Y:\special forest products 98 proceedings\23 a hankins.wpd

Producing and Marketing Wild Simulated Ginseng in Forest and Agroforestry
Andy Hankins2
ABSTRACT: Current prices paid for American ginseng in world markets, vary from $320 to $10 per pound of dried
roots. The highest prices are paid for dried roots of wild ginseng. The lowest prices are paid for roots that are cultivated
under artificial shade. A wide range of other prices are paid for ginseng depending on whether the roots resemble wild
roots or whether they resemble cultivated roots. Income potential of forested lands may be increased by establishing
naturalized populations of American ginseng. These wild-simulated ginseng plants produce dried roots that have a wild
appearance and sell at high prices.
constant reports about the low prices being paid forcultivated ginseng crops grown in Wisconsin. On the American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium L.) is a other hand wild ginseng sells for over $300 a pound familiar plant to many people in the Southern and the market demand in the Orient for wild roots is Appalachian region. For several generations, practically unlimited. That market demand and price “digging sang” has been an enjoyable and profitable activity for many mountain people. Americanginseng is native to many states east of the Within this paper, a case will be made for a system Mississippi River. It prefers a cool, temperate of growing ginseng called “wild simulated ginseng climate and is only found in the mountainous production.” Using this production system, regions of the Southeastern states. It also grows landowners may establish naturalized populations of naturally in the Eastern provinces of Canada.
wild American ginseng, on the forest floor, in their Ginseng is a tender perennial. The first frosts of fall privately owned woodlands. A natural stand of kill the leafy top but a new top grows up the undisturbed wild ginseng renews itself by self following Spring from an underground bud on the seeding. Careful harvest of mature plants can take perennial root. It takes seven or eight years for place in wild simulated ginseng patches, without American ginseng plants to grow to maturity in a taking the site out of production. Young seedling ginseng plants will just grow up to take their place.
A carefully managed stand of naturalized American American ginseng is a complicated crop for forest ginseng may produce income for several decades. farmers to understand because it can be grown inseveral different production systems. There also is Cultivated Versus Wild Ginseng
great variation in market demand and prices paid forthe various grades of dried roots. It also is a In 1997, wild dried roots of ginseng sold for as much controversial plant. Wild harvest has depleted the as $425 per pound. That price has doubled in the last natural populations to such a degree that it has ten years. In 1997, quite a few pounds of cultivated become threatened with extinction in certain regions.
dried ginseng roots sold for $10 per pound. That Ginseng has a reputation as an aphrodisiac which price has been reduced by 75% in the last ten years.
has made it a comical rather than a credible plant. It Why should there be such a difference in the prices is not easy to grow. A great deal of failure has paid for wild and cultivated ginseng? Most of the occurred, in the past, by landowners who casually ginseng, grown or gathered from the wild in the scatter ginseng seeds in their woods hoping to get United States, is exported to oriental countries for rich without doing any work. The ginseng market is sale. Hong Kong has traditionally absorbed the bulk sort of disorganized. Certain dealers try to buy of North American ginseng, accounting for a ginseng at low prices so they can sell it at high consistent 80% of all purchases of unprocessed root prices. The threat of human theft has made ginseng (Bozak and Bailey, 1995). Ginseng growers and production impractical in certain regions. There are gatherers in the U. S. and Canada produce about four 1Paper presented at the North American Conference on Enterprise Development Through Agroforestry: Farming the Agroforest for Specialty Products(Minneapolis, MN, October 4-7, 1998)2Extension specialist - Alternative Agriculture, Box 9081, Virginia State University, Petersburg, VA 23806 million of dried roots for export to the Orient each shade in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang Provinces.
year. Apparently the Chinese people prefer wild The Chinese ginseng experts told them that they ginseng over cultivated because it more closely have been buying American ginseng seed from resembles the revered wild Asian ginseng (Panax Canada for the past 20 years. The Chinese have ginseng C. A. Meyer). This Asian species has been become very adept at growing excellent quality an important component of Chinese folk medicine cultivated American ginseng roots. Officials from for over 4000 years (Konsler, 1983). The Chinese the People’s Republic of China - Ministry of believe that the slower growing wild roots, which Agriculture told the American visitors that China are harvested at an older age, absorb more curative will be self- sufficient in American ginseng by the power from the forest floor (Persons, 1994).
year 2000 (Hankins, 1997). That is cultivated Scientific laboratory tests are not used to determine American ginseng. China will not be self-sufficient the value of ginseng roots in China. Over the in wild American ginseng. All of the ginseng Cooke, centuries, the Oriental buyers have developed an Hankins and Scott saw in China was growing under elaborate grading system based on the visual artificial shade. During hard times in the past, the Chinese cut down most of their forests to heat theirhomes and for cooking. The forested lands that are Anyone who knows ginseng can easily tell the so abundant in the U. S. do not exist to any large difference between wild and cultivated roots. The degree in China. Without access to hardwood wild roots are dark tan in color, gnarled in forests, they do not have the capability to establish appearance and show many concentric growth rings.
naturalized populations of American ginseng. They are often forked. Some of them resemble thebody of a man. Wild roots are generally small in size When ginseng is grown in an open field under and light in weight. One distinctive characteristic of artificial shade, a lot of the stressful conditions a wild root is a long neck. The cultivated roots are which wild ginseng plants must face are eliminated.
cream colored, smooth and fat and exhibit few Cultivated ginseng does not have to compete with concentric growth rings. Cultivated roots are often woodland plants for nutrients or water. Under large and heavy. They are most often shaped like a intense cultivation the roots quickly grow to a size carrot. Ginseng grown from cultivated seed will suitable for harvest. Four year old roots are very commonly harvested. Yields as high as 2,500pounds of dried root per acre have been reported.
Approximately two million pounds of ginseng were Establishment costs for one acre of ginseng beds, grown in intensive cultivation under artificial shade under wood lath shade or under polypropylene shade in Wisconsin in 1994. Ginseng cultivation has been cloth, varies from $20,000 to $30,000 depending practiced there since 1900. In 1994, production in upon the current prices of materials needed. Ontario, Canada exceeded one and one-half millionpounds. In 1994, production in British Columbia The greatest problem associated with intensely exceeded one-half million pounds (Bozak and cultivated ginseng is disease control. Alternaria Bailey). In 1994, artificial shade grown roots were blight is the most widespread fungus disease.
selling for $30 to $40 per pound. In 1995, artificial Damping off is a common disease of seedlings. In shade grown roots sold for $18 to $30 per pound. In soils that do not have adequate drainage, actual root 1996, artificial shade grown roots sold for $10 to rotting can be caused by Phytophthora cactorum and $22 per pound. In 1997, artificial shade grown roots other fungal organisms. Any disease outbreaks sold for $6 to $18 per pound (Persons, 1998).
severely threaten ginseng under intense cultivation Current prices are below the costs of production.
because the plants are so close together that the The artificial shade cultivated ginseng industry in disease can quickly spread through the entire bed.
This intense fungus disease pressure forces artificialshade growers to use a vigorous spray schedule to One of the primary reasons for declining prices of prevent losses. Many ginseng consumers worldwide cultivated American ginseng is increased production have begun to learn about these fungicide in China. The author traveled to the famous ginseng applications and most do not like them. Ginseng is a production regions of Northeast China in 1996 with medicinal herb taken to improve a person’s health.
two Extension Agents from West Virginia David The presence of pesticide residues on the roots or Cooke and John Scott. They saw hundreds of acres within the roots, in the case of systemic fungicides, of American ginseng being grown under artificial is a severe drawback. This concern is certainly a factor in the price decline for cultivated roots. taken from the forest floor from a north facinghillside in Virginia is 4.5. In the past, growers have Production Of Wild Simulated Ginseng
been told to treat soil, with a pH that low, with limeto try to bring the soil pH up to 5.5 to 6.0 for A method called wild simulated cultivation can be ginseng production. Recent research by Bob Beyfuss used to grow ginseng without fungicide sprays and in Greene County, New York, calls this practice into expensive establishment costs. The prices paid for question. Mr. Beyfuss is an Extension Agent with ginseng grown under wild simulated cultivation are Cornell Cooperative Extension who has a very normally the same as prices paid for wild ginseng strong interest in ginseng. In 1996, he recruited a roots. Ginseng production is very risky. The chosen team of ginseng hunters to assist him in a soil site may not be suitable for good growth. The crop research program with wild ginseng. He asked these may be stolen. Rodents may destroy the roots. The wild ginseng diggers to take soil tests wherever they market price may fall. Plant diseases will almost found patches of wild ginseng growing well out in certainly occur. On the other hand, if the right the woods. He got back 70 soil samples from them. conditions can be found, wild simulated ginsengproduction can provide income for persons who Mr. Beyfuss was surprised at the soil test results that have patience, perseverance and discretion. It is also came from this study. He said in his report, “The most interesting and puzzling result of the analysiswas the positive correlation of very low pH and very Site Selection
high levels of Calcium. This is the exact opposite ofwhat would be expected in mineral soils. Theaverage pH for these samples was 5.0 + or - 0.7.
To grow wild simulated ginseng, the first step is site Soils that are strongly acid such as this usually have selection. The most favorable temperature and soil calcium levels in the range of 1000 to 2000 pounds moisture conditions generally are associated with per acre or less. The average calcium levels in these north or east facing slopes with at least a 75 per cent samples (where ginseng was growing well) was shade canopy. That is dense shade. The best shade is 4014 + or - 1679. It is my suspicion that this provided by deciduous trees such as poplars and abnormality may, in fact, be the key to the limited oaks. Ginseng grows best in a moist well-drained range of healthy populations of wild ginseng.
soil. Successful growth of ginseng most often occurs Duplicating this soil condition may be the key to in sites where other herbaceous woodland plants are successfully cultivating American ginseng in a growing. Plants that indicate a good place to grow ginseng include Jack-in-the pulpit, bloodroot,Solomon’s seal, jewel weed, galax, trillium, wild At the same time that Bob Beyfuss was testing the yam, hepatica, Black cohosh, wild ginger and ferns.
soils under wild ginseng stands in New York, a Plant In certain soils ginseng even grows well in Pest Specialist with the North Carolina Department association with poison ivy. If no herbaceous plants of Agriculture, named Jim Corbin, was conducting are growing on the forest floor, ginseng will similar research in the Great Smoky Mountains probably not grow there. Excellent soil drainage is National Park in Western North Carolina and East essential. A swampy soil or a heavy clay soil must Tennessee. He conducted soil analysis from several wild ginseng stands and reported that “In ginseng,calcium deficiencies can be seen in stunted plants Soil Management For Wild Simulated
that lack general vigor, growth buds are smaller and Ginseng Crops
more fragile. In good ginseng stands calcium on aper acre basis is consistently higher than in the other Once a potential site has been identified, a soil test stand categories, and within these stands there was should be taken. Dig up soil from at least six spots better plant diversity, less disease and a larger stem on the slope, mix it together in a plastic bucket and height in mature plants.” (Corbin, 1997) take the soil to your local Extension office so it canbe mailed to the state soil test laboratory for These two reports have caused controversy among analysis. When the soil test results come back, the ginseng growers and researchers. The new idea is to most important numbers to look at for ginseng are apply gypsum (Calcium sulphate) to soils for the soil pH, available calcium (Ca) and available ginseng rather than lime (Calcium carbonate) which phosphorus (P). A typical pH from a soil sample has been used in the past. The reasoning behind this is that the gypsum will add calcium but will not raise November. Ginseng can not be planted in the the soil pH. Rates as high as 5 pounds of gypsum per Spring. The stratification requirements for ginseng force everyone to plant in the fall. Seed needs to recommended to bring the calcium levels up to 4000 come out of the stratification box and into the soil lbs. per acre. There are strong suspicions, among after twelve months. If the seeds are left in several ginseng experts, that ginseng diseases, like stratification for a longer time to accommodate Phytophthora root rot, may be suppressed by acid Spring planting, the seeds will sprout inside of the soil conditions. There are strong suspicions, among stratification box and will be useless. Some growers the same group, that applications of lime to bring the make the mistake of planting ginseng seeds in soil pH up, may lead to increased disease problems.
September and in October before the trees lose their Unfortunately, these suspicions have not been tested leaves. The problem with this practice is that the by replicated research studies. A few concerns about falling leaves form a mulch on the forest floor that heavy applications of gypsum have been voiced by may be too deep for the germinating ginseng soil scientists. They are worried that growers may seedlings to grow through. Fall planted seeds lie in throw the soil fertility out of balance if they apply the soil until the following April. When they too much gypsum. Clearly, controlled research germinate, they can grow up through an inch or two studies need to be conducted as soon as possible. of leaves but they can not grow up through four orfive inches of leaf mulch, which may accumulate in The other soil nutrient that ginseng growers should monitor is phosphorus. In 1978, Dr. Tom Konslerinitiated a four year study to measure ginseng root There are presently about 20 commercial sources of growth response to P additions to the low P soils American ginseng seed. Most seed is sold by found at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research experienced ginseng growers who have developed Station in Fletcher, N. C. Dr. Konsler found positive large-scale ginseng farms. Beginning growers should correlation of root weight with phosphorus additions. He also found that ginseng plants took up experienced growers have bought seed at one time or calcium more readily in soils that had available another that failed to germinate in the Spring after phosphorus so the interrelationship is important fall planting. Growers are advised not to buy cheap (Konsler, 1990). Growers should amend their low P seed. It is rarely a good deal. A great deal of soils so that at least 95 lbs. per acre of actual meticulous care is required to successfully produce phosphorus is available (Persons, 1994).
viable, stratified ginseng seeds. Seed producers whodo the job the right way are not likely to sell their In the wild-simulated method, there is no tillage of seeds at cheap prices. Most seed producers like to the soil. Many persons recommend planting “woods sell their stratified seed in advance. To be assured of grown” ginseng in tilled up, raised beds, in the the best seed, growers should order and pay for woods, under a natural canopy of shade. That ginseng seeds in July or August. Once the seeds are method certainly can be used for production of paid for, delivery can be postponed until the middle ginseng but growers should not expect to receive of October. Growers who wait until the middle of high prices for roots produced in tilled beds.
October to buy ginseng seeds are likely to receive Ginseng roots harvested from tilled beds look like poor quality seeds from the “bottom of the barrel”.
cultivated roots rather than wild roots. Prices paid When purchased ginseng seeds are received, they for this kind of ginseng range from $30 to $100 per should be stored in the refrigerator. They usually pound of dried roots. Since there is no tillage of the come in zip lock plastic bags. The seeds in the bags soil, with wild simulated ginseng crops all fertilizers should be misted with water once a week until they are applied on the soil surface. Applications of are planted. A pound of ginseng seeds contains gypsum and/or rock phosphate may have to made about 6500 seeds. If the seed ever dries out it will every two or three years. Soil testing should be done die. A good way to check the viability of any every other year to monitor available soil nutrients.
ginseng seed is to dump it in a bucket of water. Allof the good, viable seeds will quickly sink to the Planting
bottom. Any seeds that float on the surface are deadand are worthless for planting.
In the wild simulated method, stratified ginseng seedis planted in the fall after the trees lose their leaves.
It is a good idea to plant ginseng seeds in defined The best month for planting in Virginia is beds that are five feet wide and fifty feet long. The beds should be separated by three foot wide The plants will look like three small strawberry walkways. The beds should run up and down the leaves on a stem about one inch tall. Some of the slope rather than across the slope for better air seeds will not germinate and some will be eaten by drainage around the plants. It is not necessary or rodents. Over the next seven years, the plant desirable to clear undergrowth away from the population in each bed will be reduced every year by planting beds. It is perfectly natural for there to be natural forces. The final stand will be a thin, healthy trees, shrubs and herbaceous weeds growing in the population of wild ginseng plants. In the wild beds that will be planted in ginseng. Wild ginseng simulated method, after planting, no more work is grows in close association with other plants. Plant required until the ginseng roots are dug six to ten diversity decreases fungus disease pressure. This is years later. The ginseng plants are left to the an extensive planting method. If dense patches of vagaries of nature. Weeds on the forest floor will weeds exist on the site, simply avoid them and plant compete with the plants for water and nutrients.
in other areas. It is desirable to disturb the site as Insects and rodents will attack certain plants. Fungus little as possible to reduce spread of fungus diseases.
diseases may defoliate the ginseng plants. Severe Growers are advised not to plant ginseng in close weather may reduce plant growth. All of these proximity to patches of ferns. The roots of ferns stressful conditions result in a wild appearance of the secrete allelopathic chemicals which deter other roots that are eventually harvested. When the plants from growing next to them. Ginseng grows ginseng plants become four or five years old, they well on many hillsides where ferns grow, but not will begin producing red berries that contain ginseng seeds. The plants will self seed and begin newpopulations of ginseng on the ground underneath the One management practice that may increase yields parent plants. This self generation is fine but of ginseng is treating seed before planting. Nearly all growers should not count on it for reliable future stratified seeds purchased from commercial sources crops. Anyone who wants to have ginseng roots to will be contaminated with spores of Alternaria sell every year, should plant a couple pounds of fungus. The disease may spread from contaminated seeds in new beds, every fall, for future harvests.
seed. If stratified seed is soaked in a ten percent This should not be a one time activity.
bleach solution for two minutes, these fungal sporeswill be killed. One cup of Clorox to nine cups ofcold water will be an effective control. The bleachsolution should be rinsed off of the seeds after twominutes. The only tools needed to plant wild simulatedginseng are a rake and a garden hoe. Rake the leaveson the forest floor away from the five foot wide bedright down to the topsoil. Using one corner of thehoe, make three narrow furrows 18 inches apart, all the way down the length of the bed. The furrows should be one inch deep and three inches wide. Plantginseng seeds, by hand, three inches apart in eachfurrow. About one ounce of seeds will be needed toplant three furrows, at this spacing, in a bed that isfive feet wide and fifty feet long. Cover the seedswith 3/4 inch of soil. After planting, carefully stepdown each row to firm the soil around the seeds.
Once the seeds are in the ground, gypsum or rockphosphate may be applied over the surface of thebed as needed. To finish the planting, rake one inchof leaves back over the bed as a mulch. After acouple of rain storms, no one will be able to detectthat any planting has occurred. The site will lookcompletely natural. The stratified seed will germinate the next Spring.
Economic considerations
The costs involved in growing half an acre of wildsimulated ginseng, planted in the method describedbelow, are as follows: rock phosphate (16 -50 lb. Bags at $8.00/bag) miscellaneous - tools, Clorox, heat, phone, etc The income involved in growing half an acre of wildsimulated ginseng depends upon the yield and futureprice. If a low price of $260 per pound of dried rootsis used, income will be: Security measures
landowners will be gone. They will steal as muchginseng from a wild simulated stand as they can dig.
The greatest threat to a crop of wild simulatedginseng is human theft. This problem is most The good news about this theft problem is that one common in regions where many people go out in the man with a shovel can not dig very much wild woods searching for wild ginseng. This activity simulated ginseng in a short period of time. It takes called “hunting sang” is part of the culture of the nearly three hours to dig up three pounds of fresh Southern Appalachian region. Ginseng hunters comb roots that shrink to one pound of dried ginseng.
the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Most thieves are not likely to stay at a growing site Tennessee and North Carolina in late summer any longer than that. A thief could steal all of the looking for ginseng. Most of these ginseng hunters roots in a small patch in one morning but no one are honest people who do not steal and who do not could possibly steal half an acre of wild simulated trespass on private land. A small percentage of the ginseng. Quite a few growers have grown wild ginseng hunters are however, lowlife rogues who simulated ginseng until they first see evidence of will certainly be very excited if they come across a theft. At that point, growers accept the inevitable dense population of plants. These criminals think and go ahead and harvest their ginseng roots.
nothing of property boundaries or “No Trespassing” Usually theft problems do not begin until the signs. They know that they are likely to find more ginseng is somewhat mature so there will probably ginseng on someone’s privately owned land than they will find in the National Forest where the legalgatherers search. They are likely to cross private It is quite possible to grow American ginseng without experiencing any theft problems. It is highlyrecommended that anyone attempting to growginseng this way keep quiet about the enterprise.
There are approximately 300 landowners in Virginia growing ginseng today and they all prefer to remain roots to the next buyer down the road. A grower who anonymous. The wild simulated method of growing has a large volume of roots to sell often will allow ginseng is best practiced on lands that are controlled.
buyers to make bids on his roots to get the highest There are many areas within the native range of price. Some growers sell directly to large herb ginseng in which traffic over private land by hikers companies who buy ginseng for export to the Orient.
is restricted. The crop should not be planted within In a few states, ginseng auctions have been view of any public road or trail. A few loud dogs organized to help both the buyers and the sellers. that sense the presence of strangers can be an Current price information is easy to obtain from excellent deterrent to trespassers. An isolated patch several sources. Marketing wild simulated American of woods fenced off from the cattle in the middle of ginseng roots is easy because market demand is very a large pasture might be a good site to grow ginseng.
strong for this scarce commodity. The only thing a This might be an especially safe location if a couple first time seller has to watch out for is country of those cattle are bulls. American ginseng has even dealers who might try to buy valuable ginseng at a been grown in wood lots, located in suburban low price. Many of these country dealers also buy neighborhoods, without any threat of theft. and sell guns, hunting dogs, furs, used car batteries,etc. They practice the art of trading. If they make a Growers are warned not to become too aggressive in low offer and the grower accepts it, it is his own protecting ginseng crops from thieves. Shooting a gun in the air to scare trespassers away from thewoods is all right but shooting the trespassers even if Literature Citied
the are actively digging the ginseng is not all right.
Ginseng growers who do this will be subject to Beyfuss, R. L. 1997. Ginseng Soil Characterization imprisonment. It is against the law to shoot people and Ecology Study. Cornell Cooperative trespassing on private property unless they break into the home. Growers are also advised not to keepa vicious dog. If the dog injures the ginseng thief, Bozak, G. and Bailey, W. G. 1995. Ginseng the owner of the dog is liable. If the dog injures an Production In North America. Presented at the innocent person, the owner of the dog is liable. International Conference of Ginseng and AlliedPlants, Harbin, People’s Republic of China.
Marketing Wild Simulated Ginseng
Corbin, J. 1997. A Study of American Ginseng in Small farmers who try to grow and sell fruit and vegetables for profit generally have to give a great Tennessee.North Carolina Department of deal of time and attention to marketing. With those crops, it is extremely important to have a buyer linedup before even planting the crop. Seasonal price Hankins, A. 1997. The Chinese Ginseng Industry.
fluctuations can mean the difference between profit The Business of Herbs. Vol. 25. Jemez Springs, and loss. In some years markets become totally flooded with certain kinds of produce and growerscan barely give it away. Vegetable growers often Konsler, T. 1983. Ginseng: A Production Guide For spend long hours at tailgate farmer’s markets trying North Carolina. The North Carolina Agricultural to sell their produce directly to the public. Various Extension Service Pub. AG-323. Raleigh, N. C.
kinds of cooperatives and grower associations havebeen organized to assist vegetable growers with the Konsler, T. 1990. Lime and Phosphorus Effects on American Ginseng: 1. Growth, Soil Fertility,and Root Tissue Nutrient Status Response.
In selling dried roots of wild simulated ginseng, the Journal of American Society for Horticultural situation is totally different. It is hard to find any product that is easier to sell. In Virginia, there are 45certified ginseng buyers spread out across the state.
Persons, S. 1994. American Ginseng: GREEN All that a grower has to do is drive to the buyer’s GOLD. Bright Mountain Books Inc. Asheville, house or store or service station, carry the roots in, watch as they are weighed and accept payment if heagrees with the price that is offered. If the grower Persons, S. 1998. Tuckasegee Valley Ginseng does not like the price that is offered, he can take his Newsletter. Tuckasegee, North Carolina.

Source: http://www.nfs.unl.edu/sites/unl.edu.nebraska-forest-service.nebraska-forest-service/files/documents/SpecialtyForest/Hankins.pdf

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