Using Lotus as an Alternative Crop to Generate Farm Income

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2017: $9,696.00
Projected End Date: 03/14/2020
Grant Recipient: Farmer
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Cheryl Pan
Cheryl's Farm


  • Miscellaneous: lotus tuber and seeds


  • Crop Production: container and small ponds
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study
  • Natural Resources/Environment: rain water
  • Pest Management: catch and kill
  • Production Systems: container
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change


    This project evaluated the feasibility of producing lotus in containers as an alternative to generate farm income. Three experiments were conducted. In 2017, a preliminary experiment was conducted involving three varieties of lotus with a total of 36 plastic containers (18 gallon volume). One seed tuber was planted into each container. For each variety, three containers were fertilized with 10, 20, 40 or 80 g of a granular 10-10-10 fertilizer after at least one standing leaf has grown in each container in June and July. The number of floating leaves, standing leaves, flowers were counted each week. Fertilization more than 40 g per container damaged lotus indicating fertilization at 40 g per container may be adequate. However, damages by deer prevented the collection of tuber production data. In 2018, another experiment was conducted with Space 36 variety which had vigorous growth in the previous year. Twenty-four plastic containers (18-gallon volume) were filled with garden soil to 40 cm deep and rain water collected from a barn roof was added into the containers to cover the soil to a depth of 10 cm below the rim of the containers. One root tuber (variety Space 36) was planted into each container on May 1, 2018. Four levels (2 g, 4 g, 6 g or 8 g) of a water-soluble fertilizer (Miracle-Gro, All purpose plant food, 24-8-16) was applied to each container after at least one standing leaf had sprouted (approximately 45 days after the tubers were planted). The number of floating leaves, standing leaves, flowers, and seed pods were counted each week. Increasing fertilization promoted growth performance and the production of flowers, seeds and tubers. However, the overall yield of tubers was low due to the fact that the Space 36 variety is better suited for seed production then for tuber production. In 2019, an experiment was conducted with the Hubei 5 variety that is selected specifically for tuber production. To assure adequate supply of nutrients for tuber production, we decided to use the 10-10-10 for vegetables from the Southern State Cooperative, that provides other minerals aside from the major nutrient N, P, K. In addition, the granular product is readily available and easy to use. A total of 24 containers were filled with garden soil with or without 30 g of 10-10-10 granular fertilizer mixed in the soil before one seed tuber was planted into each container. After at least one standing leaf per container, three containers each were fertilized with 0.5, 1, 1.5 or 2 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer was applied in June and July. In containers containing 30 g of 10-10-10 at the beginning, additional fertilization at more than 0.5 tablespoon resulted in the death of the plants, while in containers without the initial loading of fertilizers, increasing the fertilization rate resulted in higher yield of lotus tuber at the end of the experiment. The total yield of tubers per container was low and production of tubers in containers of this size may not be viable economically. However, better yield of edible tubers seem to be possible with larger containers and shallow ponds.

    Results from these experiments were used for presentations at the Third Thursday Workshop at Kentucky State University, the Annual meeting of Kentucky Academy of Science, and the 1890 Association of Research Directors. A Lotus Day was held in 2018 and 2019 for potential growers to visit my farm and participants were able to taste some of the lotus products and ask questions about lotus production. Two additional tours were also provided for growers to learn about growing lotus. Displays and information sheets were provided at the Third Thursday workshops organized by Kentucky State University. Project director made a trip to the Ten Mile Creek Nursery in Alabama to learn about different lotus varieties and culturing practices.

    In 2017, an experiment was conducted involving 3 varieties of lotus and 4 levels of fertilization rate to produce lotus in 18 gallon plastic containers. This initial experiment was adversely affected by deer interruption. A presentation was made about the potential of growing lotus in Kentucky at the Third Thursday Day at Kentucky State University. 

    In 2018, an experiment was conducted with Space 36 lotus in 18 gallon containers with water soluble fertilizer at 4 fertilization rates. A Lotus Field Day was held on the farm to show farmers and others how lotus could be produced in containers and small ponds. The project director visited Auburn University researchers and a lotus producer in Alabama to learn about different culturing techniques and varieties of lotus. Hubei 5, a variety selected for tuber production was introduced and successfully grown.

    Lotus seed pods were test marketed through an Asian grocery store, indicating there is strong consumer interest in purchasing fresh seed pods ($2/each). Even though the total yield of tubers was not enough for test marketing this time, there have been numerous inquiries about the availability of locally grown lotus tubers from local stores and individual consumers indicating a potential market exists for lotus tubers in Kentucky.


    Project objectives:

    The goal of this project was to evaluate the feasibility of producing lotus in containers as an alternative to generate farm income in Kentucky. The objective was to evaluate the effect of fertilization rate on lotus production in containers. 

    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.