Interplanting Ginseng with other Native Shade Plants for Fungal Control, Short and Long-Term Profitability

2005 Annual Report for FNC04-527

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2004: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $980.50
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:

Interplanting Ginseng with other Native Shade Plants for Fungal Control, Short and Long-Term Profitability


I selected two sites on north and northeast-facing slopes on my property and took soil samples at each. I had the samples tested at the University of Missouri soil testing lab, and determined that they should be adequate for growing ginseng. Next I designed a plot layout that would enable comparisons between five different treatments:

1. Ginseng alone (plants spaced every 2 feet, seeds every 3 inches)
2. Ginseng with goldenseal (goldenseal plants set 1 foot apart)
3. Ginseng with bloodroot (bloodroot plants set 1 foot apart)
4. Ginseng, bloodroot and goldenseal together
5. A mix of ginseng, goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, wild geranium, and wild ginger

With some help from friends and family, I cleared some of the larger underbrush (paw paws, large grape vines, dead wood) and laid out the lines for planting.

I planted the first materials in fall of 2004. The ginseng rows were planted with a combination of roots and seeds, and the other species were all planted as dormant roots.

I placed a 7-foot deer fence around each plot, but it was lightweight plastic mesh and was quickly torn down by falling branches.

There was good spring germination of ginseng, and fairly good
emergence of goldenseal and black cohosh. However, the bloodroot didn’t emerge. Having looked into this matter, I think it’s possible that the roots needed to be planted closer to the soil surface. The black cohosh plants were large and vigorous.

Over the course of the summer I watered the plants one time. I provided about 50 gallons of water to each of the two plots.

At my home in Columbia, I constructed a coldframe and ordered seeds of about 20 native species to start for addition to the site. I made the error of not allowing for stratification time, and therefore wasn’t able to get them started early enough for transplanting out to the farm in late spring, as I had intended. Instead I have planted some of them in nursery beds here at the house, and will transfer them to the farm in spring along with some new plants from seed. My experience has been that many native species are quite recalcitrant from seed.

Ginseng has performed well and appears to be well-suited to the sites. It seems to be relatively easy to get started, especially with high-quality seed. There have been no diseases.

I have discovered a new planting method, called “virtually wild,” which was designed by the Appalachian Ginseng Foundation. It is similar to “wild-simulated” planting, but the seeds are more widely spaced to prevent competition for nutrients and the spread of disease. I have installed two new plots with my own modified version of this planting method. I placed the seeds at one-foot intervals in staggered rows one foot apart. I now think that the beds I planted in the first year are too closely spaced within rows. I used a recommended spacing of 3-4 inches between seeds, which is quite close. Goldenseal will be added to the new beds in late summer/early fall of next year, when it goes dormant and can be transplanted. One of these beds currently holds 900 seeds, and I am continuing to add to it.

The market for wild-simulated ginseng, based on the research I’ve done, seems to be thriving. I have found listings of local buyers, and learned that the Missouri Department of Conservation regulates transport of ginseng out of the state. I would like to make my own value-added products (tinctures, teas, and capsules) for market, and must investigate this option.

My presentation at the 2005 National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference was very well-received. There were many questions and people were eager to get more information on the topic. Several people requested my contact information for possible collaboration on their projects.

A major study was published during 2004 about deer browsing of ginseng, in Science magazine. The study indicates that “Almost all [ginseng] populations are very vulnerable to extinction over the next century," according to one of its authors, James McGraw. This is not encouraging news, but perhaps the deer can be controlled.

Next year (2006), I plan to try several different deer-control methods, including pepper wax spray and other repellents. If there is a lot of evidence of herbivory, new fencing may be a consideration.

I feel that the emergence rates of bloodroot and goldenseal could have been better, and am changing to a different supplier for materials that I purchase in the future. Meanwhile, I have ginseng seed which I will plant in new plots in very early spring. The seed of other plants is stratifying in my refrigerator, and in early spring I will start flats of these species for later transplant out to the farm. These new additions will include prairie larkspur, Jacob’s ladder, flowering spurge, marsh marigold, Culver’s root, woodland spiderwort, coral bells, New England aster, goat’s beard, rose turtlehead, fire pink, wild pink, Ohio horse mint, and columbine.

I spoke at the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference in November 2005. The audience was approximately 30 people. I had planned to have field day(s) at the farm, but may use off-site venues instead, so that word of my location doesn’t spread too far.

I am going to apply to speak at the SARE National Conference on Sustainable Agriculture in Wisconsin next August (2006), or present a poster. I am also willing to participate in additional outreach opportunities.

Objectives/Performance Targets

To create a managed forest system that allows sustainable production of high value crops in wooded areas of local farms. The project will provide data related to interplanting ginseng with goldenseal, bloodroot, black cohosh, and trillium to help control diseases associated with mono-culture production.