How To Grow Mint
Mints are perennial herbs with squared, four-sided stems with opposite leaves and small lipped flowers. All parts of the plants are pungent. Most mints are rampant spreaders, forming a thick mat of spreading stolons (creeping underground stems) just under the surface of the ground. Aboveground, plants produce 2-to 3-foot upright stems. Most are hardy in Zones 3–8, but check the species you want before you buy.
Fig: Mint Plant
Organic Cucumber - Poly House Cultivation
Growing Organic Cucumbers in Protected Cultivation
-Continental cucumbers are 30 to 45 cm long, dark green, smooth skin slightly ribbed, and glossy.
Lebanese or mini cucumbers are 14 to 20 cm long, green and glossy. They are quicker to
harvest from flowering, with less bent fruit, especially in winter.
Varieties may vary with yields and quality, tolerance to powdery mildew and cold tolerance.
-There are distinct warm season and cold-season varieties.
Greenhouse conditions -
A polythene greenhouse should be selected with plenty of light and ventilation and preferably sited so that plants are grown in north-south facing rows. The height of the greenhouse to
the gutters should preferably be over 4 m.
A relative humidity of 85% is optimum. Use a hygrometer to check the relative humidities. High humidities increase leaf diseases such as botrytis and powdery mildew, and the plants
can also be too busy. Ventilation may be adjust the vents to maintain optimum temperatures and humidities, especially in the afternoon. This will reduce diseases such as botrytis and increase the uptake of nutrients. Do not over-ventilate as this may reduce the relative humidity to a low level. This can reduce yields and fruit can have gummy ends. Fans can also be used for cooling and ventilation. Ensure that misters, if used, do not increase the relative humidities too high.
Cucumbers need light levels of about 50,000 lux. On clear days in summer, light levels are often above 100,000 lux and temperatures are too high. A thermal blanket over the crop can
be used to automatically shade the plants at a selected temperature i.e. 32 °C.in hot weather and decrease day temperatures. If there is no thermal blanket, in the warmer months,
It is preferable to maintain the temperature above 14°C in winter
Optimum temperatures are 22 to 34ºC. Temperatures over 40 C or less than 14°C are unfavorable to cucumber production. The absolute minimum temperature is 5 C.
Seed into sterilised, individually celled plastic seedling trays filled with fresh sterilised potting mix. Cover seeds with 5 to 10 mm of vermiculite or perlite. Seed may also be planted into
peat blocks, 4 to 5 cm jiffy pots, or 4 to 8 cm rockwool blocks for 2 to 6 weeks before planting into the greenhouse. Plants can be transplanted at the 2 to4 leaf stage. The rockwool blocks
are placed directly on top of the slabs. Some growers may seed directly into bags in summer and transplant in winter.
Low temperatures give slow and uneven germination and plants of poor vigour.
The optimum temperature for germination of cucumber seed is 27 °C, day and night.
Plant at 1.5 (winter) to 2.0 (summer) plants per square metre, with plants at 40 to 60 cm
apart, with double rows on 2 m centres. Lebanese cucumbers can be planted slightly closer
(up to 3 to 4 plants per square metre) than Continental cucumbers. Yields will decrease if too
many plants are grown, due to insufficient light and a build-up of diseases..
Cropping schedules -
-The best cropping periods for greenhouse cucumbers are from August to November and from April to May.
-Summer cropping is difficult if high temperatures occur in the greenhouse.
-Greenhouse cucumbers can crop for 12 months when properly managed, but the normal picking period is much shorter. Growers often have three crops per year.
Irrigation/nutrient solution -
Use organic fertilizers, micronutrients & PGR(Plant Growth Regulators) for nutrients supply through irrigation.
Training, pruning and thinning -
Remove the side shoots and tendrils on the main stem.
Thin to one fruit per two nodes for the Continental varieties, especially curled fruits
which may be visible after a few days. The fruits may not be thinned alternately, as reject fruit are removed first. Some fruits will drop off naturally. Do not thin the Lebanese varieties, which may have more than one fruit on every node and up to 4 to 7
fruit per node. Tendrils may need to be removed if these wrap around the fruits.
Place the plant over a hoop, or pipe, or plastic saddle at the top of the wire.
Stop the plant by removing the growing point at the fourth leaf over the wire. Allow two laterals to grow. These will grow downwards. Stop growth just before they reach the ground.
As plants mature, old or diseased leaves can be gradually removed, especially to allow better light into the plant.
Symptoms on leaves begin as small dark water spots which enlarge and become light brown
and finally a pale bleached colour. The larger lesions are restricted by the leaf veins giving
an angular appearance to them. Old lesions frequently become tattered and holes develop
on the leaf. Yellow haloes may be seen around the lesions.
Fruit lesions are often slightly raised and corky and may produce a white crusty deposits.
Under high humidity, there is often a bacterial gum exudate from the scabs.
Lesions caused by this disease do not contain the black fruiting bodies characteristic of gummy stem blight.
The bacteria are spread in water and are more common under overhead irrigation. It is worse in areas with high relative humidities.
2:Gummy stem blight fungus (Didymella bryoniae or Mycosphaerella cucumis)
Crops that are planted too close are often affected by Sclerotinia disease. This fungus causes a watery rot, usually at the base of the stem. Plants wilt. Reduce plant density and increase ventilation.
Alternaria, Fusarium oxysporum and Xanthomonas (bacterial spot) diseases occasionally occur.
Use Certified Organic Inputs for control this type of diseases.
Cucumbers under protected cultivation produce fruit without pollination. However, pollination can take place from nearby field cucumbers which are monoecious (they have both male and
female flowers). If flowers are pollinated, seeds form in the fruit and the fruit becomes bulbed, bitter and unsaleable.
The time from seeding to harvesting can be 4 to 6 weeks in summer and 11 weeks in winter.
In summer, fruit are ready for harvesting two weeks after flowering for the long varieties and 7 to 10 days after flowering for the Lebanese varieties. Pick fruit in early morning. Cut fruit so that 1 to 2 cm of stalk remains at the end of the fruit.
Continental varieties may need picking every two days and Lebanese varieties may need daily picking.
Cucumbers should be handled carefully as they are easily marked.
There are normally three crops per year in the same area, but sometimes there are two crops
per year, or one crop may be harvested in the warmer months for up to 8 months. Fruit are
more plentiful and larger in summer. Pick for 10 to 15 weeks with 20 to 25 fruit in summer and 10 fruit in winter. Long term crops in the warmer months may produce 30 to 40 fruit per plant. The average weight for Continental cucumbers is 500 to 600 g, but may weigh up to1.4 kg. Average yields are about 500 to 550 t/ha/a, with about 80 to 90 fruit per square metre per year. Yields of Lebanese cucumbers may be higher than Continental cucumbers. Fruit may average 100 g each.
Good quality fruits should be dark green, and be firm, with good, crisp flavour.
Reject bent fruit and marked fruit. Wipe off sand and dust of Continental fruit. Wash
Lebanese fruit and dip in a calcium hypochlorite solution which contains 2 ppm chlorine to
prevent fruit breakdown. Remove old flower parts at the end of the fruit. Fruit are packed .
Fulvic acids are organic acids that arise naturally in decomposing organic material called humus.
Fulvic acids are the only part of humus to be soluble in alkaline, acid and neutral environments. This is an important quality, since plants absorb nutrients in solution. Furthermore, their low molecular weight facilitates penetration into plants.
The use of fulvic acids in agriculture improves the structure of soil, retaining moisture, encouraging aeration of the root and providing the plant with nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sulfur and micronutrients. It contributes to the conversion of minerals from non-assimilable to soluble form through the release of carbonic gas.
Likewise, fulvic acids have a positive effect on the growth and development of crops due to an increased extraction of macro- and micronutrients and, on a biochemical level, they increase permeability of membranes. All of the above leads to the following benefits:
An improvement in soil structure.
An increase in fertility.
A biostimulant effect
Benefits of Fulvic Acid :
We can classify the great benefits of fulvic acids in those whichhave a positive effect on the growth and development of crops and those which improves the structure of soil.
The fulvic acids positive effect on the growth and development of crops is due to an increased extraction of macro- and micronutrients, as well as an increase of the membranes permeability, on a biochemical level; these characteristics lead to the following advantages:
Test of speed of Penetration
Absroption after 68 minutes
Likewise, the use of fulvic acids in agriculture improves the structure of soil, retaining moisture, encouraging aeration of the root and providing the plant with nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sulfur and micronutrients. It contributes to the conversion of minerals from non-assimilable to soluble form through the release of carbonic gas
Reproductive effect of microorganisms in the soil.
Fulvic acids stimulate the reproduction of microorganisms in the soil; it has been proved that it can increase their production by up to 2000 times in just two weeks following the application of fulvic acids in a concentration of 50 ppm. By increasing microbial activity of the soil, its characteristics are improved. It becomes more fertile and provides the plant with an increased quantity of nutrients. Pathogenic elements are controlled in the soil and non-desirable materials are decontaminated from land (such as radioactivity).
Improvement in soil structure through the flocculation of clay in order to form blocks that facilitate the circulation of water and air around the root.
Increase in fertility, as soil that has a low level of organic material can increase microbial life by up to 2000 times in just two weeks.
Increase in the movement of ions allowing them to be absorbed by the plant.
Furthermore, fulvic acids are an excellent food for mycorrhizalfungus, which have an increased radicular development as well as providing excellent protection for pathogenic fungi.
This article is written and submitted by Poorva Chemtech Pvt. Ltd.
In modern agriculture era, organic farming is very important for fulfilling the needs of increasing population and food safty. Organic farming is a methodology, a body of methods and rules that strives to mimic natural ecosystems in its focus on building soil health. The new organic rule stipulates that measuring and managing soil condition is an important component of organic certification as follow-
Soil quality is defined by the interactions of a particular soil’s measurable chemical, physical, and microbiological properties. In organic farming, a high quality soil is one that provides an environment for optimum root growth, thereby enhancing crop health and productivity.
Soil quality can be measured by certain indicators like soil water-holding capacity, organic carbon content, and microbial respiration. MDS (minimum data set) indicators can be measured quantitatively at regular intervals.
A. Biological Indicators-These are measured soil organic matter, respiration, microbial biomass, microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen, and Mineralizable nitrogen.
Soil Organic Matter- It includes plant and animal remains in various stages of decomposition, cells and tissues of soil organisms, and other organic substances. A high quality soil is biologically active and contains a balanced population of microorganisms.
Table A. Functions & Rational Measurements of Soil
Soil Respiration- Soil respiration is the creation of carbon dioxide (CO2) as organic matter decomposes in the soil. Soil respiration increases as organic matter added to the soil, this shows increases the biological activity. Due to the addition of organic matter into the soil respiration increases so biological activity increases.
Organic Carbon- In soil organic carbon is approximately 10 to 14 percent of total soil carbon. Organic carbon obtain from heterogeneous mix of living and dead organic materials that are readily circulated through soil biological pools, groups of interacting organisms
Microbial Activity- With this Microbial activity in the soil, farmers can measure the status of either the total community of microorganisms or specific members of that community.
Earthworms- Earthworms are good bio indicators of soil quality. Earthworms’ plays most important role in soil like conserving and improving soil structure, recycling soil nutrients, promoting the gradual mixing of the soil.
B. Chemical Indicators
In modern agriculture for producing large quantity of high crop yield farmers provides extra nutrients. Farmers increase and alter the pool of available nutrients by adding fertilizers, incorporating cover crops, and using other organic materials, such as manures and composts.
Acidity-Soil acidity (pH) is one of the principal factors affecting nutrient availability to plants. Decreasing soil pH increases the solubility of elements such as aluminum, zinc, copper, and iron. At pH values less than approximately 5.5, toxic levels of these elements may even be present in the soil.
C. Physical Indicators
Physical Indicators are soil’s texture, bulk density(a measure of compaction), porosity, water-holding capacity, and the presence or absence of hard pans. Soil physical properties also influence soil water and plant-water relationships.
3. QUALITATIVE INDICATORS OF SOIL QUALITY-
Qualitative descriptions of soil quality are usually personal assessments of short-term changes in soil quality. Qualitative assessments of soil quality, it is important to rely upon a set of well-defined qualitative indicators. Although these qualitative indicators cannot be gauged in units of measure, each one can be assessed based on the specific observations noted in Table.
4. ASSESSING SOIL QUALITY-
A Simplified Assessment-This simplified assessment includes a guided visual check of crop conditions ,surface residue, living organisms, surface structure, and soil erosion using the qualitative indicators in Table B .
USDA Soil Quality Kits-The soil quality kit describes a set of measurements, a minimum data set (MDS). These kit are designed to do the following:
• Define and demonstrate the use of indicators of soil quality and degradation.
• Explain how land use practices may enhance or degrade soil quality.
• Provide simple field tests of soil quality indicators.
• Provide a list of resources for further exploration of soil quality issues.
Table B. Qualitative Soil Quality Indicators
5. INTERPRETING SOIL QUALITY INDICATOR MEASUREMENTS-
Soil quality parameters vary widely at the same site & at the same time of year.
Within a given field, consideration should be given to the following:
• Row versus inter-row areas
• Differences in soil type
• Differences in management
• Salt-affected versus non-salt-affected areas
New Organic Rule: Managing Soil Fertility Regarding soil fertility, the USDA Organic Rule states the following:
• Farmers must manage soil fertility, including tillage and cultivation practices, in a manner that maintains or improves the physical, chemical, and biological condition of the soil and minimizes soil erosion.
• Farmers are responsible for identifying measurable indicators that can be used to evaluate how well they are achieving the objectives of the operation.
• The specific indicators used to evaluate a given organic system plan will be determined by the farmer or handler in consultation with the certifying agent.
• If the organic system plan calls for improvements in soil organic matter content in a particular field, it should include provisions for analyzing soil organic matter levels at periodic intervals.
Organic farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it. This involves using techniques to achieve good crop yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it.
The methods and materials that organic farmers use are as follows:
Aims of Organic Farming-
• Increase long-term soil fertility.
•Control pests and diseases without harming the environment.
• Ensure that water stays clean and safe.
• Use resources which the farmer already has, so the farmer needs less money to buy farm inputs.
• Produce nutritious food, feed for animals and high quality crops to sell at a good price.
• Achieving food safety by producing ZERO Residue food.
For improving soil structure and fertility:
-Recycled and composted crop wastes and animal manures
-The right soil cultivation at the right time
-Green manures and legumes
-Mulching on the soil surface
To control pests, diseases and weeds:
-Careful planning and crop choice
-The use of resistant crops
-Good cultivation practice
-Encouraging useful predators that eat pests
-Increasing genetic diversity
-Using natural pesticides
Organic farming also involves careful use of water resources and good animal husbandry.
Modern agriculture approach causes many problems like:
• Artificial fertilizers and herbicides are easily washed from the soil and pollute rivers, lakes and water courses.
• The prolonged use of artificial fertilizers results in soils with a low organic matter content which is easily eroded by wind and rain.
• Dependency on fertilizers. Greater amounts are needed every year to produce the same yields of crops.
• Artificial pesticides can stay in the soil for a long time and enter the food chain where they build up in the bodies of animals and humans, causing health problems.
• Artificial chemicals destroy soil micro-organisms resulting in poor soil structure and aeration and decreasing nutrient availability.
• Pests and diseases become more difficult to control as they become resistant to artificial pesticides. The numbers of natural enemies decrease because of pesticide use and habitat loss.
Choice of crops-
Each crop and crop variety has its own specific needs. In some places it will grow well and others it will not. Crops are affected by:
• Soil type
• The type and amount of nutrients required
• The amount of water needed
These above factors are affecting on crop growth and yields. Whenever crop grown in unsuitable climate it is likely to produce low yields and be more susceptible to pest and diseases. This then creates the need to use agrochemicals to fertilize the crop and control pest and disease.
The successful organic farmer learns to grow the crops and varieties which are suited to the local conditions. He should grow crops which are suited to his geography and climate. He should choose varieties which are suited to the local conditions such as local varieties.
Growing the same crop in a particular year and year, it reduces soil fertility and can encourage a buildup of pests, diseases and weeds in the soil. Crops should be moved to a different area of land each year, and not returned to the original site for several years. For vegetables a 3 to 4 year rotation is usually recommended as a minimum.
Crop rotation means after some time change the crop for improving fertility of soil. Crop rotation also helps a variety of natural predators to survive on the farm by providing diverse habitats and sources of food for them.
A typical 4 year rotation would include a cycle with maize and beans, a root crop and cereals with either of the following;
1. Grass or bush fallow (a fallow period where no crops are grown).
2. A legume crop where a green manure, which is a plant grown mainly for the benefit of the soil, is grown (more information about green manures can be obtained from HDRA).
Composting is an organic matter (plant and animal residues) which has been rotted down by the action of bacteria and other organisms, over a period of time. Materials such as leaves, fruit skins and animal manures can be used to make compost. Compost is cheap, easy to make and is a very effective material that can be added to the soil, to improve soil and crop quality.
• Compost improves the structure of the soil. This allows more air into the soil improves drainage and reduces erosion.
• Compost improves soil fertility by adding nutrients and by making it easier for plants to take up the nutrients already in the soil. This produces better yields.
• Compost improves the soil’s ability to hold water. This stops the soil from drying out in times of drought.
• Compost can reduce pests and diseases in the soil and on the crop.
Compost has many advantages over chemical fertilizer. Composting provides many nutrients for the plant growth but do not improve soil structure. They only improve yields in the season in which they are applied. Because compost feeds soil life and improves soil structure, the beneficial effects are long time.
Natural pest and disease control -
Pests and diseases are always found in nature that why it is a part of nature. In nature there is always balance between predators and pests. If any system is imbalanced then one population can become dominant another because it is not being preyed upon by another. The aim of natural control is to restore a natural balance between pest and predator to keep pests and diseases down to an acceptable level. The aim is not to eradicate them altogether.
Chemical control -
Chemical control is the only way to quickly and effectively keep a particular pest in check. Pesticides are valuable tools in pest management.
Pesticides do not solve the pest problem. In the past 50 years, insecticide use has increased tenfold, while crop losses from pest damage have doubled. Here are three important reasons why natural control is preferable to pesticide use.
Examples of chemical control include:
-Using an herbicide to wipe out dandelions in your lawn,
-Using an insecticide to control scale insects or
-Using a fungicide to control powdery mildew on dogwoods.
Safety for people - Artificial pesticides are hazards for humans because they can quickly find their way into chains and water courses. Artificial pesticides are remains in the eating food. When pesticides were sprayed on the crop they still contain residues of pesticides in eating food and this is hazards to human health.
There is also much concern for those people using chemical pesticides. The products may be misused because the instructions are not written in the language spoken by the person using them. This has led to many accidents such as reports of people suffering from severe skin rashes and headaches as a result of using chemical pesticides. There are an estimated one million cases of poisoning by pesticides each year around the world. Up to 20,000 of these result in death. Most of the deaths occur in tropical countries where chemical pesticides which are banned in Europe or the USA are still available.
Cost - Natural means organic pest and disease control is cheaper than applying chemical pesticides because natural methods do not involve buying materials from the outside.
Products and materials which are already in the home and around the farm are most often used.
Safety for the environment
There are a number of harmful effects that chemical pesticides can have on the environment:
• Chemical pesticides can kill useful insects which eat pests. Just one spray can upset the balance between pests and the useful predators which eat them.
• Artificial chemicals can stay in the environment and in the bodies of animals causing problems for many years.
• Insect pests can very quickly, over a few breeding cycles, become resistant to artificial products and are no longer controlled. This means that increased amounts or stronger chemicals are then needed creating further economic, health and environmental problems.
Organic farmer have many ways to control pest and disease like-
• Growing healthy crops that suffer less damage from pests and diseases.
• Choosing crops with a natural resistance to specific pests and diseases. Local varieties are better at resisting local pest and diseases than introduced varieties.
• Timely planting of crops to avoid the period when a pest does most damage.
• Companion planting with other crops that pests will avoid, such as onion or garlic.
• Trapping or picking pests from the crop.
• Identifying pest and diseases correctly. This will prevent the farmer from wasting time or accidentally eliminating beneficial insects. It is therefore useful to know life cycles, breeding habits, preferred host plants and predators of pests.
• Using crop rotations to help break pest cycles and prevent a carryover of pests to the next season.
• Providing natural habitats to encourage natural predators that control pests.
To do this, the farmer should learn to recognize insects and other animals that eat and control pests.
Through careful planning and using all the other techniques available it should be possible to avoid the need for any crop spraying. If pests are still a problem natural products can be used to manage pests, including sprays made from chillie, onions, garlic or neem.
Even with these natural pesticides, their use should be limited as much as possible and only the safest ones used. It is wise to check with national and international organic standards to see which ones are allowed or recommended.
Genetic diversity - In a single crop there is much difference in plants. These are varying according to height or ability to resist diseases, for example. These differences are genetic.
Organic systems, some variation or ‘genetic diversity’ between the plants within a crop is beneficial.
Growing a number of different crops rather than relying on one is also very important. This helps to protect against pests and diseases and acts as insurance against crop failure in unusual weather such as drought or flood. It is important to remember this when choosing which crops to grow.
Traditional crops grown by farmers contain greater genetic diversity than modern bred crops. Traditional varieties have been selected over many centuries to meet the requirements of farmers. Although many are being replaced by modern varieties, seeds are often still saved locally.
Crops which have been bred by modern breeding methods tend to be very similar and if one plant is prone to disease, all the other plants are as well.
Although some modern varieties may be very resistant to specific pests and diseases they are often less suited to local conditions than traditional varieties. It can therefore be dangerous to rely too much on any one of them.
An organic farmer should try to:
• Grow a mixture of crops in the same field (mixed cropping, intercropping, strip cropping)
• Grow different varieties of the same crop
• Use as many local crop varieties as possible
• Save the seed of local and improved crop varieties rather than relying on buying seed from outside the farm every year. Exchange of seed with other farmers can also help to increase diversity, and ensure the survival of the many traditional crop varieties which are being lost as they are replaced by a few modern varieties.
Careful use of water - Now a day's tremendous water is wasted. Organic farmers should try to use water which is available locally, avoiding using water faster than it is replaced naturally.
There are many ways to use water carefully, including:
• The use of terracing, rain water basins or catchments and careful irrigation
• The addition of organic matter to the soil to improve its ability to hold water
• The use of mulches to hold water in the soil by stopping the soil surface from drying out or becoming too hot.
Animal husbandry -
In organic system the welfare of animals is very important.
• Animals should not be kept in confined spaces where they cannot carry out their natural behavior such as standing and moving around in an inadequate amount of space. However, care should be taken that animal do not damage crops.
• Food for animals should be grown organically.
• Breeds should be chosen to suit local needs and local conditions and resources
These factors help to ensure that livestock are healthier, better able to resist diseases and to provide good yields for the farmer.