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For many decades, the quality of Jamaican peeled dried ginger has remained the best in the world, commanding the highest prices. The industry has the potential to earn US$ 964,000 and generate J$ 32 million income to farmers. However, a new disease, low production and high prices threaten to destroy this.
The Ministry of Agriculture is developing a project to rescue the industry. This leaflet is to help growers raise yields and quality of green ginger. Field support, marketing and research will also be provided.
Ginger is a herb that, once planted, grows year after year. Each year, it bears parts called hands (Fig. 1), in the soil. Hands put out branches (fingers) which sprout shoots as they grow out. Leaves make food and store it in hands. As days get shorter, leaves dry down naturally and hands reach mature size. The next year, these new hands sprout (ratooning) and the plant spreads further.
Growing Areas, Soils, Locations
The major ginger-growing areas are 450-900 metres above sea level, in the hilly areas of central Jamaica, where the parishes of Manchester, Clarendon, St. Ann and Trelawny meet.
Ginger grows well on many types of soils in Jamaica. Best results come from clay loams with a good supply of organic matter. The crop cannot withstand waterlogging.
The crop will bear well from sea level to over 1500 metres above. In central Jamaica, it is inter-planted with yams or in the open, by itself. In other countries, fields are planted on flat land, using tractors and other machines. Ginger will bear in the shade (e.g. areas of Hanover, under dense trees). Traditionally, land left in ruinate for a few years gives best results.
Ginger requires at least 1500 mm per year, with a short dry season around harvesting time. The crop is irrigated in other countries.
Spacings (Fig. 3)give 110,000 - 218,000 plants per hectare (44,000- 87,000 plants per acre). Sprouted pieces will emerge from the ground within 5-10 days, depending on moisture.
Although ginger is often not fertilized in Jamaica, much higher yields are possible with fertilizer. This is more important with land that is not rested. Twelve to seventeen 50 kg bags per hectare (5-7 bags per acre) of 14-28-14 are normally broadcast and chopped into the soil at refining. 18-18-18 is better for very acid soils.
Using a hoe, do the first weeding at moulding (6-8 weeks after planting). Two or more weedings may be needed. A machete is best used later, to avoid damage to hands.
It is best to avoid land infested with nutgrass as this weed is very difficult to remove. It will pierce the hands and form "nuts" inside them. It may even reduce the size and yield in infested parts of a field.
Major Pests and Diseases
Ginger Rhizome Rot (GRR)- This disease has hit the main ginger- growing areas since 1995. It worsened each year and in 1997, around half of the crop was destroyed.
It affects all parts of the plant. Leaves droop, turn yellow and plant tops are easily pulled away from the root. The plant dries and falls over before normal (Fig. 4). Hands may look healthy outside or rotted (Fig. 5). Inside, hands are a lighter or darker colour than normal. Normal-looking hands placed in storage, rot after several weeks, if they are diseased.
The disease is caused by germs (Fusarium spp., Pythium spp., Pseudomonas spp.) These are spread in the ginger and soil, on tools, shoes, etc. It is more destructive in wet conditions.
To control the disease, several things must be done.
You will need the following materials for 0.2 hectare (half acre):
Leaf spots (Fig. 7)
Ginger is affected by leaf spots which are usually not severe. In recent years however, serious cases have been seen. Leaves may have small, whitish spots with yellow edges; these get larger and spread, making the leaf yellow then brown, killing it. Early in the crop, it can cause severe losses. Fusarium spp., Rhizoctonia spp. And Pseudomonas solanacearum have been found in diseased leaves.
Topsin-M fungicide gave good results in one diseased plot. Further tests are to be done.
Plants mature and turn yellow around October/ November and dry down by December/January. The reaping period is December to May: Fresh market ginger reaped first and dried reaped nearer May.
Loosen soil with a fork, carefully lift hands and remove soil, to avoid breaking. Animal-drawn ploughs damage and bury hands much more. Wider row spacing is better if tractors or animal ploughs are used.
Average yields in central Jamaica are 13-18 tonnes/ hectare (5-7 tons/ acre) of green ginger, being lower in sandy soils and for the Tambric type. In India, the main types planted, yield similarly to Jamaica; in Hawaii, 44 tonnes/ hectare (17 ton/ acre) is reported, using their larger green ginger types.
Fresh ginger produces 20% (one-fifth) its weight as peeled, dried ginger.