By Dr. B. Sudha,
Assistant Professor, Kerala Agricultural University
It’s only fair to say we need to be gingerly when preparing food. That’s especially true during the times of coronavirus pandemic, when we need to eat nutritious food to boost our immune system. For that, not many spices can rival ginger. Adding ginger to beverages including tea and our regular cuisines will not only impart flavour and taste but also help to bolster body’s defence mechanism and ward off diseases.
Ginger is a very rich source of life enhancing antioxidants and is widely used as a home medicine for ailments including common cold. Gingerol, the main bioactive compound in ginger is responsible for many of its medicinal properties including: anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anti-bacterial and anti-cancerous properties. The nutraceutical properties make ginger a must grow crop in homesteads.
But how to get safe to eat ginger? Cultivating ginger is not difficult as many think. One can easily grow ginger needed for a family in homesteads. Even in the limited space of urban homesteads, we can go for ginger cultivation in containers filled with potting mixture. Though the routine practice of growing ginger is to prepare raised beds and plant rhizomes on it, considering the fact that the available land area in individual households is on a decrease due to fragmentation, ginger can be raised in pots, sacs or grow bags. This way, efficient utilization of available area is possible. These include spaces available along fences, pathways, terraces, balconies etc. apart from interspaces of coconut palms. A large group of urban people residing in flats can also resort to raising of ginger in grow bags.
There are many advantages in raising ginger in grow bags. In areas where threat of water logging exist, usually it is not possible to raise ginger in beds, as the rhizomes get rotten. However, in such areas also, ginger can be grown in a water protected condition in grow bags. Insect and disease attack can be more efficiently monitored when raised in this manner. Unlike close growing in beds, the bags could be more widely spaced, allowing better monitoring, early detection, and timely care, which can bring down pest and disease damage. Also, the fast spread of many diseases can be prevented when plants are grown in separate containers. For eg., spread of soft rot of ginger caused by the fungus Pythium aphanidermatum is fast in ginger beds, especially under hot and humid conditions. This necessitates prophylatic sprays and drenching of beds using fungicides. However, when grown individually in pots or grow bags spread of such diseases can be prevented to a great extent.
Planting and cultivation
A small and mature piece of ginger rhizome weighing 15-20 grams and having at least one node can be used as planting material. Bio control agent Trichoderma harzianum mixed with supernatant of cow dung slurry (@ 10 grams/litre slurry) can be used to treat ginger rhizomes before planting. Potting media can be prepared by well mixing soil, sand, dried cow dung, compost etc. The compost portion could be more, so that the medium will be loose enough permitting aeration in encouraging better growth of rhizome. The rhizomes will be germinating in a month. Bio control agent Trichoderma mixed with cow dung and neem cake if applied in potting media could help in keeping away diseases. To 100 kg of dried cow dung, 2 kg of Trichoderma and 5 kg of neem cake should be added and well mixed.
While growing ginger in homesteads, we could resort to organic way of plant nutrition. All types of organic manures including cow dung, goat manure, neem cake, vermicompost and bone meal could be used for crop nutrition.. Mulching using dried leaves and top dressings with compost are also essential. This way aeration is ensured in soil and the potting medium remains sufficiently loose. Spraying Pseudomonas fluorescens, a biocontrol agent @20g per litre of water at fortnightly intervals can help growth promotion and in resisting diseases. Regular monitoring for hand picking and destruction of caterpillars is also recommended when grown in a small scale in homesteads.
Supplimental foliar nutrition can also be effectively practised in ginger. Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Kozhikode, a prime agency undertaking research on spice crops has come out with a micronutrient formulation for ginger named IISR Power Mix G. This could be foliar applied @0.5 per cent (5g per litre of water) at two and three months of planting rhizomes. Studies prove that the yield of ginger can be enhanced by 15 to 25 per cent with the use of this formulation.
The pre-monsoon months of April-May is the right time to plant ginger. The production inputs could be obtained from the nearest agriculture outlets / eco shops. On an average 500 to 600 grams or even more of fresh rhizomes could be obtained from a single plant grown under good maintenance. Let’s start growing our own ginger.