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Responsible Harvesting and Sustainable Farming of Herbs

April 01, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 116

As part of our company's goal towards keeping our products eco-friendly, we not only source from the native producers but we ensure that each step in the product making process does not harm the environment in any way. We practice responsible harvesting and sustainable farming of herbs. How, you may ask. Here are some steps we take to safeguard the state of the natural rainforest.

Herb collecting

When harvesting herbs from the rainforest, it is essential that we do not cause any long term damage to its already fragile state. Over harvesting and over tilling of land has been labeled as the cause for the current delicate state of our ecosystem. As such, we make sure that the harvesters we source from abide by a few general rules when the time comes for a herb harvest.

Most importantly is harvesting the herbs at the right time. This is important as harvesting them on time ensures the best tasting and maximum yield in medicinal properties. Harvesting them too young or too mature will result in an undesirable lack of quality and medicinal value. However, the proper time to harvest herbs varies from species to species. Most leaves are collected after flower buds have formed but before the flower buds open. Seeds are typically collected by hand if they are of a large size or dusted onto a cloth to collect them if they are small.

The harvester should be able to identify which part of the plant they intend to harvest and ensure that they harvest only that particular part. Harvesting any other area than the wanted part is not only wasteful but damaging to the environment. This creates an imbalance in the ecosystem as each living being both depends and gets something from other living beings; so taking an entire organism will affect the balance. If a plant was fully harvested when all that is wanted are the leaves, the plant does not get a chance to mature and if the plant is not replanted when it dies, it will result in a decline of the population species, especially if the harvest was done on a large scale.

Any equipment used must be clean; especially from any previous harvest leftovers. This is important to prevent contamination from fungi and bacteria that may have been present in the previous harvest. It may also contain rotting matter and if this were to contaminate the current harvest, it will not only seriously decline the quality of the herbs but also result in fungi attack. Any fresh herbs or herbs in the process of drying should be stored in breathable containers to ensure that moisture does not form due to condensation. This will ultimately spoil the herbs.

Another thing for the harvester to keep in mind is to harvest only herbs that grow in abundance. Some ways to notice if the herbs are declining in population is by the distance undertaken between their homes and the area where the herb grows and the scarcity of the herb. If it takes a longer journey and the herbs are getting harder to find, it means that the herb is being overharvested and harvesting that herb should be stopped to let that herb repopulate. The delicate parts of the plants such as leaves and flowers should be harvested with care. A slight mar on them would cause unwanted quality changes as well as leading to the spoilage of the entire harvest. One blemished leaf or flower would lead to undesirable enzyme secretion, which will induce the other leaves or flowers to start spoiling as well.

Care is taken to avoid unnecessary plant damage as this might lead to insect attacks, fungal infections or even to the death of the plant. Mechanical damage needs to be avoided as well. Therefore the tools for gathering herbs need to be chosen carefully and kept clean. However most herbs require really delicate handling and are usually hand plucked to ensure the damage sustained is to the minimum.

There are various ways to harvest the particular areas of plants wanted. For example, root harvesting would entail the harvester to dig at a distance of at least 30cm (12 inches) from the main root. No damage should be caused to the main root (also known as the tap root) at all costs as because this is the life giving backbone of the plant. This usually pertains to roots which are harvested from trees. Only the lateral roots (roots that branch away from the tap root) should be taken from the tree. Once the hole is dug and the root taken, the hole should be covered to protect the plant against infection and pests. They types of damage would include cuts such as those made by spades. Therefore it is necessary to dig for the lateral roots at a distance.

On the other hand, bark harvesting is done in limited amounts from each tree. The bark is peeled in small, long, vertical strips using a thin, flexible blade or bush knife, never with an axe. This is to prevent the damage of the entire tree. Bark ringing or the practice of removing the entire circumference of the trunk should never be practiced as the tree will be unable to receive any nutrients from the roots, thus leading it to die, which makes the entire plant not only unusable but decreases the plant population as well. The inner bark is left as is.

To harvest leafy herbs, the leaves are plucked individually. The use of tools such as pruning shears damages the plant. Leaf stripping should not be practiced as this greatly decreases the chance for the plants survival especially if all the leaves are gone. Leaf stripping, as its name implies, strips away all the leaves, regardless of its state of maturity. It would not make sense to strip every single leaf and flower but take only the mature leaves, would it? The plant needs leaves to continue the photosynthesis process to ensure its survival.

When collecting fruits, some trees or bushes are left alone for germination purposes. Not all the good fruit should be collected as well as those good fruits will be able to pass on their genes for future strong plants or trees to grow.

Thus you can rest assured that our company deals no environmental damage with our products. Any plants taken whole are replanted, hence renewing the sources of our herbs.

Sustainable farming

For our farmed herbs, sustainable farming is practiced. Sustainable farming entails the use of all natural products that are not genetically modified in any way. Anything that is laboratory born will not be used.

There are a lot of aspects to cover in sustainable farming. From the basics of fertilizing the soil and choosing the proper plants to the lesser known ones but equally as major; such as ways to keep pests away and using organic weed killers; all features need to be taken into consideration when practicing sustainable farming.

The herbs in our products are grown without pesticides. To do this, crop rotation is used, as it stunts the growth of a certain pest by growing another plant that is not its food. Legumes, such as groundnuts, are incorporated as well and they introduce much needed nitrates into the soil, making the herbs healthy. To combat any pests, certain herbs are planted to repel them such as garlic, which repels root maggots. Biological pest control is also practiced such as encouraging ladybirds on the garden patch to prey on aphids.

For weed control, mulch is used; such as woodchips. It is spread in a thin layer on the ground. Besides decreasing the weed population, it keeps the soil moisture in, lessening the need to water the herbs. Mulching however is done sparingly. Care is taken as not let the mulch build up around the stem, creating a "volcano" which may lead to root rot and bug infestation due to the accumulation of moisture. The moisture is thus unable to escape, leading to such problems. The use of plastic mulch, which is essentially a sheet of plastic covering the ground, is avoided. While it does its job of preventing weed growth, it also traps in moisture without allowing it a way to escape, leading to root rot. Besides that, disposing the plastic mulch is a problem due to its non-biodegradable characteristic.

Herbs in general need sunlight but due to the intense heat that dominates most tropical countries weather, they are grown in partial shade as too much sunlight can kill them. Herbs usually like compost that is not compact, so soil will be mixed in the compost to allow the herbs to breathe.

Generally, herbs should be harvested once it matures, usually about 3-5 months later, depending on the type of herb. For example, new basil leaves are always harvested to prevent the plant from flowering. Once basil flowers, the plant dies. Nevertheless in tropical countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, the local herbs are pretty hardy and will grow well without much help.

Source: EzineArticles
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