Source: SLEEPY HOLLOW FARM submitted to
ESTABLISHING A VIABLE ORGANIC GOLDENSEAL PRODUCTION SYSTEM FOR SMALL FAMILY FARMS PHASE II
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
TERMINATED
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
0196961
Grant No.
2003-33610-13898
Project No.
GEOK-2003-04077
Proposal No.
2003-04077
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
8.6
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2003
Project End Date
Dec 31, 2005
Grant Year
2003
Project Director
Beavers, R. L.
Recipient Organization
SLEEPY HOLLOW FARM
1421 BOYLES MILL ROAD
DALTON,GA 30721
Performing Department
(N/A)
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
100%
Research Effort Categories
Basic
(N/A)
Applied
100%
Developmental
(N/A)
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
2052220106090%
2056030301010%
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.
Project Methods
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.

Progress 09/01/03 to 12/31/05

Outputs
Overall the project has been very successful. The first objective, establish a reliable seed handling protocol for goldenseal that will yield a 35% rate of germination over a maximum of two growing seasons, was achieved through the development of a method of delaying germination until the second year where three years out of four > 75% germination was seen in the wild simulated beds in the second year. Data from more than 1,000 samples was analyzed by HPLC for alkaloid content by our cooperators at Rutgers in order to establish requirements for the organic production of goldenseal raw material which contains a minimum 3.5% combined berberine and hydrastine alkaloids, our second objective. During Phase I various studies were established to determine the effects of soil pH, harvest time and other agronomic conditions on the yield and alkaloid content of not only goldenseal root/rhizome but also leaf/stem. Regarding the alkaloid content for the various parts, the data indicated rhizome < root < leaf < stem. Optimal harvest times for maximum alkaloid content were determined as well as times when the berberine/hydrastine ratio is at its highest and lowest point. Soil pH levels of 4.8, 6.0, and 6.5 yielded growth increases of 65%, 208% and 179% with total alkaloid content of 5.50%, 7.03%, and 6.55% respectively. Agronomic, chemical, and genetic characteristic identification for 100 individual plants has been completed. We believe our greatest success has been in our efforts to not only disseminate the information we have learned to other farmers but also to organize them in such a manner as to optimize the amount of profits they will realize from their work. On May 22, 2004 we held a workshop at Sleepy Hollow Farm that drew more than 275 people from 8 states. A similar workshop was held May 14th, 2005. Several of our university cooperators gave presentations regarding goldenseal and other medicinal plants at these meetings including Dr. Jeanine Davis, Dr. Mingfu Wang, Dr. Dwight Camper and others. At the close of the workshop attendees were invited to stay for an initial meeting of growers interested in forming a medicinal plant grower cooperative. Representatives from the University of Georgia Center for AgriBusiness and Economic Development as well as the USDA Ga. Cooperative Development Specialist gave presentations regarding cooperative structure and participation. We have personally visited most of these farms over the course of the project and provided individual training and advice. Presentations regarding this work in 2005 were given at the Georgia Organics Annual Conference in Waco, Ga, the Team Agriculture Georgia Conference in Dalton, Ga., and the 4th National Small Farm Conference in Greensboro, NC. Overall we are pleased with the outcomes of the project and have presented tangible results as evidence of our success.

Impacts
The network of growers developed and trained through this project have planted a total of 3 acres of certified organic goldenseal over the last year and have committed to plant that much per year over the next three years, a total financial commitment of more than $80,000 plus several thousand man-hours of sweat equity. Others are planting additional medicinal plants besides goldenseal. We have personally visited almost all these farms over the last year and provided individual training and advice. We anticipate visiting the rest in the coming year. The Sleepy Hollow Farm plantation combined with the new plantings this year effectively double the amount of certified organic goldenseal in the US with total current planting commitments through 2008 amounting to approximately 20% of all currently cultivated goldenseal. This begins accomplishment of a major goal of our work through the establishment of cultivated goldenseal plantations on small farms in order to increase farm income and relieve pressure on wild populations from overcollection.

Publications

  • No publications reported this period


Progress 09/01/03 to 08/30/04

Outputs
Objective 1. Establish a reliable seed handling protocol for goldenseal that will yield a 35% rate of germination over a maximum of two growing seasons. Goldenseal seed received pre-planting treatments of 2.0% casamino acid for 24 hrs, 0.02% GA3 for 24 hrs, or no treatment. These seed were then either planted in conventional tilled seed beds or wild simulated beds which had only the leaf cover racked back before scattering the seed then recovered. First year results were encouraging with the wild simulated beds producing an average of 43% germination. The GA3 treated seed performed better than either of the other two treatments producing 52% germination in the wild simulated beds. The casamino acid treated seed produced the least amount of germination providing 6% germination in the conventional beds and 9% in the wild simulated. We will continue to monitor the progress of germination through next spring. Samples will be taken from the first year seedlings and analyzed by HPLC for berberine/hydrastine content. Objective 2. Establish requirements for the organic production of goldenseal raw material which contains a minimum 3.5% combined berberine and hydrastine alkaloids. Studies were established to determine the effects of soil pH and other agronomic conditions on the yield and alkaloid content of goldenseal. More than 500 samples were taken from those studies are in the process of being analyzed for alkaloid content using HPLC by our cooperators. Objective 2a. Determine the effect of soil pH on growth and alkaloid content. Preliminary analysis of the data from the soil pH studies has indicated an increase in both yield and alkaloid content as soil pH increases. After two full years of growth, soil pH levels of 5.3, 6.0, and 6.6 yielded measured rhizome growth increase of 80%, 91%, and 94% with combined berberine/hydrastine content of 5.12%, 8.71%, and 8.94% respectively. Objective 2b. Determine the effect of plant density on the alkaloid content and/or weight at various stages of development and maturity. Samples from these studies have been collected and are currently being analyzed by our cooperators. Objective 2c. Develop a database of agronomic, chemical, and genetic characteristics of goldenseal plants from Sleepy Hollow Farm=s plantation. Agronomic and chemical characteristic identification for 40 individual plants has been completed. We anticipate another 50 to 60 selections will be made in the coming year. Genetic fingerprinting of these plants is scheduled to begin this fall by our cooperators. The plants examined thus far range in alkaloid content from a low of 2.66% to a high of 12.07%. Objective 5. Develop educational activities and tools to efficiently disseminate information to other farmers. May 22, 2004 a workshop was held at Sleepy Hollow Farm that drew more than 275 people from 8 states. 41 small farms returned a questionnaire indicating a strong interest in cooperative participation including a cash investment. Of these, 13 have committed to plant a total of 5 acres of certified organic goldenseal per year over the next four years beginning in the fall of 2004.

Impacts
The data produced by this work has been incorporated into the production systems of 15 goldenseal growers. The goldenseal planted by these growers this year amounts to approximately 50 % of the known certified organic goldenseal in the US and based on current intended future plantings, will increase the percentage of organically cultivated goldenseal from a current level of around 7% to roughly 20%. This will provide the market with an increased amount of goldenseal raw material which has a very high level of documentation regarding production parameters. This is desirable in the industry and also provides an environmental benefit through a reduction in the need for wild collected goldenseal.

Publications

  • Beavers, Randy L. 2003. Agricultural Wildcatters, Have They Hit a Gusher with Medicinal Plants? HortScience volume 38, number 5, August, 2003. Abstract