- Additional Plants: ginseng
- Animal Production: herbal medicines
- Crop Production: agroforestry, forest farming
- Soil Management: soil analysis
Forest farming is an agroforestry practice which cultivates medicinal, edible, and handicraft crops under a forest canopy that is modified or maintained to provide shade levels and habitat which favor growth and enhance production (Chamberlain et al. 2009). Due to reliable markets and its high commodity value, American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) is the most ubiquitous focus of most forest farming operations in the Eastern United States and continues to grow as an industry. By number of growers, American ginseng is primarily grown using wild-simulated planting techniques aiming to mimic the natural habitat of native ginseng. This method requires fewer inputs than traditional agriculture, and produces more aesthetically valuable roots and consequently the greatest financial return (Carroll and Apsley 2013).
Wild-simulated ginseng producers use conventional wisdom—based on wild-harvesting of native ginseng populations—when selecting sites for production stands; sites are selected based on slope, aspect, and presence of indicator species. However, these are all proxy variables and do not reveal how plants are interacting with the direct environmental variables that influence plant growth (e.g., light, moisture, nutrients). Sites which seem comparable based on their slope, aspect, and associated species yield very different rates of germination and ginseng survival over time, resulting in mixed success of plantings. This project focuses on quantifying the influence of direct environmental factors on the success of wild-simulated ginseng plantings. Results from this study will be directly applicable for forest farmers, as well as farmers and landowners interested in deriving sustainable income from their forestland.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Identify and quantify the importance of direct environmental variables on success (e.g., density and vigor) in wild-simulated American ginseng plantings.
- Examine the relationship between common proxy variables (e.g., aspect, indicator species) used in American ginseng siting and direct environmental measures necessary for plant growth and development.
- Provide data to farmers and land managers on the most useful and efficient variables for predicting ginseng growth and development in wild-simulated systems.