By Jodi Naegeli
Have you heard about the herb Echinacea?† Ever wonder how it was grown, or where it came from?† Well, it is also known as the Purple Coneflower.† The roots are used in the herbal form, and the seed is also used.† It has actually been used for centuries; the North American Indians had used it to ease the pain of insect bites, snakebites, various infections, toothaches, cuts and many other ailments.† Lately though, it has been used to help enhance out immune system, and to fight microbial infections.† It is used for such things as the flu, sore throats and cold symptoms.† It is a relatively new herb on the market, and growers are still learning how to successfully grow it.† I have found a few tips on how to grow the Purple Coneflower, which has already begun to bring in a lot of money to growers.
Echinacea prefers a dry, sandy soil with a high pH (about 6) content.† You should cultivate the land one year in advance to planting this crop; this should help to minimize your weeds.† Echinacea is wanted as an organic crop, so you canít use chemicals to kill weeds or insects.† This means that predator bugs are going to be needed to control your pests.† The bugs you can use to help your problem are:† Praying Mantis, Lace Wings and Lady Bugs.†† To help your weed problem, you can use commercial grade landscape fabric between the rows or a mulch.† The mulch sometimes brings in more cutworms, so that might not be a good idea.† If you want to spend a lot of money there is a wood fiber from Canfor, which decomposes over a period of 2-3 years.† Even though the purple coneflower likes dry soil, some type of irrigation system will be needed, for the critical times during transplanting.
You can plant this crop from seed or with small seedlings.† Not many people have done the direct seeding, so results may not be that good at this time.† Your best bet, is to plant small seedlings.† In the early spring, seeds should be planted, and then transplanted into plug trays.† From there they go into the greenhouse until they have reached the 2-4-leaf stage, and then they are off to the field to grow into beautiful plants.† In the field, spacing ranges from about 2Ē- 6Ē apart and 1í-1.5í spacing between rows.
As I said before, Echinacea is grown for the root and seed that it produces.† You must grow the roots for 3-4 years, before harvesting them in the fall.† It is important to harvest after a frost, this helps the active ingredient, to be at itís peak.† Then the roots are dried out of direct sun, until they are 65% dry.† Make sure to remove rot, if there is any on the root.
The root sells for $40-$45 per pound.† So one acre could bring in $80,000.† So, what about the seed?† This ranges from $10,000-$15,000 for one acre.† Does that convince you to grow Echinacea?
Donít get your hopes up to high yet, there are a few problems with this new crop.† There are 3 different species that are grown, for medicinal purposes, and sometimes they are hard to identify.† They are Echinacea angfustifolia, Echinacea pursuer and Echinacea pallida.† Donít plant them all together, because they will cross-pollinate, or even a few miles apart.† It is best to grow one species.†† Most seed houses sell Echinacea purpurea as a seed, and this is probably the one you have in your garden.† ID of this one is not to hard, but the other two species are not always identified correctly.
It is important to be aware of what you are getting into, some seed producers grow more then one type of Echinacea and do not know which seed they are selling to you.† Make sure that the seed is identified, and the plant has been botanically identified too.† After your crop has flowered it is a good idea to have it identified to make sure you have the right seed.
So, the important things to have are: A botanical Identification certificate, an organic certification (must be considered organic by a third party organization) and make sure you do laboratory tests to determine how much active ingredient is in the roots, be careful, because it varies!
Good Luck and remember to stop and smell the Echinacea!