Basil or Tulsi is an aromatic medicinal plant. The basil leaves are part of routine worship in several religious cultures. Therefore, fresh tulsi leaves are traded throughout the world. However, the leaves contain a bright yellow volatile oil which is useful against insects and bacteria. The oil is precious and a major ingredient in processing different fragrant items and aromatic products. Hence, basil farming is gaining much popularity these days.
The scientific name of Tulsi is Ocimum Tenuiflorum. The plant belongs to the Lamiaceae family. Tulsi is also commonly known as holy basil and Queen of Herbs.
Basil is an erect herbaceous annual plant, or sometimes grown as a short-lived perennial in some areas. You can find more than 50 species of basil throughout the globe. It grows into a bushy shape up to about 50 cm tall and some varieties may even grow taller. The stems are herbaceous in young tissue, however, these become woody as the plant matures.
It grows into a bushy shape up to about 50 cm tall and some varieties may even grow taller. The stems are herbaceous in young tissue, however, these become woody as the plant matures.
Some of the Tulsi growing countries are India, France, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Morocco The United States, Greece, and Israel. In India, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab are the major tulsi growing states.
Economic Importance of Tulsi
Tulsi contains some active chemical reagents. These are oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, carvacrol, linalool, and β-caryophyllene (about 8%).
Basil is cultivated for the fresh market as a culinary herb, as a condiment, or spice in the dried/frozen leaf form. Additionally, it is a source of aromatic essential oil for use in foods, flavors, and fragrances. Sometimes it is cultivated as a potted herb and bedding plant.
Before commencing a Tulsi cultivation business, you must identify the market first. Additionally, you need to figure out the specific requirement in the local market. Moreover, you must have a clear conception of where you sell the produce after harvesting.
Medicinal Values of Basil
- First of all, basil is very high in antioxidants, especially when it is used as an extract or oil.
- Additionally, it is effective in sharping memory.
- It may help in curing fever, cough, and cold.
- Basil is an important ingredient in cough syrups and expectorants. It can also relieve mucus in asthma and bronchitis.
Additionally, basil can reduce cholesterol levels.
- Basil juice is good for night blindness and sore eyes.
- Also, basil helps to cure some skin diseases like leucoderma.
Things to Consider in Commercial Basil Farming Business
In starting basil cultivation, you must perform market research. Additionally, you must have tie-ups with companies that are ready to buy basil from you.
Secondly, choose the right variety according to the agro-climatic condition of your area. According to the area of land you have, craft a business plan. In the basil cultivation project, financial analysis is the most important aspect.
Test the soil of the proposed land and plan for nutrient management accordingly. Finally, you must have the proper arrangement of irrigation and plant protection system for your basil farm.
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Best Varieties for Basil Farming
Broadly, you can find two different varieties of commercial farming in Asian countries. These are purple basil or Krishna Tulsi and green basil or Sri Tulsi. Additionally, you can find Cinnamon basil and lemon basil also. Actually, lemon basil contains citral, an aromatic compound found in citrus fruit, and smells very lemony.
Location & Agroclimatic Condition for Basil Farming
The crop has wide adaptability to different agro-climatic conditions. Therefore, you can grow basil successfully in tropical and subtropical climates. Additionally, long days with high temperatures are favorable for plant growth and oil production.
The optimum temperature for germination is 20 °C, with growing temperatures of 7 to 27 °C. The plant is susceptible to frost and cold temperatures and therefore develops best in long-day, full-sun conditions.
Basil cannot tolerate drought stress as the plant tissue is very tender. Annual rainfall of 700 mm is the minimum for dryland cultivation. Hence, you must supplement the lower rainfall with sufficient regular irrigation to maintain the constant growth of the crop. Also, you can irrigate the field with overhead sprinklers, drip irrigation is better.
Suitable Soil for Basil Farming
Basil requires well-drained, fertile soils with a high organic matter content. Basically, it grows well in soils with a pH ranging from 4,3 to 8,2 and an optimum pH of 6,4.
Basil has medium, deep roots, and a high water requirement. Because moisture is important for a good basil crop, mulching the area will not only discourage weeds but will maintain the moisture level of the soil, keeping the plants healthy.
Read: How To Start A Soil Testing Service Business
8 Basic Cultivation Steps for Basil (Tulsi) Farming
1. Field Preparation
Before raising the seedlings, you must prepare the main field. First of all, you must test the soil at a laboratory to check for mineral deficiencies and excesses, organic status, and carbon ratios. A soil analysis will guide you in correcting the nutritional status of the soil.
Correct the soil pH according to analysis and soil type. Additionally, you must plan the use of fertilizer according to whether you want to grow the crop inorganically or organically.
Suggested Read: Is Soil Testing Important in Agriculture?
Generally, basil propagates in two ways. These are seed propagation and vegetative propagation. You can get seedlings by raising them from nursery beds. However, you can also use seed trays for propagation from seeds.
You can expect a germination rate of the seed of 80 to 95 %. However, you should not plant the seeds if the germination percentage is less than 70 %. When the seedlings reach 15 cm in height in approximately 4 to 6 weeks, you can transplant them in the main field.
The recommended plant spacing is 15 to 30 cm in the row, and 50 cm to 1 m in the row width. The distance between the beds depends on available cultivation equipment and end-user.
Generally, large commercial producers use a mechanical planter or a vegetable seeder. The seeding rate will depend on the desired planting density, which, in turn, depends on the end market.
Fertilizer applications depend on the soil type, soil analysis recommendation, and fertilizer applications for the previous crop. Overfertilizing basil will result in fertile vegetal growth, but the flavor will be impaired.
Basil responds well to moderate fertility. Generally, the quantity of fertilizer depends on the soil analysis results. If you are growing basil for essential oil, you must apply fertilizer sparingly as this can
decrease the fragrant oils.
Basil requires water in form of rain or irrigation regularly, throughout the growing season in order to maintain constant growth. You may consider irrigating the basil with sprinklers. However, drip irrigation is a better option. Plants grown with drip irrigation are less likely to develop foliar diseases than overhead-irrigated plants because the foliage stays drier.
6. Weed Control
Weed control is critical because competition with weeds decreases the quality of basil leaves. You can opt for cultivation practices such as high plant populations, shallow cultivation, decreasing row spacing, and mulching to keep weed populations low. Mechanical cultivation and manual weeding are some of the
weed control methods you can use.
7. Plant Protection
Tulsi is not prone to serious pests/diseases except for some minor pests like leaf rollers. And whenever you notice, you can control this by spraying with 0.2% Malathion or 0.1% Methyl parathion.
Medicinal plants like tulsi require production involving minimal or no use of chemical pesticides. Organic practices include control measures using neem-based formulations.
Additionally, you can control the diseases like powdery mildew by spraying with 0.3% wettable sulfur. Likewise, you can control the seedling blight and root rot by drenching the nursery beds with a 0.1 percent solution of mercurial fungicide and adopting phytosanitary measures.
8. Harvesting & Yield
Some producers of essential oils harvest basil only once and then during the full flowering stage. However, you can harvest the crop just as flowering commences and allow for regrowth to have additional harvests during the same season. In basil cultivation up to 4 cuttings are possible.
Commercially, you can use a modified sickle-bar mower with an adjustable cutting height for harvesting. For fast regrowth, cut at 100 to 150 mm above the ground. Additionally, you must harvest in warm, sunny weather, which will allow for a higher yield of oil. Make sure not to irrigate for a few days before harvest.
On average, Tulsi gives about 10,000 kgs of fresh herbage per hectare per year. The herb contains about 0.1 to 0.23 percent oil and about 10-20 kg of essential oil per hectare. Irrigated tulsi gives a higher herbage yield (up to 20 tons and oil yield (up to 40kg/ha).
Basil cultivation gives an inspiring margin to even small farmers. So, if the agro-climatic condition of your locality fits with it, you can start commercial Tulsi growing for profits.
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