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Commercial Farming with Herb Seedlings

Herb Seedlings – Commercial Farming with Parsley in South Africa

Herbs are widely used in the making of essential, aromatic, and culinary oils and extracts, as well as sauces. Though the plants are normally sold fresh and in small batches, the dried-herb market is well established. For farmers wishing to enter the market for commercial growth, experts recommend propagation from seedlings for uniform plants, improved crop yield, lower risk, a shorter period from planting to harvesting, and better stand. Reputable nurseries provide a range of herb seedlings for commercial farmers. These plants are grown in greenhouses where the plants are protected against pests and the elements. They are chemically treated before delivery to the farmer, ensuring optimal protection against diseases and pests until the farmer starts with their chemical treatment programme.

Parsley is one of many culinary herbs but is also used medicinally. The plant originated in northern Africa and southern Europe. The leaves are used fresh or dried in many dishes. Two main types are commercially propagated, namely flat-leaf and curly-leaf parsley. It is a biennial plant with a delicate taste and a pleasant fragrance. The plant produces leaves in the first year and, if left for another growth season, produces seed. Its taproot can be harvested after the seed has been harvested and used for culinary purposes. It grows in a bush up to a height of 35 to 45 cm. Flat-leaf parsley produces light-green leaves, while the curly-leaf type produces a tough and darker, bushy leaf. The vitamin C-rich plant can be left until after seeding to also harvest its taproot, but most commercial farmers grow it as an annual crop from seedlings.

Soil Requirements

It is essential to prepare the soil well before transplanting the parsley seedlings from trays to the soil. The plant performs best in sandy loam soil but can also perform well in loam soil. High organic content is important and the ideal pH level is between 6 and 7. Organic compost should be added to the soil around 30 days before transplanting the herb seedlings, ensuring proper incorporation of the compost in the soil. It also gives time for weed germination, allowing enough time to harrow the soil before planting. Slight tilling of the soil is recommended and fertiliser can be added 48 hours before planting the seedlings.

Climate Requirements

The herb grows well in areas where the temperature range is between 13 and 27 °C. Parsley, though not very frost resistant, can survive frost.

Seedling Transplant

If parsley is propagated from seedlings delivered by one of the commercial farming nurseries, transplant it in rows of 19 to 31 cm apart with 10-cm spacing between plants in the row. With this spacing, it is possible to get 280 000 to 460 000 plants on a hectare. If planted outdoors and not in greenhouses or under netting, transplanting can be done from mid-August.

Harvesting

The herb can be harvested up to five times in the season by cutting it back to a 15-cm height, giving it enough height and foliage to regrow and allowing five weeks before the next harvesting. Harvesting can be done throughout summer. If left in the field for a second year, provide protection against the extreme winter cold.

Irrigation Requirements

With the herb having a shallow root system, it is important to prevent drought-related stress. The soil must be kept moist, so it is recommended to install the necessary equipment to monitor moisture levels. Any moisture stress will result in stunted growth and limited foliage. With foliage being the part of the plant that is used, it means a lower yield. Drip or sprinkler irrigation must be used, though the drip system works better to minimise the risk of foliage damage. With sprinkler irrigation, the moisture on the foliage may create the ideal growth environment for fungus. Parsley needs around 35 to 45 mm of irrigation, depending on the soil and weather conditions. If planted in sandy soil, irrigate every 48 hours. The plant performs better if mulching is applied, as it helps to reduce water evaporation, which can lead to dry soil. Mulching also helps to reduce weed growth.

Contact the sales office for more information about available herb seedlings.

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