Lemon grass (Cymbopogan flexuosus) is a native aromatic tall sedge (family: Poaceae) which grows in many parts of tropical and sub-tropical South East Asia and Africa. In India, it is cultivated along Western Ghats (Maharashtra, Kerala), Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states besides foot-hills of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. It was introduced in India about a century back and is now commercially cultivated in these States.
The main objective of this report is to present a bankable one acre model for high quality commercial cultivation of the crop.
Most of the species of lemon grass are native to South Asia, South-east Asia and Australia. The so called East Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) , also known as Malabar or Cochin grass is native to India , Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand ; for the related West Indian lemon grass (C. citratus ), a Malesian origin is generally assumed. Both the species are today cultivated throughout tropical Asia.
3.2 Botanical Description
Lemon grass is a tall, perennial sedge throwing up dense fasciclles of leaves from a short rhizome. The culm is stout, erect, upto 1.8 meter high. Leaves are long, glaucous, green, linear tapering upwards and along the margins; ligule very short; sheaths terete, those of the barren shoots widened and tightly clasping at the base, others narrow and separating. It is a short day plant and produce profuse flowering in South India. The inflorescence is a long spike about one metre in length. Flowers borne on decompound spatheate ; panicles 30 to over 60 cm long.
3.3 Area and Production
At present, India grows this crop in 3,000 ha area, largely in states of Kerala, Karnataka, U.P. and Assam and the annual production ranges between 300-350 t/annum.
3.4 Economic Importance
The oil is distilled from leaves and flowering tops of Lemon grass. The oil has strong lemon-like odour, due to high percentage ( over 75%) of citral in the oil. The characteristic smell of oil makes its use in scenting of soaps, detergents, insect repellent preparations. However, the major use of oil is as a source of citral, which goes in perfumery, cosmetics, beverages and is a starting material for manufacture of ionones, which produces vitamin – A. The Citral rich oil has germicidal, medicinal and flavouring properties. An allied species called West Indian lemon grass (C.citratus) has low citral content in the oil and has meager trade in the country.
4. MARKET ANALYSIS AND STRATEGY
4.1 Demand and Supply Patterns
During early fifties India produced over 1800 t/annum of this oil and held monopoly both in production and world trade. This situation no longer exists as Guatemala, China, Mexico, Bangladesh etc. have developed its cultivation over large areas.
Currently the world production of oil of Lemon grass is around 600 t/annum. However, another 600 t of a substitute oil viz., Litsea cubeba (rich in citral) is exported by China (price Rs.400/kg) which limits the scope for any faster growth in export trade of lemon grass oil. Synthetic citral is also available which competes with this oil and natural citral in market. The current price of oil is Rs.350 to 400/kg (price has increased in recent months). The price of citral varies from Rs.500 to Rs.550/kg (vide Graph-I).
The trend in prices of oil both in the domestic and international markets during the five year period i.e. 1998-2002 are depicted in the graph below. There are two markets for lemon grass oil presently viz., Cochin and Mumbai. The agents of processing / exporting companies visit the production area, check up the quality of the crop and agree up a price with the producer. The purchaser collects the produce at the site on agreed price and bears the cost of further transportation / processing.
4.2 Import / Export Trends
India is the largest producer of lemon grass and about 80% of the produce is being exported. The essential oil is being traditionally exported to West Europe, U.S.A. and Japan.
4.3 Analysis and Future Strategy
The country has evolved cv. Jamrosa through crossing lemon grass with an allied spp. which produces more robust growth of the crop and the oil has higher citral content. Its annual production is around 20 to 25 tonnes. So far, our aim has been to develop high citral bearing cultivars. Considering the bio-diversity in Cymbopogon spp. found in India; some allied spp. have shown to contain high value of nerolidal and farnesol in the oil. Obviously, varieties with these high value aroma compounds should be developed. The RRL (Jammu) has recently come out with a culture rich in bisabalol (15-20%); this has to be upgraded to yield 35-40% of this aroma compound to fetch better return and develop into monopoly item for export. Further, RRL (Jorhat) has published composition of Litsea kingii oil (native to North East) containing 32.8% sabinine which is another aroma compound fairly valuable in trade. This should also receive focus in cultivation and crop improvement in the country.
The oil of lemon grass has high percentage of terpenes (limonene and myrecene), beside menthyl heptenone,linalool, geranyl acetate, nerol and geraniol left in the oil after extraction of citral. Obviously, we should produce these minor fractions in high purity to fetch good price and market them separately. Further, citral can be converted into high value compounds like cintronellal, geraniol, geranyl acid and geranyl nitride but the processes are governed by patents. We should therefore make an attempt to develop our own methods for their production or trading houses be encouraged to buy patents to produce these fractions of lemon grass oil in the country.
5. PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY
5.1 Agro-climatic Requirements
The crop grows well in both tropical and subtropical climates at an elevation upto 900 m. (above m.s.l.). However, ideal conditions for growing lemon grass are warm and humid climate with sufficient sunshine and 250-330 cm rainfall per annum, evenly distributed over most part of the year. A temperature ranging from 20-300 C and good sunshine throughout the year is conducive to high crop yield. Lemon grass can also be grown in semi-arid regions receiving low to moderate rainfall.
Lemon grass can grow well over medium fertile soils and moderate irrigation. Well drained sandy loam is most suitable for the growth of the plant . It can be grown on a variety of soils ranging from loam to poor laterite. Calcareous and water logged soils should be avoided as they are unsuitable for cultivation.
5.2 Growing and Potential Belts
Lemon grass is widely cultivated in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu in the southern region, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal in the northern region and Assam in the north-eastern region. At present, East Indian lemon grass (C.flexuosus) is mainly cultivated in the western part of India.
It can be cultivated throughout Andhra Pradesh either as a rainfed or irrigated crop in poor and marginal soils, wastelands and alkaline soils having pH 9.6.
The varieties of lemon grass grown in the country include the following :
Table-1: Currently grown varieties and their description
Sugandhi (OD 19)
· It is adapted to a wide range of soil and climatic condition.
· A red stemmed variety with plant height 1 to 1.75 m and profuse tillering.
· The oil yield ranges from 80 to 100 kg per hectare with 85-88 per cent of total citral produced under rain-fed conditions (with life saving irrigation).
· It is a tall growing variety with dark purple leaf sheath suitable for north Indian Plains and tarai belt of subtropical and tropical climate.
· Average oil content is 0.63 per cent with 75-82 per cent citral.
· Evolved through clonal selection and belong to species C. pendulus.
· It is a medium sized variety with erect leaves and profuse tillering.
· The oil yield is high with 82 per cent citral.
· Very hardy with vigorous growth.
· The variety yields about 35 tonnes of herbage per ha. containing 0.4 % oil(FWB).
· The variety yields upto 300kg oil in 4-5 cuts in 16-18 months growing period.
· Average herbage yield of this variety is 15 to 20 tonnes/hectare/annum giving 100 to 110 kg oil.
· The oil content varies from 0.6 to 0.8 per cent (fresh weight basis) with 80 per cent citral.
· A hybrid between C.khasianum X C.pendulus.
· Gives 60 t/ha herbage in North Indian plains under irrigation.
· The oil contains 82.85% citral.
· OD-408, Kaveri
(OD-408 is white stemmed selection from OD-19 and is an improvement in yield in terms of oil and citral content.
Kaveri needs high soil moisture to produce luxuriant growth and is evolved for river valley tracts.)
Krishna, Pragati and Cauvery are improved varieties of lemongrass suitable for cultivation in Andhra Pradesh. OD-19 is an old and established variety.
The crop is best propagated through seed raised in nurseries, 2.5 kg. of the fresh seed produces enough seedling for planting one ha. of land. It is also vegetatively propagated by splitting the clumps into slips. These are planted at a spacing of 60x80 cm. About 55,000 slips are required for one ha of planting.
5.5 Seed Production
The crop flowers during November-December and seeds mature in next two months viz. February-March (dry season in Kerala). For collection of seeds, the plants are maintained in good health as the yield of seeds from plants subjected to regular harvest is low. On an average, a healthy plant gives about 100-200 g of seeds. At the time of seed collection, the whole inflorescence is cut and sun dried for 2-3 days. These are then threshed and seeds are again dried in the sun and the seed remain attached with fluffy mass which is removed by beating of seed bag at sowing. These dry seed lots are stored in gunny bags lined with polythene. The seeds lose their viability if stored for a period more than one year.
5.6 Nursery Raising
The transplanting of nursery raised seedlings is found to be superior to direct sowing of seeds. The seeds are sown by hand on well prepared raised beds of 1m to 1.5m width at the onset of monsoon and are covered with a thin layer of soil. Although 2.5 kg. of seed produce enough seedlings, the seed rate is 4-5kg/ha. The bed should be watered immediately after sowing and care should be taken to maintain adequate moisture in the soil. Seed germinates in 5-6 days and the seedlings are ready for transplanting after a period of 60 days.
Seedlings are planted at a distance of 40x40 cm., 40x30 cm., 40x60 cm. apart depending upon fertility of land and inter-culture implements used. It is better to plant on ridges in areas receiving high rainfall. In case of rooted slips one or two slips are placed into each hole, about 15 cm deep.
The newly bred varieties of lemongrass have water requirement for optimum yield. In northern India, 4-6 irrigations are given during summer months (February- June). If rains are erratic, the field is irrigated at an interval of 3 days during the first month and 7 - 10 day intervals subsequently. After the establishment of plants, irrigation schedule is adjusted depending on water holding capacity of the soil and weather conditions.
It is recommended to apply 30 kg nitrogen, 30 kg P2 O5 and 30 kg K2O per ha basal dose at the time of planting. Remaining nitrogen (60 to 90 kg) can be applied as top-dressing in 3 to 4 split doses during the growing season. In soils having low fertility levels, the dose of nitrogen should be increased. In Zinc deficient soils of Uttar Pradesh, 25 - 60 kg Zinc sulphate per ha. is applied. Lemongrass crop is free from most pests or disease but may require micronutrients over marginal lands.
5.10 Intercultural Operations
The field is kept weed free for the first 3 - 4 months after plating. Similarly, weeding cum hoeing is done up to 1 month, after every harvest. Generally, 2-3 weedings are necessary during a year. In row-planted crops, inter-operations can be done by a tractor-drawn cultivator or hand-hoe. Distillation waste of this crop is applied as organic mulch @ 3 tonnes/ha and this is found effective for controlling weeds in the crop. Among herbicides, Diuron @ 1.5 kg ai/ha and Oxyfluorfen @ 0.5 kg ai/ha are effective for weed control. Lemongrass on establishment smoothen weeds.
5.11 Plant Protection Measures
There are several pests and diseases recorded on the crop but these cause only minor damage and loss of crop is usually insignificant in value.
5.11.1 Insect Pests
Scientific name of insects
Nature of damage
Stem Boring Caterpillar
· It feeds on the stem.
· The central leaf gets dried up and ultimately the whole shoot dies, resulting in a significant reduction in the yield of the grass.
· Application of Folidol E 605.
Tylenchorhynchus vulgaris and allied sp. where soil is the source
· The plants get infected.
· Application of Fenamiphos @11.2kg/ha.
Name of disease
Red Leaf Spot
· Brown spots with concentric rings in the centre appearing on the lower surface of the leaves.
· The spots may be formed on leaf sheaths and midrib. Later the spots merge to form bigger patches and the affected leaves dry away.
· Two sprays of Bavistin 0.1% just after the appearance of the disease at an interval of 20 days .
· Three sprays of Dithane M-45 (0.2%) at an interval of 10-12 days.
· Minute, circular, reddish brown spots mostly on the margins and tip of the leaves which merge to form elongated reddish brown necrotic lesions resulting in premature drying of leaves, older leaves are more susceptible to infection.
· Spraying Dithane Z-78 (0.2%) or 0.3% Copper oxychloride at an interval of 15 days.
Little Leaf or Grassy Shoot
· Stunted growth
· Little leaf formation in place of normal inflorescence.
· Spraying Dithane Z-78 (0.3%) just before flowering stage at an interval of 10-12 days.
· Use of fresh seedlings for plantation and crop rotation.
5.12 Harvesting and Yield
Lemongrass flowers in winter season. The first harvest is generally obtained after 4 to 6 months of transplanting seedlings. Subsequent harvests are done at intervals of 60-70 days depending upon the fertility of the soil and other seasonal factors. Under normal conditions, three harvests are possible during the first year, and 3-4 in subsequent years, depending on the management practices followed. Harvesting is done with the help of sickles, the plants are cut 10 cm above ground-level and allowed to wilt in the field, before transporting to the distillation site.
Depending upon soil and climatic conditions, plantation lasts on an average, for 3-4 years only. The yield of oil is less during the first year but it increases in the second year and reaches a maximum in the third year; after this, the yield declines. On an average, 25 to 30 tonnes of fresh herbage are harvested per hectare per annum from 4 -6 cuttings, which yields about 80 kg of oil. Under irrigated conditions from newly bred varieties an oil yield of 100-150 kg/ha is obtained. The fresh herb contains on an average 0.3% oil and thick stems are removed before distillation as these are devoid of oil.
6. POST HARVEST MANAGEMENT
The grass is allowed to wilt for 24 hours before distillation as it reduces the moisture content by 30% and improves oil yield. The crop is chopped into small pieces before filling in the stills. It can be distilled in same distilleries as used for Japanese mint in India.
Oil is obtained through steam distillation. The oil has a strong lemon like odour. The oil is yellowish in colour having 75-85% citral and small amount of other minor aroma compounds. The recovery of oil from the grass ranges from 0.5 - 0.8 per cent. It takes about 4 hours for complete recovery of the oil.
6.3 Purification of Oil
The insoluble particles present in the oil are removed by simple filtration method after mixing it with anhydrous sodium sulphate and keeping it overnight or for 4-5 hours. In case the colour of the oil changes due to rusting then it should be cleaned by steam rectification process.
6.4 Storage and Packing of Oil
The oil can be stored in glass bottles or containers made up of stainless steel or aluminium or galvanized iron, depending upon the quantity of oil to be stored. The oil should be filled up to the brim and the containers should be kept away from direct heat and sunlight in cool/shaded places.
7. SOURCES OF TECHNOLOGY
(i) Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Lucknow-226015,
[Tel: (0522) 2359623]
(ii) Regional Research Laboratory, Jorhat-785006, Tel: (0376)2320353.
(iii) G.B.Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pant Nagar – 263145, Distt. – Udham Singh Nagar, Uttaranchal [Tel: (05944) 223 3333, 223 3500
(iv) Herbal Research and Development Institute, Aromatic Plants Centre, Sailakui, Dehradun.
(v) Director, Department of Horticulture and Food Processing, Ranikhet, Almora – 263 651.
(vi) District Bheshaz Sangh, Uttaranchal.
(vii) Horticulture Department, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore – 641003. [[Tel: (0422) 2445414]
8. ECONOMICS OF A ONE ACRE MODEL
8.1 High quality commercial cultivation of this aromatic crop is a viable proposition for the small farmer. The economics of a one acre model farm are presented below.
Costs & Returns
8.2 The cost components of such a model along with the basis for costing are exhibited in Annexures I & II. A summary is given in the figure below.
Project Cost: (Unit – One Acre)
(Amount in Rs.
Cost of planting material
Insecticides & pesticides
Cost of Labour
Others, if any, please specify (Power)
Pump & Electrical Installation
Others, if any
Cost of Drip/Sprinkler
Store & Pump House
Others, if any, (Drying platform)
Others, if any, please specify
Land, if newly purchased (Please indicate the year)*
*Cost of newly purchased land will be limited to one-tenth of the total project cost
8.3 The major components of the model are:
· Land Development: (Rs.4.0 thousand): This is the labour cost of shaping and dressing the land site on layout.
· Fencing (Rs.29.6 thousand): It is necessary to guard the farm by barbed wire fencing to safeguard the valuable produce from poaching.
· Irrigation Infra-structure (Rs.57 thousand): It is necessary to install a bore well with diesel/electric pumpset and motor for providing adequate support to the crop. This is part cost of tube-well.
· Equipment/Implements (Rs.6.1 thousand): A one acre farm would not be able to invest on heavy machinery and will have to hire needed tractor.
· Building and Storage (Rs.36 thousand): A one acre farm would require minimally a drying platform, a labour shed and a store room.
8.4 Labour cost has been put at an average of Rs.70 per man-day. The actual cost will vary from location to location depending upon minimum wage levels or prevailing wage levels for skilled and unskilled labour.
8.5 Recurring Production Cost: Recurring production costs are exhibited in Annexure III. The main components are planting material, purchase of inputs, power and labour cost on land preparation, application of inputs, inter-cultural and other farm operations.
8.6 Besides, provision is also included for processing (extraction of oil) and marketing. The total annual recurring cost for a one acre farm works out to Rs.4.5 thousand (approx.)
8.7 Returns from the Project: The yield from the farm is estimated at 100 kg. of oil. Valued at Rs.500 per kg. the total realization of the three crops works out to Rs.1.50 lakhs (vide Annexure III).
8.8. Balance Sheet: The projected balance sheet of the model is given at Annexure IV. There would be three sources of financing the project as below:
Farmer’s share 75.00
Term loan 45.00
8.9. Profit & Loss Account: The cash flow statement may be seen in Annexure V. Annexure VI projects the profit and loss account of the model. Gross profit for three years works out to Rs.106.70 thousand.
8.10. Repayment of Term Loan: The term loan will be repaid in 11 six monthly installments with a moratorium of 12 months. The rate of interest would have to be negotiated with the financing bank. It has been put at 12% in the model (vide Annexures VII & VII A).
8.11. Depreciation calculations may be seen in Annexure-VIII.
8.12. IRR/BCR: The viability of the project is assessed in Annexure IX over a period of 10 years. The IRR works out to 23.68 and the BCR to 1.4.
8.13. The Debt Service coverage ratio calculations are presented in Annexure X. The average DSCR works out to 3.12.
8.14. Payback Period: On the basis of costs and returns of the model, the pay back period is estimated at 4.74 years (vide Annexure XI).
8.15. Break-even Point: The break even point will be reached in the 3rd year. At this point fixed cost would work out to 58.2% of gross sales - vide Annexure XII.