Modern Stevia Farming
My experience in stevia farming taught me that growing stevia and making profit out of a stevia plantation is a different subject altogether. The stevia value addition chain starts from its farming and the success of the entire value addition chain is dependent on its economic farming. Steviol glycosides are not produced in factories – it is actually grown in the field. Unplanned and poor managed stevia plantation never leads to a profitable and sustainable of stevia business.
With the following articles, I tried to illustrate the ideal farming practice of Stevia.
I have worked with many different organizations, who are engaged in stevia plantations – and I found an almost universal pattern. In most of the cases, the plantation is started without proper planning and without appropriate assessment of local agro-climatic conditions.
During identification of a land for stevia farming, generally, very little effort is invested on proper assessment of its fertility status, inherent soil problems, topography and water availability. Selection of wrong stevia cultivars, improper irrigation planning and sub-optimal nutrient management are the other factors which contributes to underperformance of stevia plantations.
All these mistakes in the early phases of plantation may lead to very costly rectifications in later stage, on in worst case, may make the farming unsustainable altogether.
In this article, I am trying to demystify the basics of Stevia farming….in simple language, without resorting to technical jargons.
Insect infestation in Stevia may cause significant damage to the crop both in greenhouse and field stage. Physical insect control has been used successfully in Stevia. Though the initial investment is higher in comparison to other pest management systems, it environment friendliness, minimal health risk and compatibility with organic farming often make them a viable option.
My association with Stevia farming started when I was in Innova Biosystems. I visited Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (weblink) at Himachal Pradesh in August, 2007 and collected few hundreds of planting material for the Paraguan variety being promoted by them at that time. With those planting material a small demonstration plot was organized at the campus of Prudential Sugar Corporation Ltd. at Chittur, Andhra Pradesh.