Dr. Banarsi Lal and Dr. Vikas Tandon It is a short day plant and produce profuse flowering. The inflorescence is a long spike about one metre in length. Flowers borne on decompound spatheate, panicles 30 to over 60 cm long. Presently it is grown in about 3,000 ha area in India, largely in states of Kerala, Karnataka, U.P., Uttrakhand and Assam. Now it is grown commercially in Jammu region also with very good results. The oil is distilled from its leaves and flowering tops of lemon grass. The oil has strong lemon-like fragrance, due to high percentage of citral in the oil. The characteristic fragrance of oil makes its use in scenting of soaps, detergents, insect repellent preparations etc. The major use of oil is as a source of citral, which goes in perfumery, cosmetics, beverages etc. The citral rich oil has germicidal, medicinal and flavouring properties. During early fifties India had monopoly both in production and world trade. 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 IIIM-Jammu has 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. The oil of lemon grass has high percentage of terpenes (limonene and myrecene), beside menthyl heptenone, linalool, geranyl acetate, nerol and geraniol. Further, citral can be converted into high value compounds like cintronellal, geraniol, geranyl acid and geranyl nitride but the processes are governed by patents. The crop grows well in both tropical and subtropical climates at an elevation up to 900 m. 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. CKP 25, RRL 16, Jama Rosa, Praman, Sugandhi, Krishna etc. are the varieties of lemongrass. The crop is best propagated through seed raised in nurseries, 2.5 kg/ha. It is also vegetatively propagated by splitting the clumps into slips. These are planted at a spacing of 40×40 cm. There are two planting seasons of lemon grass i.e. February-March and September-October. About 55,000 slips are required for one ha. A healthy plant gives about 100-200 g of seeds. 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. Lemongrass crop is free from most pests or disease but may require micronutrients over marginal lands. 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. Under normal conditions, three harvests are possible during the first year, and 3-4 in subsequent years, depending on the management practices followed. 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. Under irrigated conditions from newly bred varieties an oil yield of 150-200 kg/ha is obtained. 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. If grown commercially, lemongrass can be a boon to the farmers of Jammu region. (Concluded) (The writers are: Scientists with SKUAST-J)
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