Agroforestry Practices of Ginseng and Goldenseal in Natural Stand of Hardwood Forest Trees

Final Report for FNC02-394

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2002: $5,788.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


My wife, Jessanne, and I, are the owners of the Sky Breeze Tree Farm, which consists of 225 acres nestled in the hills of Pike County, Ohio. Our farm is primarily a natural stand of red and white oak, Virginia pine, Eastern red cedar, yellow poplar, and sugar maple.

Using SARE grant money, about 2 acres of forested land was planted in ginseng and goldenseal using organic amendments.

Before receiving this grant, I was involved in growing organic vegetables in my front yard (1/3rd acre) using crop rotation and organic manures for the last 10 years.

The objective of the project was to conduct applied research on agroforestry aspects of growing ginseng and goldenseal, under natural stands of hardwood forests. Since ginseng and goldenseal are high-value specialized crops (herbs) to be incorporated into agroforestry practices, a detailed planning and design was done with the help and advice of researchers at the OSU South Centers at Piketon and Rural Action Sustainable Forestry Programs. To accomplish the project, we have considered the following criteria:
a) Appropriate site selection and preparation to ensure ginseng and goldenseal soil quality requirements.
b) Availability of ginseng and goldenseal seeds, and rootstocks and forest seedlings.
c) Organic amendments and non-essential small farm equipments
d) Protection from wild turkey, deer, and theft.
e) Information, dissemination, and marketing of products.

A field experiment (randomized complete block) set-up was planned in our forest for growing ginseng and goldenseal using horse and dairy manure, and forest leaf molds. Due to unavoidable circumstances, dairy manure and horse manure were not able to be used as organic amendments. Since the forest floor was covered with so much litter (> 1 ton/acre), it was not necessary to apply leaf molds. The plot lay-out in the forest was as follows:
10 rows of ginseng or goldenseal, 10 rows of ginseng or goldenseal, 10 rows of ginseng or goldenseal

A total of 2 acres of land in the forest was used for planting ginseng and/or goldenseal. The experimental treatments were replicated in four blocks under the natural stand of red and white oak and sugar maple trees at northern slope aspect of our farm to avoid direct sunlight and have enough soil available moisture. In each plot, 10 rows of ginseng or goldenseal bed spaced at 1 foot apart were prepared with two extra outer rows as guard rows. Spacing of ginseng seeds in the rows was 3 inches with each seed planted ½ inch deep as a simulated natural growing condition. Goldenseal root was planted one foot apart and 1 inch deep.

In July 2006, a survey was conducted to evaluate the survival and growth performance of ginseng and goldenseal in the forest. In each plot, the presence or number of ginseng and goldenseal were counted to calculate survival. The height of the plant as a measure of growth was recorded. Randomly selected ginseng and goldenseal plants were harvested to monitor root growth and yields.

Soil samples at 0-6 inches depth were randomly collected and analyzed for selected properties such as compaction, pH, slat contents, porosity, organic matter and nitrogen by using standard methods.

• Dwight Massie, a local producer helped me to buy ginseng seeds form him and provided information about growing ginseng in the forest.
• Dr. Rafiq Islam, Soil and Water Specialist, the OSU South Center, Piketon, OH 45661. Tel. 740-289-2071. Fax 740-289-4591. Email [email protected]
• Dr. Shawn Wright, Horticulturist, the OSU South Center, Piketon, OH 45661. Tel. 740-289-2071. Fax 740-289-4591. Email [email protected].
• Ronald Miller, Forest Research and Extension Associate, the OSU South Centers, Piketon, OH 45661. Tel. 740-289-2071. Fax 740-289-4591. Email [email protected].
• Dave Apsley, Natural Resources Specialist, South District. Jackson, OH 45640. Tel. 740-286-4572. Email [email protected].
• John Withers, Rural Action Sustainable Forestry, PO Box 21, 87 ½ High Street, Glouster, OH 45732. Tel. 740-767-2090. Email [email protected]
They will advice us to: select suitable forest species for agroforestry, provide ginseng and goldenseal seeds, seedlings or rootstocks, and measure forest growth performance.
• Yi Yang, Program Coordinator for Direct Marketing and Cooperative Programs. The OSU South Centers, Piketon, OH 45661. Tel. 740-289-2071. Fax 740-289-4591. Email [email protected]

Results showed that ginseng performance (survival) was not good compared to goldenseal (Table 1 and pictures). Ginseng had only 25 to 30% survival compared to 53 to 83% survival of goldenseal. Goldenseal (plant height 9 to 16 inches) had better growth performance than ginseng (plant height 2 to 4 inches).

Using root samples collected from the experimental site, about 4 to 5 lbs/acre of fresh roots can be harvested that in turn will provide 1.2 to 1.5 lbs/acre dry roots of ginseng. In contrast, about 1655 to 2586 lbs/acre of fresh goldenseal roots can be extracted which is equivalent to 300 to 500 lbs dry roots of goldenseal/acre.

TABLE 1: Survival, growth and root yields of ginseng and goldenseal in 2006

Plant Survival (%) - Ginseng 25-30, Goldenseal 53-83
Plant Height (Inches) - Ginseng 2-4, Goldenseal 9-16
Fresh Weight (lbs/acre) - Ginseng 4-5, Goldenseal 1655-2586
Dry Weight (lbs/acre) - Ginseng 1.2-1.5, Goldenseal 331-514

Initial soil analyses suggested that the experimental site was not compacted. The soil has 47% porosity with pH of 6.5, organic matter 2.3%, and total nitrogen 0.18%. After harvesting goldenseal and ginseng roots in 2010, soil samples will be collected from each plot and analyzed for selected properties to evaluate the temporal impacts of organic amendments on site quality.

TABLE 2: Initial soil analyses, 2003
Compactions of Soil (psi) 112 + or - 16
Porosity (%) 47 + or - 2
pH (1:2) 6.2 + or - 0.2
Ec (dS/cm) 180 + or - 32
Organic Matter (%) 2.3 + or - 0.2
N (%) 0.18 + or - 0.3
Ec= Electrical conductivity (salt content), and N= Total nitrogen

We will be harvesting ginseng and goldenseal in 2010 according to new regulations. More information will be collected to evaluate the growth and yield performance (root yields) of ginseng and goldenseal in response to soil amendments over time. Site quality will also be evaluated.

It was difficult to grow high value crops like ginseng and goldenseal successfully under natural forest stands. Initially I was frustrated due to slow growth and low survival of ginseng and goldenseal under marginal and/or degraded forest sites. Replanting of ginseng was necessary due to use of non-stratified ginseng seeds. In future, I shall use stratified ginseng seeds to plant in the forest for better germination, survival and growth.

This project did not take much of my time because these crops require low maintenance but greater protection from theft.

Small farmers and woodland owners in Appalachia Ohio are suffering socio-economically due to marginal value of their land. Lands held by farm families are often being sold for development or abandoned which often results in an infestation of weeds and multiflora rose bushes. But Southern Ohio is one of the regions in the United States where the topography, climate, soil, and tree-covered hilly lands are suitable for wild populations of ginseng and goldenseal growth.

Active participation in agroforestry production of high-value ginseng and goldenseal in association with timber species will generate income compared to that of growing conventional grain crops or timbers for sale, diversify farming operation, and enriches forest ecosystems. By following “Double income with minimum investment” concept, we hope to demonstrate the potential use of the marginal forestlands for profitable and sustainable production of ginseng and goldenseal using agroforestry practices.

Since agroforestry is a long-term project, we have been able to disseminate information to a limited number of audiences. We (my wife and I) are members of Southern Ohio Forestland Association, which is comprised of small woodland owners located across Southern Ohio. Meetings of this association are held in various locations on the woodland farms in Southern Ohio. Results of the project were shared with other members, cooperatives, the Ohio Herb Associations, and OSU scientists. A number of articles, news, and website presentation have already made by the Communication and Technology Division of the OSU, and Ohio University at Athens.

Future program will include:

A visit to the experimental plots will be included into an Extension tour or OSU South Centers field tours. Final results will be disseminated through OSU Extension, growers meetings, Citizen Science Council meetings, Ohio Herbal Medicine Congress, workshops, newsletters, and websites. New articles on the success of the ginseng and goldenseal production in the forest will be submitted for publication in the OSU Extension, SOFA and Herb Associations Newsletters, and posted in the websites.

We need this source of funding more and more for the needs of the rural people. Our recommendation will be to provide more funding for this type of program to enhance or regenerate rural economy. If possible, proposal writing and report submitting training will be good. It is essential that collaborators work closely with the project when possible.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.