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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 629: XXVI International Horticultural Congress: The Future for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants

SUSTAINABLE CROP MANAGEMENT PRACTICES FOR IMPROVING PRODUCTION OF CULINARY HERBS IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS

Authors:   M.C. Palada, A.M. Davis, S.M.A. Crossman, C. Robles, E.A. Chichester
Keywords:   Aromatic plants, Ocimum basilicum, Thymus vulgaris, Allium schoenoprasum, Coriandrum sativum, Petroselinum sativum, Majorana hortensis
Abstract:
Small-scale vegetable growers in the Virgin Islands rely on sales of culinary herbs as one major source of income. In spite of the economic importance, culinary herbs are available only in local markets and do not constitute a significant export crop. There is little research information on sustainable crop management practices to improve production and marketing of herbs in the Virgin Islands. This project was undertaken to develop sustainable soil and crop management practices for culinary herbs using crop rotation with green manures, application of composts, animal manures, and mulching. Over a four-year period (1997-2000), results indicated that although there were no significant differences in fresh and dry matter yield, culinary herbs grown in rotation with tropical green manure crops such as sunnhemp (Crotolaria juncea) and hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus) tended to produce higher yields than those grown with cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) or fallow (no green manure) suggesting that without chemical fertilizers, legume green manure crops can sustain economic yield levels of culinary herbs in a crop rotation system. Organic mulches such as grass straw, wood chips and shredded paper were excellent alternatives to synthetic (plastic) mulch. Additionally, organic mulch suppressed weeds, increased irrigation water use efficiency, reduced soil surface erosion, and improved economic returns. Yield of thyme (Thymus vulgaris) was improved by application of chicken manure, but application of either cow manure or turkey litter did not influence yield of chive (Allium schoenoprasum), cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), parsley (Petroselinum sativum), sweet marjoram (Majorana hortensis) and thyme.
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