Campbell, Lew Staats, and Bob Beyfuss
Uihlein Sugar Maple Field Station
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) is a native American herb
with a range extending from Southern Quebec to Northern Georgia and
from the East Coast to the Midwest. Sugar maple and ginseng co-exist
in many hardwood forests as they both require high levels of calcium
in the soil.
ginseng plants, particularly herbaceous perennials growing beneath the
sugar maples in the Uihlein forest, are the same species that are often
associated with wild ginseng populations growing elsewhere. In April
of 1998 a soil sample was collected from the Uihlein sugar bush and
analyzed for nutrient content at Cornell's Soil Testing Laboratory.
The soil appeared to have very similar characteristics as soils in which
healthy populations of wild ginseng are found in New York State.
many regions of New York have a long anecdotal history of wild ginseng
growing within the region, the area near Lake Placid does not seem to
share this history based on conversations with long time residents.
In 1998, a ginseng research project was started at the Uihlein Field
Station to determine if ginseng could be cultivated in a sugar maple
forest in the Lake Placid region.
is a very popular food supplement, and is in high demand particularly
in China and surrounding countries. Raising ginseng is something that
can be very profitable in combination with maple sugaring. It requires
patience, hard work, some capital investment and is by no means guaranteed
income. Age, appearance, and method of cultivation determine the price
received by the grower. Ginseng is sorted into 40 different grades
based on root shape, color, taste, and age. The current estimated
market price for field cultivated ginseng can be between $12 to $20
per dry pound. Woods cultivated ginseng may bring between $25 and
$100 per dry pound. Wild simulated ginseng may bring between $150
and $250 per dry pound. Finally, wild ginseng may bring between $250
and $600 per pound or higher for the more unusual rare root. The higher
prices are reserved for older plants (over ~25 years).
the summer of 1998 six test plots approximately 6 feet wide by 33 feet
long were prepared within the Uihlein sugar bush by removing the surface
vegetation and rototilling the soil to a depth of six inches. Soil samples
were collected and analyzed from each of the six plots. Calcium levels
varied substantially from plot to plot. Calcium is a crucial element
for healthy ginseng growth. Calcium levels ranged from 430 pounds per
acre to 1,710 pounds per acre. Phosphorous, potassium, and Magnesium
levels were not significantly different from plot to plot.
of the six plots was divided into three sections. Each section received
two ounces (approximately 700 seeds) of ginseng seed from a commercial
source, two ounces of seed from a different commercial source, and approximately
50 one-year-old ginseng rootlets. With the exception of the control,
a unique amount of gypsum (calcium sulfate) was added to each of the
seed germination and growth has been monitored for the past three years.
In the fall of 2001 a workshop was held at the Uihlein Field Station
for clients and cooperative extension agents to discuss what makes a
good ginseng planting. The results of growth in the six plots after
three years varied from poor to excellent. The factors that influenced
the success of the plots were compared to a Visual Site Assessment and
Grading Criteria form to be used with soil analysis data to help further
determine the sites with best potential.
the October of 2001 a second study was initiated to determine under
what alternate dominant tree species ginseng would grow best. Many indications
are that ginseng will grow best under sugar maple. However, farmers
and growers that want to grow ginseng may lack the sugar maple resource.
Five trees of four species, sugar maple, beech, yellow birch, and hop
hornbeam, were chosen. Soil samples were taken from around each tree
to determine soil type and nutrient qualities and saplings of species
other than the sample were removed. Fifty 3 and 4 year old rootlets
were planted in one-foot spacings on two, four, and six-foot radii under
the drip line of the sample trees. Survival and growth will be monitored
over the next four years.
situated at the Uihlein Field Station Sugarhouse is a demonstration
plot of ginseng grown from seed and goldenseal, another rare herbaceous
perennial that has income potential. A demonstration of gourmet mushrooms
will also be established this spring. These demonstration plots will
be used to show producers and visitors some sources of alternative income
available in their forests.
repository of ginseng from six southern states was also established
to observe the ability of the transplants to survive a northern climate
and to provide germplasm and genetic material for future projects.
Investigators and Cooperators include: Bob Beyfuss - Cornell Cooperative
Extension American Ginseng Specialist, Dr. Louise Buck - Agroforestry
Specialist Cornell University, Dr. Marianne Krasny, and Jeff Murphy
- Uihlein Sugar Maple Field Station. Funding is partially supplied by
the NYS-DEC and is greatly appreciated. For more information contact.