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.
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.
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.
Reference: asparagus cultivation pdf