Ginger is one of the hardest crops to grow. However, it can also be a very profitable crop if grown right. This detailed guide breaks down the steps to follow in ginger production.
Ginger, botanically known as “Zingiber Officinale,” is a tropical species whose rhizome (underground stem) is used as a spice and a preserve. It is a popular spice with a pungent aroma and spicy taste whose origin can be traced to Southern Asia.
There are many varieties of ginger such as spiral ginger, hidden ginger or even the decorative ones such as red ginger (Alpinia Purpurata) and Crepe Ginger (Cheilocostus Speciosus).
Zingiber Officinale is however the only edible ginger type and we will be referring to it for the purpose of this blog post.
Ginger is cultivated nationwide and it is popular in tropical lowland forests. In 2016, India, China, Nepal, and Nigeria were revealed as the top ginger producing countries in the world.
Nigeria is the largest producer of ginger in Africa and it is produced in states like Benue, Bauchi, Gombe and Kaduna, with Kaduna being its largest producer in Nigeria.
Interesting Fact: “The word “Ginger” comes from the sanskrit word “Singabera” which means “shaped like a horn.”
A feasibility study on ginger production will reveal that there is a lot of potential for ginger farming in Nigeria. However, ginger production, whether for commercialization or for small scale farming, is not an easy task.
It is a very delicate plant and any wrong step during cultivation can lead to low crop yield.
The process and farming techniques of growing ginger has been broken down into three steps; pre-production, production, and post-production.
Before ginger rhizomes are cut and planted, the following should be considered:
Being a tropical plant, the best soil for ginger should be characterized with moistness and humidity. The soil should however not be waterlogged or soggy as this causes the plant to rot easily.
Likewise, an overly dry soil will expose the plant to pests. This is why loamy soil, which has the capacity to drain water, will prevent the plant from being waterlogged.
The soil should be well drained and rid of stumps, pests, and parasites before planting. Manure should also be applied weeks before planting to facilitate plant growth.
Another soil factor to consider is the pH level of the soil. Ginger thrives in mildly acidic soils which is why a pH level of 5.5-6.5 is advised.
Ginger thrives in a shaded area and should not be exposed to direct sunlight, strong winds, or heavy rainfall.
Hot temperature causes the leaf tips to turn brown and die while cold temperature may freeze the plant or cause the rhizome to rot, which may kill the plant.
Ginger can be grown indoor where the temperature can be controlled or outside. If grown outside, ginger can be planted close to bananas where the banana leaves can serve as filters for the sunlight directed at the ginger crops.
Interesting Fact: “In the 13th century, you could buy a sheep with a pound of ginger.”
After everything is put in place for planting, the next step is the ginger production process. The following should be considered during this stage:
a. Planting: Ginger is cultivated through its rhizomes. When cutting the rhizomes, cut them into small sections, making sure each section has sprouts and eyes. A piece with more than one eye is more likely to sprout. It is advisable that each cut part contains 4-6g weight and is at least 1-3 inches tall.
After selecting the rhizomes, they should be soaked in warm water overnight to prepare the split surface region for planting.
Ginger can be planted indoors (as the plant only grows to about 2-3 feet.) or outdoors. If planting indoors, use a pot that is at least 30cm deep and when planting, place the seeds about 5-10cm below the soil.
If planting on a farm, it is important to note that for an acre of land, 600-800kg of ginger seeds is required to sow. Each seed requires 20cm space to grow so this should be put into consideration when preparing beds.
b. Fertilization: Ginger requires a large amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen supplies chlorophyll, proteins, and amino-acids. Phosphorus aids in respiration while potassium aids in transpiration.
Again, moderation is key because too much fertilization could burn the roots of the ginger plant while too little fertilization can stall plant growth. Chicken or animal manure can be used to fertilize.
c. Maintenance: Taking care of your farm in ginger production is very important. Ginger is a delicate plant and any missteps could lead to destruction.
During the early stages of planting, ginger requires 3-4 hours of sunlight in the morning and evening. If planting indoors, the pot can be kept in a spot that stays warm and doesn’t get excessive sunlight. When the ginger sprouts, you can add mulch to it to keep soil warm and fight weeds.
Mulching of ginger beds with green leaves is important for weed control and moisture preservation. It can be done with coconut leaves or rice straw.
Ginger thrives in heavy manuring so compost and cow dung should be added. Weeding should also be done regularly, especially hand weeding.
The first hand weeding should be done one (1) month after planting while subsequent weeding can depend on the weed density.
Interesting Fact: “Queen Elizabeth 1 of England has been credited with the invention of the gingerbread man.”
d. Pests and Disease control:
Like any other crop, ginger is susceptible to pests and diseases. These pests and diseases can however be controlled. Some of the pests include:
- Slugs and snails: The fresh and adult leaves of ginger plant are prone to destruction by slugs and snails. Frequent mulching helps to protect the ginger leaves.
- Mites: Mite infestation usually occurs during the early stages of planting. Watering plants regularly can help prevent mites. However, it is important to remember that excessive watering can be detrimental to the ginger plant too.
Some of the diseases which plague ginger plants are:
- Soft rot: This is perhaps the most destructive disease as it often results to complete loss of the plant. It is caused by fungi such as Pythium and Fusarium spp. Infected crops should be removed immediately.
- Damping off: Ginger plants can also be affected by mildew. This is often caused by over-watering the plant. The infected crop should be removed from the bed.
- Rust: Rust occurs when reddish-orange spots develop on the bottom of the leaves. It infects the plant through the buried rhizomes. The infected crops should be removed from the bed.
Interesting Fact: “The Thai word for ginger is “Khing.”
After planting and maintaining your ginger, it is now time to move on to the post-production aspect of it. Here are the steps to take at the post-production level:
Ginger takes about 8-10 months to reach adulthood. The leaves turn yellow-ish and the stems begin to dry when it is ready for harvest. Harvesting can be done manually using trowels, hoes, or spades to lift off the entire plant.
Harvesting machines such as tractors can also be used to harvest ginger. Upon harvesting, the rhizome is rid of the soil particles and roots. It is important to harvest carefully to avoid injuries on the rhizome that could lead to decay.
Ginger can be refrigerated to be kept fresh. This is done by placing the unpeeled ginger in a plastic bag with the air pushed out and putting it in a refrigerator.
If ginger is not to be used in its fresh state, it can be stored and used in its dry state. To do this, you can cut the ginger into pieces and dried under the sun. The dried ginger can be used like that or ground into powder.
Interesting Fact: “There is an Island called “Ginger Island” but has neither ginger nor inhabitants.”
Ginger can be used for different purposes.
It can be consumed powdered, fresh, or dehydrated. It can be ground and used as a spice for cooking and baking or added to tea. Dead ginger roots can also function as raw materials for ginger oil, biscuits, and more.
Ginger has gained a place in the kitchen in some areas, and thus, is fast becoming a necessary food condiment.