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Low-intensity ginseng cultivation.

Periodically one sees ads for ginseng seed with the boast of up to $50,000 or more per acre - and they are technically correct. However, this would be gross (not net) for highly experienced commercial growers, after from 6-10 years of effort, using intense cultivation, with a lot of luck and with roots selling for high prices.

Most commercial ginseng plantations are in Wisconsin with about 500-600 acres planted each year under artificial shade, at an establishment cost of up to $30,000 per acre.

Ginseng seeds sell for about $125 per pound with about 8,000 seeds to the pound. Two to three pounds per acre are required for intensive planting.

Ginseng grows best in humus-rich, loose soil with good drainage, about 80 percent shade and preferably a north or east slope - conditions which are very suitable for hardwoods such as oaks or hickories. If you have woodlands which grow ginseng naturally, a supplemental income may be practical at far less effort than intensive cultivation.

One method would be to scatter one or two ounces of stratified (second year.) seeds per acre throughout the woodlands each year. The plants would receive no cultivation or fertilization in the hope that a percentage make it to harvest.

Besides planting seeds, other annual care would be removing seed clusters on plants not ready for harvest to promote root growth. (You will have to determine if producing seeds is more feasible than purchasing them).

Wild ginseng is considered an endangered species in at least 31 states which prohibit its harvest. Thus, be sure to check with the appropriate state agency to ensure the legality of woodsplanted ginseng plots.

You are unlikely to get rich on low-intensity ginseng cultivation. However, if 300 high-quality roots can be obtained per acre per year, net return would be about the same as for an average corn crop at far less effort.

Two words of caution: Keep quiet about a managed ginseng crop as human predators are one of the leading causes of crop loss; and try to obtain seeds from the same climatic and soil type area.
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Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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