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Growing american ginseng in ohio: an introduction









Agriculture and Natural Resources
Growing American Ginseng in Ohio:
Chip Carroll
Dave Apsley
Rural Action Sustainable Forestry Natural Resources Specialist and Appalachian Forest Resources Center Ohio State University Extension American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium), one of the
world's most valued plants, is found throughout the forests of eastern North America, including the wood- lands of Ohio.
As a high-value understory species, ginseng has great potential to be an additional income opportunity for Ohio's woodland owners.
Harvesting of American ginseng from the wild began in earnest in the early to mid-1700s, in response to sub- stantial demand for the root in Asia (especial y China), where ginseng has been celebrated as a medicinal cure- all for over 3,000 years. Even in the late 1700s American ginseng was bringing $1–3/dry lb. of root, a substantial sum in those times. Growing American ginseng can Figure 1. Shade grown and wild grown ginseng root. Photo seem a bit complicated or confusing at first glance courtesy of Bob Beyfuss, Cornell Cooperative Extension. because it can be grown under several different produc- tion systems. Systems vary from intensive field grown production under artificial shade to wild-simulated and is enough to plant 1,600 square feet or about 1/25 of methods, which closely mimic natural ginseng stands an acre using the wild-simulated method described in (Figure 1). Prices paid for ginseng root also vary greatly this fact sheet. There are roughly 6,400 to 8,000 ginseng by production method. Field grown ginseng produced seeds per pound. For example, if 50% of this seed makes under artificial shade sel s for $10–$25/dry lb. while wild it to maturity after 10 years, approximately 3,500 mature and wild-simulated root annual averages have ranged roots would be produced from one pound of seed. Using from $350 to $500/dry lb over the past 10 years (in 1999 conservative estimates of about 275 dry roots per pound it was bringing $425/dry lb).
and $400 per pound for the dried roots, a harvest after The focus of this fact sheet wil be on the wild- 10 years would yield approximately 12.7 pounds of dried simulated growing method since it requires the least roots worth nearly $5,000. Prospective growers must inputs and offers the greatest return for woodland own- realize that ginseng production is a long-term venture. ers. Throughout this series of ginseng fact sheets we are Ginseng is known to live for over 80 years, and one going to use one pound of ginseng seed as an example. cannot expect to have their first harvest until it reaches One pound of ginseng seed currently costs $85 to $150 maturity at about 7 to 10 years of age. However, it may be Copyright 2013, The Ohio State University Growing American Ginseng in Ohio: An Introduction—page 2
possible for some growers to earn income earlier in the Selecting a Site for more detailed information about site process by selling ginseng leaves and seed at the end of section. We also suggest that you consult your county's each growing season.
Ohio State University Extension office or Rural Action Sustainable Forestry for assistance.
Site Security and Selection
Because of ginseng's high value, it is sought after by many. The biggest potential problem any grower will As discussed earlier, there are several methods for face is the risk of having their crop poached. There are producing American ginseng, all with results unique to numerous examples of growers who have nurtured their the method used. We will briefly discuss the more inten- crop for 10 or more years only to have it wiped out by a sive field (or shade) and the woods growing methods and poacher who steals thousands of dol ars worth of gin- then focus on the recommended wild-simulated growing seng. In some states the poaching of ginseng is a felony method (Table 1).
offense. In Ohio ginseng poaching is currently a third degree misdemeanor.
Field or Shade Grown and Woods Grown
The first thing to consider when evaluating a poten- tial ginseng site is security. How close is the site to your Current prices realized for field-grown ginseng are home? How close are neighbors, roads, or other accesses currently below the costs of production, although this to your ginseng? How often do others use the land that fluctuates regularly. In this production system, the gin- you're considering planting? How often can you monitor seng is planted in rows, much like a vegetable garden, in the progress of your crop? soil that is fertilized and cultivated regularly. This pro- If you feel that you have a reasonably secure site the duction method requires a large investment in artificial next thing you'll want to do is evaluate the potential of shade structures. Cost to install one acre of shade houses the site to produce American ginseng. American ginseng can run between $10,000 and $20,000. Growing ginseng does require a very specific habitat in order for it to grow under this kind of production system greatly increases the chance for disease, resulting in increased costs for Ginseng prefers the north and east-facing sites on well- disease control measures. Although one can produce a drained slopes under a forest canopy of approximately 70 great quantity of ginseng roots in this system in about to 90% shade. Certain species of trees, such as tulip-pop- four years, roots are large and carrot-like in appearance lar, sugar maple, and black walnut are indicators of pro- and are much less valuable in the Asian market than the ductive ginseng sites. The following understory plants much smaller, gnarlier roots produced in the wild or can also indicate potential high-quality ginseng sites: with the wild-simulated cultivation method. goldenseal, bloodroot, trillium, wild ginger, jack-in-the- The woods-grown ginseng production method con- pulpit, spicebush, and ferns. Ginseng will often grow in sists of growing ginseng in tilled, raised beds in the areas where you find these species. Ginseng also does woods. This method produces a more valuable root than best under a relatively narrow range of soil conditions. the field or shade grown method but not nearly as valu- Soil testing is highly recommended. See OSU Extension able as the wild-simulated method. This method will Fact Sheet F-58-13, Growing American Ginseng in Ohio: likely produce roots in a shorter time period because the Table 1. Comparison of three growing methods—Approximated costs, yields, and profits. Figures will vary based
on individual circumstances.

Time to first harvest Seeds planted per 1/2 acre ($85/lb.) Total labor per 1/2 acre ($10/hour) Tools, pest control, fertilizer, and other expenses Total costs per 1/2 acre
Root yield per 1/2 acre Root price per dry lb.
Gross income per 1/2 acre
Net profit per 1/2 acre Copyright 2013, The Ohio State University Growing American Ginseng in Ohio: An Introduction—page 3
tilled soil will allow the root to grow more quickly, but it also increases your chances of disease.
Most of the work takes place during planting and har- vest; all that is normal y required in the interim is regular monitoring of your ginseng patch for disease, pests, and Wild-simulated ginseng production is, as the name implies, simply growing ginseng under conditions that Ginseng is susceptible to numerous pests, from deer, mimic those found in the wild. Although this can be rodents, and other animals that like to eat its foliage, accomplished in a variety of ways, we will focus foremost berries and/or roots, to fungal diseases, which can pose on the most efficient method of seeding a relatively large a serious threat in dense patches. Regular monitoring, area. This method requires few initial inputs; all one good site selection, proper mulching, and wide spacing needs to get started is a good rake, hand pruners, viable between plants are all recommended preventive mea- seed, a suitable site, and some labor.
sures to reduce the likelihood of most problems.
The process of growing wild-simulated ginseng Wild-simulated ginseng will typical y not be ready begins by planting seed in the autumn, around the time to harvest until it has had at least seven years of growth. the trees begin to shed their leaves but before the ground Harvesting your crop will likely be the most time- freezes. Ginseng seed must go through a period of cold consuming part of your ginseng production system. dormancy or stratification to ensure that germination Harvesting is typical y done in the fall of the year after occurs the following spring. We recommend that you the plants have dropped their seed for the season and acquire seed that has already been stratified from a repu- always during the legal ginseng harvest season (in Ohio table commercial source. Current cost of stratified seed September 1 through December 31). Wild-simulated is between $85 to $150 per pound.
ginseng is harvested much like wild ginseng in that great Planting can be as simple as raking away the leaf layer, care is taken to not damage the roots while digging. lightly scratching the soil surface to ensure a good seed- This is achieved by digging each plant/root individu- to-soil contact and broadcasting 4 to 5 seeds per square al y and making sure not to break the stem or "neck" of foot onto the bare soil and covering with leaf litter. the root off while keeping as many of the fibrous roots Planting wild-simulated ginseng can also be done intact as possible. Most growers use a modified short by simply planting one seed at a time by hand on suit- handled mattock, known in some circles as a "sang hoe" able sites. Although planting one seed at a time will to achieve this. A trowel or small spade can also be used. substantial y increase time planting, it can also dramati- Seed, berry pulp, and leaves can also be sold, although cal y increase germination rates and allow planting in markets are more difficult to access.
areas that may be difficult to access with a rake (see OSU Extension Fact Sheet F-57-13, Growing American Ginseng in Ohio: Site Preparation and Planting Using the After harvest, ginseng roots must be properly washed Wild Simulated Method).
before drying. Great care should be taken while wash- ing ginseng roots. Avoid scrubbing roots clean since the outer layer or "skin" of the root can easily be broken or scraped off. This decreases the value of the root. It is best to use a very soft brush and wash gently. Do not wash the root so clean that it appears bright white in color. Rather, remove the excess soil from the root leaving soil in the "grains" or depressions of the root. For smaller batches of roots, spraying with a garden hose or swishing the roots in a bucket of water usual y achieves this. Do not soak Once ginseng roots are harvested and washed they are commonly dried before selling. Never dry your roots in the sun, in your car, or in an oven. Many growers choose to construct a drying box or closet. Depending Figure 2. Wild-simulated American ginseng. Photo courtesy of Rural Action Sustainable Forestry. on your situation this may or may not be necessary. The Copyright 2013, The Ohio State University Growing American Ginseng in Ohio: An Introduction—page 4
two most important factors to consider in order to dry start planting. Start small and make sure that you can ginseng roots properly are: (1) good air flow around the successful y produce ginseng on your site before trying it roots; and (2) consistent temperature and humidity. In on a larger scale. Also, it is a good idea to attend a ginseng order to get sufficient airflow to the roots during drying, workshop in your area and meet other ginseng growers screens are often used. Roots should be placed on screens to learn from them.
in a single layer, making sure they are not touching each other. This ensures that air can get to all sides of the roots while they are drying; it is also a good idea to use a fan to Thanks to David Cooke, West Virginia University keep the air circulating around the drying roots. Optimal Cooperative Extension; Greg Duskey, Wild American temperature for drying roots is around 90 degrees F but Ginseng Company; and Deborah Hil , University of not more than 95 degrees F. Sufficient drying should take Kentucky Cooperative Extension for reviewing this around 2 weeks. The roots are completely dry when they document and providing valuable suggestions for cannot be bent. They should break cleanly, revealing a white interior.
Rural Action Contact Information
9030 Hocking Hil s Drive As some people have said when speaking of wild- The Plains, OH 45780 simulated ginseng, "It is hard to find any product that is easier to sel ." Currently there are 35–40 ginseng buyers in Ohio. Marketing ginseng can be as easy as going to one of these locations and seeing what they offer for your roots. Check multiple locations and do some research to Growing American Ginseng in Ohio: Site Preparation and be sure that you receive a fair price for your crop. Prices Planting Using the Wild Simulated Approach. Ohio have varied over the last ten years from $250 to $800 per State University Extension Fact Sheet F-57-13.
lb. for dry wild or wild-simulated ginseng roots.
Growing American Ginseng in Ohio: Selecting a Site. Individual roots or plants have been marketed over Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet F-58-13.
the Internet and value-added products such as teas and Hankins. A. (2000). Producing and Marketing Wild tinctures have resulted in even higher prices for some Simulated Ginseng in Forest and Agroforestry Systems. individuals. Also, targeted marketing towards the Asian Virginia Cooperative Extension Service Publication and ethnic markets can prove to be very cost effective.
Roots can be stored for another year if prices are low Persons, W.S. (1994). American Ginseng: Green Gold. during the harvest year or are expected to be higher the Bright Mountain Books Inc. Asheville, North following year. However, it is usual y best to delay harvest and allow the roots to grow for a extra year if current Persons, W.S. (2002). Tuckasegee Valley Ginseng market prices are down.
Newsletter. P.O. Box 236, Tuckasegee, North Carolina 28783, (828) 293-5189.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Growing ginseng can be a great way to earn additional income from your land. Many growers look at it as a Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of retirement fund, their children's education fund, or as a Wildlife. (2013). "Ohio's Green Gold-American way to pay their property taxes. As with any venture, you Ginseng" [Online]. Available: should make sure you do your homework before you Visit Ohio State University Extension's web site "Ohioline" at: http://ohioline.osu.edu
Ohio State University Extension embraces human diversity and is committed to ensuring that all research and related educational programs are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic information, HIV/AIDS status, military status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status. This statement is in accordance with United States Civil Rights Laws and the USDA.
Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration; Associate Dean, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; Director, Ohio State University Extension; and Gist Chair in Extension Education and Leadership.
For Deaf and Hard of Hearing, please contact Ohio State University Extension using your preferred communication (e-mail, relay services, or video relay services). Phone 1-800-750-0750 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. Inform the operator to dial 614-292-6181.
Copyright 2013, The Ohio State University

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