Asparagus Cultivation & Farming in India
Asparagus, or Shatavari, Shatavari is one of the most prized vegetables in the world. It can be grown all over India and yet, it’s one of the few crops which is not cultivated as much. Highly priced, the Shatavari is used as a vegetable and medicine in india. As a medicine, it’s used to treat depression, Diarrhoea, Low Blood sugar, coughs, and a lot more in Ayurveda. Though it’s a very popular vegetable in European and western countries, it’s not widely popular as a vegetable in India. Exposure to the asparagus shoots as a vegetable is one main reason for the same.
Asparagus is Expensive. Priced anywhere between 200 to 750 rupees, the price for these shoots vary on growing condition, tendeIndia, origin, and seasons. Asparagus is widely grown in China and is often imported to india. While imported asparagus is often expensive, (more than locally produced asparagus) the locally produced asparagus is gaining popularity soon. Most people wonder why asparagus is so expensive, even when it’s produced locally. It is not because very few farmers cultivate asparagus (though it’s also one contributing reason) or just demand. Asparagus produces 15-20 shoots of a plant in a season. That’s less than 300 grams of asparagus per plant. Also, the plant starts producing shoots which can be harvested from the 3rd year onwards. ITs a high maintenance plant that requires a lot of care and the harvest is time-sensitive, labor-intensive, and depends on skilled labor.
Overall, Asparagus farming is not to be compared to farming tomatoes or cucumbers where you get a yield in 90 days and pack up and prepare for a new crop in 15 days. This is a long-term crop, yield starts slow and the picking is once a year in an 8-week window and it’s scarce.
Common Facts about asparagus farming
- High-value crop : price for asparagus can be around 200-750 rs per kilo
- High yield: expect 1.5-1.75 tonnes in yield per year.
- Perennial crop: Asparagus plantation is done with 20 years per plot in mind. A crop will last 20-30 years usually and this has its pros and cons
- High maintenance: Weddings are a common issue with asparagus. While the plant has a yield only for 2 -3 weeks a year, the remaining time of the year is spent in maintaining the area. Keeping the area weed-free is crucial for the crop to thrive.
- Requires temperate climatic conditions. Asparagus appreciates Low, scattered rainfall throughout the year with stretches of drought conditions and cold weather. Areas like Gujarat, Maharashtra, and parts of Rajasthan, Tamilnadu are best suited for asparagus cultivation. Tropical weather is not suitable and will result in high maintenance costs.
- High Profit: Expect a good profit of up to 10 Lakh per acre from Asparagus cultivation. Unlike any other crop, asparagus profits are over the roof.
Basic Requirement for Asparagus Farming
- Planting: Asparagus plants are usually propagated from crowns, which are 1-2-year-old root systems. The crowns are planted in well-drained soil during the early spring or fall. Asparagus plants require a nutrient-rich and pH-neutral soil for optimal growth.
- Growing conditions: Asparagus plants thrive in areas with cool winters and moderate summers. They require full sun exposure for at least 6-8 hours a day. Adequate water supply is crucial, especially during the initial growth period.
- Care and maintenance: Weed control is essential in asparagus farming, as the plants are susceptible to competition from weeds. Mulching with organic materials can help suppress weed growth. Regular watering and fertilization are necessary to promote healthy plant growth.
- Harvesting: Asparagus shoots are typically ready for harvest in the second or third year after planting. The shoots should be harvested when they reach a height of 6-8 inches. Care should be taken not to damage the crowns during harvesting. Harvesting should be done regularly during the growing season to encourage new shoot production.
- Pest and disease management: Asparagus can be susceptible to pests such as asparagus beetles and diseases like rust and fusarium wilt. Proper sanitation practices, including removal of infected plants and debris, can help prevent the spread of diseases. Insecticides and fungicides may be used as necessary, following recommended guidelines.
- Crop rotation: Asparagus plants are long-lived perennials and should be grown in a dedicated area of the farm for several years. After a few years, it is advisable to rotate the asparagus crop to a different location to prevent the buildup of pests and diseases in the soil.
- Post-harvest handling: Asparagus is highly perishable and should be cooled immediately after harvest to maintain its freshness. It is often recommended to store asparagus at temperatures around 32°F (0°C). Proper packaging and refrigeration can help extend the shelf life of harvested asparagus.
- Marketing and sales: Asparagus can be sold directly to consumers at local farmers’ markets, through community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, or to restaurants and grocery stores. Developing relationships with buyers and understanding market demand can help ensure successful sales.
Asparagus farming in India
There are small pockets of farmers in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra who are into asparagus farming for the past few years but the major chunk of asparagus farmers are from Himachal Pradesh.
Current interest in Asparagus farming is seen in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra & Punjab recently. While asparagus is cultivated in India for medicinal uses, some farmers have started cultivating asparagus for the vegetable too. Medicinal asparagus (Asparagus racemosus) cultivation is done as an annual where the plants are harvested in 18 months and replanted every second year. These asparagus are different from those consumed as vegetables. The ones where the shoots are harvested as a vegetable are called Asparagus Officinalis. For planting as a vegetable, picking is not done the first 2-3 years and the roots are allowed to develop. When the shoots are cultivated the first year, the plant roots are not allowed to develop and the plant will die the second or third year. But when the shoots are allowed to grow the first few years, the plants develop a deep root system (often up to 10 feet), and the plant thieves.
Asparagus Officinalis is a perennial. The plants last from 20 to 30 years in the right condition. The fruits are poisonous and the roots are used to propagate plants and are often termed crowns.
In India, the Racemosus variety is commonly found and is cultivated for medicinal purposes. For more information on The Asparagus Racemosus cultivation, check out the related article.
Areas where Asparagus is Cultivated in India
- Himachal Pradesh: The cool and temperate climate of Himachal Pradesh, particularly in regions like Shimla, Kullu, and Solan, makes it suitable for asparagus cultivation.
- Jammu and Kashmir: Certain parts of Jammu and Kashmir, such as the Kashmir Valley, with their cooler climate, can support asparagus cultivation.
- Uttarakhand: The hilly regions of Uttarakhand, including areas like Nainital, Almora, and Pithoragarh, offer favorable conditions for asparagus farming due to their moderate climate.
- North-Eastern States: States like Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya, which have a cooler climate and higher altitudes, provide suitable conditions for asparagus cultivation.
- Himachal Pradesh: Certain regions in Himachal Pradesh, such as Kangra, Mandi, and Chamba, have a favorable climate for asparagus farming.
- Tamil Nadu: The Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu, with their cool climate and suitable altitudes, can support asparagus cultivation.
- Maharashtra: Certain parts of Maharashtra, such as the hilly areas of the Western Ghats like Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, offer suitable conditions for asparagus farming.
Asparagus Profit and Yield per acre
Asparagus is a labor-intensive crop and also requires care. The plant is sensitive to flooding and appreciates soil that is very loose and fertile. A ph level between 6.5 and 7.5 is best suited. Full sun, preferably 7-8 hours per day is preferred. Your first harvest starts in 3 years and every year subsequently, you can harvest asparagus during the spring. The plants last for 20 years and sometimes more.
Asparagus is a seasonal crop. Your production window lasts for 2 to 3 months.
Theoretically, 1.75 Tonnes of asparagus can be harvested in one-acre land. A yield of 1 to 1.5 tonnes per acre can be expected if the climatic conditions and soil are suitable for asparagus. This is theoretically because I am yet to find someone who can verify that they have got this yield in India. Not many farmers cultivate Asparagus vegetables in india. You will find very little information and testimonials from farmers who have successfully cultivated asparagus in India and that makes claims of profit questionable.
China produces the major bulk of asparagus in the world contributing to over 80% of the production. In 2019. Other countries like Peru, Mexico, and the United States follow meager numbers. Unfortunately, India does not make it to the list of tom ’20s, let alone the top 10 when it comes to asparagus production.
Considering that the yield of Asparagus per acre is 1.5 tonnes per acre per year, A profit of 2 Lakh rupees can be expected with the lowest price of 200 rs per acre. The price for Asparagus can go up to 750 rupees per Kilo which may drive the turnover up to 11.5 Lakh per year per acre. Even with all the other expenses covered, you will have a decent profit of 9-10 Lakh.
Problems with Asparagus farming
- Timely harvesting and storage: Asparagus is a crop that has a very short window for harvesting. Harvest commences to 2-3 weeks in a month and maybe scattered over 2-3 months. Harvesting has to be done without delay when spears shoot out. Delay in harvesting the shoots will result in hardy shoots which cannot be sold. Soots grow at the rate of 6 inches to 10 inches a day and if you skip a day’s harvest, you will have to still harvest the crop but not sell them as the shoots will be hardy.
- Storage and packing: The first 24 hours of the post-harvest is crucial. In the first 24 hours, the asparagus will tend to lose more sugar and gain more fiber. Storing it at the right temperature and transporting it to the market is crucial. Hardy shoots will have no value in the market. Asparagus once harvested should be in the market in less than 4-5 hours or stored at the right temperature.
- Market: India is a young market for vegetables. It’s used very rarely in common households and the price is exorbitant. The market lies in high-end restaurants and malls. Today Big basket and other online vendors acquire asparagus. Mandi is not a great place to sell your products and with this comes a range of other problems. Packing is crucial and it should be ready for end-users.
- Limited market: Being a seasonal crop and with a limited window of production, you will have most products in your local market coming in at the same time. This may drive high competition and drive prices to a low. Fortunately, the production of asparagus is Very low and for the time being, this is not of concern.
Q: What is asparagus cultivation?
A: Asparagus cultivation refers to the practice of growing asparagus plants for commercial or personal use, primarily for the consumption of their tender shoots.
Q: What are the key requirements for successful asparagus cultivation?
A: Successful asparagus cultivation requires well-drained soil, full sun exposure, moderate temperatures, adequate water supply, and nutrient-rich soil. Proper care and maintenance, including weed control and regular watering, are also important.
Q: How long does it take for asparagus plants to reach harvest stage?
A: Asparagus plants usually take about 2-3 years to reach the harvest stage after planting. This allows the plants to establish a strong root system before consistent shoot production.
Q: When is the best time to plant asparagus crowns?
A: Asparagus crowns are typically planted in early spring or fall, depending on the specific climate and growing conditions in your region.
Q: How often should asparagus be watered?
A: Asparagus plants require consistent soil moisture, especially during the growing season. They should be watered regularly, providing about 1 inch of water per week. Adjust watering based on local conditions and rainfall.
Q: How do you harvest asparagus?
A: Asparagus shoots should be harvested when they reach a height of 6-8 inches. To harvest, snap or cut the shoots at ground level, being careful not to damage the crowns. Regular harvesting during the growing season promotes new shoot production.
Q: What pests and diseases affect asparagus plants?
A: Asparagus beetles, aphids, rust, and fusarium wilt are common pests and diseases that can affect asparagus plants. Proper pest management practices and monitoring can help prevent and address these issues.
Q: How long can asparagus plants produce shoots?
A: Asparagus plants can continue producing shoots for up to 15-20 years if properly maintained and cared for. Regular harvesting and good cultural practices help sustain shoot production.
Q: Can asparagus be grown in containers?
A: Yes, asparagus can be grown in large containers or raised beds with a minimum depth of 12-18 inches. Ensure proper drainage and provide adequate space for the root system to develop.
Q: How should harvested asparagus be stored?
A: Asparagus is highly perishable and should be cooled immediately after harvest. Store harvested asparagus in the refrigerator at temperatures around 32°F (0°C). To extend the shelf life, keep the shoots hydrated and place them in a damp paper towel or plastic bag.
Reference: asparagus cultivation pdf