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Agriculture > Medicinal Plants > Chittaratha (Alpinia calcarata)


Alpinia calcarata (galangal) is also known as rasna in Sanskrit, kulainjan in Hindi and chittaratha in Malayalam. It is a perennial herb with non-tuberous pungent rootstock. It grows to a height of 1.5 m and produces around 24 suckers per clump per year. The economic part is rhizome, which is a major constituent of many formulations of indigenous system of medicine for relieving throat inflammation, stimulating digestion, purifying blood, improving voice and marinating youthful vigour.

Climate and soil

Alpinia comes up well in tropical climate. It grows on a wide range of climate and soil. Well-drained hilly areas and places up to 1400 m altitude are good for its cultivation. Fertile red loams to forests soils are suitable.

Propagation

It is propagated vegetatively by rhizomes and by tissue culture methods.

Varieties

At present, only local types are available for cultivation.

Season

Rainfed crop is planted with the onset of monsoon in May-June. Irrigated crop can be planted at any time.

Land preparation

Plough the field to good tilth. Remove all pebbles and stones. Incorporate FYM or organic manure at 10-15 t/ha. Prepare raised beds of convenient length and breadth to facilitate drainage.

Seed rate

Fresh healthy disease-free rhizome bits with at least one shoot is the planting material, which is required @ 1000-1500 kg/ha.

Planting

Take small pits on the seedbed and plant 5 cm long rhizome bits. Cover rhizome with FYM and mulch the seedbed with leaves or straw. The optimum spacing is 30 x 20 cm under poor fertility and 40 x 30 cm under good fertility conditions.

Fertilizer application

Apply fertilizers @ 100:50:50 N:P2O5:K2O kg/ha per year in two or three split doses. Application of biofertilizer Azospirillum @ 10 kg/ha and in situ green manuring with cowpea are beneficial for the crop.

Aftercultivation

Carry out gap filling, if required, within one month; remove weeds two months after planting followed by topdressing, earthing up and mulching. Thereafter no weeding is required as the crop smothers the weeds.

Plant protection

Usually pests and diseases are not serious enough to take up any control measures. Occasionally shoot borers and leaf eating caterpillars are observed. Blight disease can be controlled by spraying 1% Bordeaux mixture.

Harvesting and yield

Though the crop can be harvested after 18 months, the optimum stage of harvest for obtaining maximum rhizome and oil yield is 36-42 months after planting. Cut and remove the shoot portion and carefully dig out the rhizomes and roots. Harvesting is very arduous due to strong and extensive root ramification. Separate the roots, clean the rhizomes and cut into 5 cm long pieces, which are dried in the sun for 3-5 days to 10% moisture for marketing. The average yield of rhizomes is about 23 t/ha, which on drying gives 25% recovery.

Processing

The fresh rhizomes on steam distillation for 3-5 hours give 0.22% essential oil. The oil recovery on dry weight basis is 0.93%. Root is also a significant contributor of essential oil.

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