I am aware, were buying the 2013 crop before it was even harvested and the price was up to $42/lb.  I talked to him again this week and the price is now at $50/lb.  I talked to the Wisconsin Cooperative and the remaining ginseng they have from 2013 is priced between $68 and $83/lb.

My understanding is that everyone has the same issues with replant failure.  I read somewhere that Korean growers leave the ground idle for 17 years after a harvest.  I've tried replanting beds after about 5 years and have had dismal results.

Offline timbo

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2013, 01:06:09 PM »
Does any one have any theories on what is going on to cause these toxin build-up? Do the Korean farms use the same fungicides and pesticides etc? Why is cultivated root climbing? Recent transplant problem you cited , market speculation, or all of the above? I had thought of maybe putting up a hoop type greenhouse with shade cloth , but I really don't like useing fungicides , pesticides , and artificial fertilizers.  It seems that being my case i  probably should not do cultivated ginseng or it would just be a waste of time. Wild simulated and woods grown sound like the way for me.

Offline Brad

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2013, 05:33:08 PM »
If you have an area in which ginseng will grow, wild simulated is the ticket.  Woodsgrown allows you to apply some agricultural practices such as bed preparation, weeding and spraying of fungicides.  I would still advise to never use fertilizer.

I raise ginseng under shade on a very small scale.  My SELECT roots are an example.  I never fertilize them.  They are bigger normally than their woodsgrown brethren, but they also have some wild character to them.  I think not fertilizing is the key.  I like raised beds because I can simply empty them and start with new soil after harvest or a devastating disease problem.


I am not sure that replant failure has anything to do with toxins at all.  In fact, my theory has to do with the spread of fungal disease through tilled soil, and the allelopathic tendencies of ginseng.  Some research I looked at for the book had indicated ginseng is possibly allelopathic (won't let other plants grow nearby).  In the case of ginseng this seems to be possible at times and not possible in others.  I think there is a combination of things going on.

I can't say for sure why the price of cultivated is climbing so quickly at the moment.  I suspect the high prices of wild root the last few years, coupled with weather induced issues with seed, supply, and quality of what supply there is are all part of the picture.

Offline timbo

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2013, 10:11:24 PM »
Sounds like a likely theory. I just purchased your book Brad. Thought it might save you some time bringing me up to speed. It was the coupon thing that got me. I was going to buy some seed and roots from you anyhow so we'll see what your coupons will do for our budget. Hey I have an old trampoline and it always killed the grass underneath. It also had a kid catcher side curtain. I bet that would make a dandy shade spot wouldn't it?

Offline Brad

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2013, 11:06:22 PM »
Thanks Timbo,

Yes, its possible if it gets enough light and the soil conditions are good.  About 78% shade is idea according to most growers.  It wouldn't hurt to try.

Offline timbo

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2013, 05:49:28 PM »
I think I might. I have more sunny spots on my property than shady ones. I think i may use the trampoline as a cultivated root starting experiment. As I mentioned previously I deal in locust wood , fence posts , hop poles ,lumber etc. For a living I am a timber framer barn repair guy so I have the tools and knowhow to put up shade at little to no out of pocket cost (except for time) . I like the idea of the quicker pay-off for cultivated root as well. In the mean time I will plant my woods and learn more about the trade.

Offline Brad

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2013, 06:54:47 PM »
Sounds like a good idea.  I think this year I too and going to put in some full blown cultivated beds.  If nothing else, as an experiement and also to produce seed.

Offline timbo

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2013, 07:06:08 PM »
I watched a Youtube video of a Wisconsin grow - op. I think it was a ginseng co-op joint. It smacked of propaganda , but was pretty interesting. There mechanized approach really cranks out a lot of root. It kind of made it more obvious why they have so many problems. Any mono cultures would. I would like to see how a smaller scaled organic grower goes about things. I think i would learn more that would apply to how I would want to approach it. Those commercial guys on the video were producing pretty nice root and lots of them.

Offline Brad

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Re: Why can't you grow a good root under artificial shade?
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2013, 08:05:24 PM »
I don't know about Wisconsin, but the guys I know in Ontario are running around 4000-6000 lbs per acre.  (and its bigger and higher quality than the Wisconsin root I've seen)