The growing and harvesting of ginseng is very labor intensive. And once chemical spraying was made available and shown to be effective, ginseng growers quickly adopted the use of agricultural chemicals–primarily fungicides–which have now been used for decades. With chemical spraying, labor costs were reduced and, because ginseng could now be grown in closely spaced monocultures, profits were increased.
But, like many crops, ginseng can become stressed and diseased in a monoculture environment. The plants are spaced very closely together and are pushed with fertilizers to speed the growing process. These practices are conductive to the development of diseases that are able to destroy the plant and root.
This producer grant project was conducted to research the efficacy of two alternatives to chemical fungicides; the use of goldenseal and horsetail. Since research has shown that goldenseal can often be grown successfully in beds which previously produced diseased ginseng, the producer sprayed goldenseal tea on the beds in the fall and early spring to see if it would help control unwanted soil fungal activity. Other farming practices use horsetail (Equisetum, spp.), which is extremely high in silica, as an anti-fungal. He hoped that spraying a horsetail tea on the leaves and stems would be helpful in building up beneficial fungi during the growth cycle.
He observed that the goldenseal-sprayed foliage deteriorated first. The compost tea and commercial Oxidate (he ended up using) kept the foliage alive a little longer than the goldenseal sprays, but were similar. The horsetail tea spray was only marginally more effective than the Oxidate and compost tea sprays. The grower and his helper did not like using the Oxidate product because of the personal protective equipment that was required to handle it.
In mid-trial, the plots were vandalized and many of the roots were stolen. The grower would have grown these ginseng roots for seven years before harvest. This report can only assess the efficacy of the trials after a single year.