Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) of the Two Main Strands East Indian Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) or West Indian Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus): Which one yields the greatest amount of essential oil

Final report for FS19-316

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $8,609.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2021
Grant Recipient: Farmer
Region: Southern
State: U.S. Virgin Islands
Principal Investigator:
Benita Martin
Meder Mogzit family farm and educational center
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Project Information

Abstract:

Our project was to determine which of the two strands of lemongrass produced the greatest amount of lemongrass oil.

We decided to grow the two different strands of lemongrass from cuttings instead of from seed.

Lemongrass is known to have different growth rates based on soil. It was decided to grow in both St. Thomas and St. Croix. This also allowed us to look at the opportunity for developing an agriculture collective between the two islands.

Through the research for the project more information was gained regarding the usage of lemongrass itself. This information may give farmers and others more opportunity to find a market for selling lemongrass as well using it on their farms.

The current leaders in the production of lemongrass and lemongrass oil are Guatemala and India.

In all research conducted for this project the best method of extraction of oil is steam distillation. Fresh not dried lemongrass is the main one used for distilling.

In many countries lemongrass is being grown cooperatively with great economic success within small villages. This project has allowed us to educate farmers regarding the potential of just growing lemongrass for more than one industry. These were some of the most important questions asked at the end of our presentation:

1. How do we go about developing a grower’s cooperative for lemongrass?

2. What other crops could be distilled?

3. Where would we get funding for such a project?

A few home gardeners have requested that we have another workshop after they have brought the items to assist with building their home-made distiller. Though this project was designed to look at the quantity of lemongrass oil, the information gained from the research has caused our group to explore other avenues for byproducts of distilling lemongrass. We came up with a collective statement on how we felt at the end of the project, “Exploring the extraction of lemongrass essential oil as a value-added product for generational economic growth and wellness.” Lemongrass Brochure17.2.2021AAF

Project Objectives:

To determine which of the two strands produce the most oil, West or East lemongrass 

Research

Materials and methods:

Extraction of Oil:

For the extraction of lemongrass oil we used direct steam distillation of fresh lemongrass.  We built a DIY distiller.  Several DIY techniques were reviewed, and the one built was a combination of two methods.  The construction of the distiller consisted of using the following items: 1. 32qt. Pressure cooker (distiller), 2.  5-gallon plastic bucket with ¼ inch. 15 ft copper tubing place inside bucket which made up the condenser chamber,  3. Plastic braiding tubing inserted at the top of the pressure cooker and went to copper tubing in order to carry steam out the distiller and into the condenser chamber. Steam converts to liquid. 

Preparation of lemongrass consisted of: 1. Cutting from each strand of lemongrass leaves, 2. Separation of fresh and dried lemongrass. Only fresh was used, 3. Lemongrass leaves were cut up small in order that steam may move through lemongrass.

Distillation lemongrass steps:  Distillation of both strands of lemongrass was done on the same day. Pure drinking water was placed on bottom of the distiller; five pounds of lemongrass was placed on a rack above the water. A double burner gas outdoor stove was used and turned on at the highest temperature. The condenser had been prepared with ice.  As the ice melted water was removed and more ice was placed.  A total of 15 gallon bottles of frozen bottles of ice were used for both distillers.  The steam began to develop within 10 min of turning the heat on the distiller.  Ice was placed into the condenser continually in order to keep the water cooled and to assist steam evaporating into the water.  The complete process took 30 minutes to complete. 

Separation: The separation of liquid (hydrosol) from the oil after the distillation process took about 20 minutes.

The total time for distillation was about two hours.

Research results and discussion:

The amount of hydrosol produced was much greater than the oil.

Results of distillation of the St. Thomas plot:

West Indies strand produced 1 gal of hydrosol and 10 cc of lemongrass oil. The East Indies strand produced two gallons of hydrosol and about 5 cc of oil.

Results of distillation of St. Croix plot:

West Indies strand produced about 1 gal of hydrosol and only a skim of oil. East Indies distiller had a problem and only produced less than a half gallon of hydrosol and only a skim of very dark oil.

It takes 7,700 pounds of lemongrass to make one quart.  final print LG Poster

Participation Summary
4 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Online trainings
2 Published press articles, newsletters
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Other educational activities: UVI School of Agriculture Facebook event watch party March 24, 2021 6pm

Participation Summary:

30 Farmers
2 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

We created a pamphlet which was handed out during a physical presentation, as well as a 4x4 ft. poster was on display.The education outreach consisted of both virtual and physical presentations. We advertised the presentation prior on social media Facebook, YouTube Channel and Instagram of UVI School of Agriculture, VI Department of Agriculture, We Grow Food, Inc. and individuals family and friends' social medial sites. We also made a presentation on VI Department of Agriculture weekly radio program regarding the project and presentation.

On February 20, 2021 we presented a demonstration of the distillation of lemongrass at the VI Islands Department of Agriculture weekly market on the Islands of St. Croix. We presented on stage to not just farmers present but also the general public. The farmers and community on a whole were very excited with information regarding how to make a distiller as well other usage of lemongrass and lemongrass oil. In general, most farmers and others weren’t aware of the potential that lemongrass could provide our community once its grown collectively.

This presentation was filmed with the assistance of University of the Virgin Islands School of Agriculture.

The presentation was placed on UVI You Tube Channel, then a watch party was held on March 24th 6pm. Prior to having the watch party, an online radio show of UVI School of Agriculture weekly show took place. This presentation was tagged also on the SSARE Facebook page.

A live presentation was also conducted on March 28, at the Bordeaux Farmers Market on St. Thomas. Advertising was done prior via Social media, and radio. This presentation was not officially part of the research but was requested by farmers in Bordeaux community to see how the distiller worked. A pamphlet was handed out, as well as a question and answer segment was conducted. Questions were asked based on information given during the presentation. USVI farmers awarded national producer grant draft Flyer 400x500 lemongrass coloring page printe ready

Learning Outcomes

10 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

3 Grants received that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

This project was to determine which strand of lemongrass produced the most oil.  Through the research we found out how lemongrass is used in so many different industries, that if grown in large amounts farmers in the Virgin Islands would have the ability to change their economic base.  This information has been shared within our presentation and booklet.  The by-product of making lemongrass is hydrosol which in itself is another product that is used across many industries (to make paper products) and has a great potential for developing a vital market base.

Recommendations:

I would recommend that further study be conducted in the area of forming a producer cooperative for lemongrass.  

Information Products

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.