Non Technical Summary
Many small, limited resource farms are only marginally profitable and their owners are seeking ways of increasing farm income and financial stability through diversification. It has been suggested that innovative businesses need to be designed to optimize the mix of labor, capital, and natural resources to the size and scale of the farm. Opportunities that exist for smaller-scale agriculture tend to concentrate around speciality and high value crops such as the medicinal plants, however wide information gaps exist that impede the development of these opportunities. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is a popular shade loving medicinal herb that is primarily wild-collected and has become endangered or threatened in many areas. By developing a viable organic production system for goldenseal we are addressing both these problems through a work plan which will provide increased income and financial stability for small farmers through the utilization of idle forestland to
produce goldenseal but also provides a desirable environmental side benefit through the reduction in the need for wild collected goldenseal. The purpose of this project is to provide data necessary for high quality goldenseal raw material and value-added product production not only at the small farm level but also for the development of a cooperative of farmers. The model produced by this project would also be applicable to other medicinal plants.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories
Goals / Objectives
The technical objectives of this project are: 1. Establish a reliable seed handling protocol for goldenseal that will yield a 35% rate of germination over one or two growing seasons. Based on cost estimates established in Phase I, a 35% rate of germination would result in an approximate cost per plant of $0.025 each or roughly $1,000 to establish a one acre wild simulated goldenseal plantation. Achievement of this goal would make goldenseal cultivation an economically viable option for a significant number of small, beginning, and limited resource farmers. 2. Establish requirements for the organic production of goldenseal raw material which contains a minimum 3.5% combined berberine and hydrastine alkaloids. In Phase I we initiated a series of experiments which would determine cultural practices for producing an optimal blend of alkaloid content and weight at harvest. Achievement of this goal would provide a blueprint for the consistent production of high quality
goldenseal and provide growers with a competitive edge over wild collected goldenseal. 3. Establish optimal post-harvest handling techniques for drying and storing goldenseal. Excessive loss of mass and/or alkaloid content during the drying and storage phases of goldenseal production could seriously erode profits from an otherwise successful crop. Achievement of this goal will provide growers with the information necessary to prepare their crop for market in an efficient manner. 4. Determine marketing options for individual farmers as well as an association of growers. Marketing a speciality crop can be a challenge at times. We will develop a series of options for the individual farmer including value-added product production, direct marketing, contract production, and participation in cooperative associations. 5. Develop educational activities and tools to efficiently disseminate information to other farmers. We will package the program into a variety of formats and make the
information available to as wide an audience as possible through a printed production manual and video presentation, workshops and field days at Sleepy Hollow Farm, presentations at other venues, and an internet website.
Our approach to the development of a viable organic production system for goldenseal usable by small family farmers has been to enlist the expertise of a wide variety of professionals. We have formed strategic relationships with researchers from the New Use Agriculture & Natural Plant Products Program of Rutgers University, the University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and College of Pharmacy, the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center of North Carolina State University, Tennessee State University, and the Natural Products Utilization Research Unit of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. This multi-institutional, multi-discipline approach has allowed us to develop a comprehensive work plan including seed germination studies utilizing two different planting methods and eight treatments, development of optimal cultivation techniques through experiments which will determine the effect of four soil pH levels and
various cultural treatments on the final weight and alkaloid content of goldenseal at harvest, as well as the determination of optimal plant density in the beds. Post-harvest handling techniques including on-farm drying, grinding, and storage of goldenseal will also be developed through a series of experiments which compare several methods usable by small, limited resource farmers. Goldenseal marketing options for small farmers will be determined by a detailed market feasibility study. We will explore a wide range of options including direct marketing, contract production, and cooperative association. We will disseminate the material developed by this project through a variety of means. A production guide will be created on growing and harvesting goldenseal, post-harvest handling, processing, and marketing. The information will be research based and be illustrated by diagrams and photographs of actual production sites and research plots. These materials will be made available in
hardcopies and electronically through several websites. This website will be linked to the Cooperative Extension Services in the targeted region, to New Crop websites, Medicinal Herb websites, participating universities' websites, and Non-timber Forest Product Websites. Field days and workshops held at Sleepy Hollow Farm will be videotaped and the footage edited to produce a series of videotapes on all aspects of goldenseal production, processing, and marketing.