Is It a Potential for Meghalaya’s Farmers to Grow Lemongrass?

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a tall perennial grass grown in the tropical and subtropical climate regions of South East Asia. It is native to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and India. India is one of the front runners in the production of Lemongrass, cultivated mostly in the Western Ghats and the foothills of the Himalayan range.

Lemongrass finds use as a culinary and medicinal herb, as also for its essential oil used widely as an ingredient in aromatherapy to relieve muscle pain, in mosquito repellents and so on. As per a fact sheet on lemongrass published by Janhit Foundation, it is profitable to cultivate this plant.

Lemongrass essential oil is also listed in the top 5 essential oils of India.

Our team of explorers bring you a real-life account about lemongrass, a likely potential of the land. Yes, Lemongrass is now being cultivated in Meghalaya and we are excited to share what we have come across.

A lady farmer by the name Bernadette Khongsngi owns a small farm in Umran village, Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya. She is a floriculturist and an entrepreneur who is currently growing Lemongrass, that too successfully. When our team of explorers visited her farm, they discovered that the Lemongrass plants looked healthy.

Bernadette was delighted to let us tour her greenhouse and fields and answer our queries on the plant. She cultivates the Krishna variety. Lemongrass is a hardy crop and can be cultivated in sub-tropical climatic condition of Meghalaya.

The climate of Umran village is warm and humid, perfect for Lemongrass to thrive. The loamy soil condition found in Umran village is excellent to grow Lemongrass and Bernadette uses a raised bed to cultivate it. She adds proper decomposed manure to help its growth.

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How Is It Propagated?

Lemongrass is propagated from cuttings (also called slips) from mature plants. The slips are prepared for planting by clipping old roots and trimming the leaves.

Bernadette started with slips in nursery pouches bought from CIMAP, which were ready for planting. As they started to grow she made sure the field was properly weeded and she earthed up the plants at the base by piling up the soil around the roots of each plant. She does this regularly every month until the plants are fully grown and then again after every harvest.

The first harvest is after 8 to 9 months of planting, and thereafter, every 3 to 4 months. The grass is cut at 10 to 15 cm above the ground level. The freshly cut herbage of Lemongrass is used for extracting essential oil through steam distillation method or sold in the market as herb.

Lemongrass grown in Meghalaya
Lemongrass from Bernadette’s field.

Why Grow Lemongrass?

Growing Lemongrass can benefit farmers as it is easy to grow, is pest resistant and gives a good economic return.

The plants yield for up to 6 years, after which they need to be replanted. The best part is that they can be harvested 3 to 4 times a year, subject to good weather conditions.

The average yield is about 10-14 tonnes/acre from which essential oil can be extracted with an average yield of 80 kgs/acres.

The essential oil of Lemongrass fetches around Rs.800 per kg. (Please note: This is indicative of the rates at the time of posting this blog. As the rates are market driven, readers are advised to check for themselves).

Considering the ease of growing it, the farmers of Meghalaya with land in the warmer parts of the region could benefit from cultivating Lemongrass.

What will help them is there are essential oil processing units close to where they grow Lemongrass so the fresh herbage can be processed immediately or an assured market for the fresh and/or dried herbage.

Zizira’s mission is to open markets for the farmers of NE India.

Get in touch with us if you are interested in fresh or dried Lemongrass. If it works for the farmers, we can try and put you in direct touch with them. After all, Zizira wishes to see the farmers benefit, as also the region.

Uses and Benefits of Lemongrass:

Adds flavour to tea: It combines well with Bay leaf tea and any other black tea. Bay leaf helps elevate the citrus aroma and flavour of Lemongrass. You can serve it hot or as iced tea, either way, it makes for a refreshing drink.

Culinary uses: Lemongrass has a mild citrus flavour and its lower stalk is used as a culinary herb. It is mostly used for flavouring curries, salads, soups, meat and seafood dishes. It is used in both fresh or powdered form and the powdered form can be added in curry pastes.

Note: While cooking with Lemongrass keep in mind to remove all the outer layers until you are left with only the tender inner white stalk. This helps release the flavour of Lemongrass.

Source of essential oil: Essential oil can be extracted from Lemongrass through steam distillation and it has a citrusy aroma. A few drops of it can be added for scenting soaps, detergents, in perfumeries, cosmetics and in insect repellent sprays. Its essential oil has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that can be used in household disinfectants.

Medicinal uses: Lemongrass is used as a medicinal herb as it contains vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, minerals and anti-oxidants. It benefits the body by controlling the bad cholesterol level, by detoxifying your body from impurities and prevents the growth of cancerous cells. It also cures insomnia by inducing a calming effect on the body and allowing the body to relax and sleep.

Do you know of any uses or benefits of Lemongrass? Let us know in the comments below.

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