Citronella, botanically known as Cymbopogon winterianus is a tufted aromatic perennial herb with fibrous roots. Farmers cultivate citronella to sell them to dealers from the perfume industry where it is used to obtain aromatic oil. Extracted oil from citronella is primarily used for making soaps, cosmetics and mosquito-repellent creams. Due to the low cost of cultivation, farmers cultivating citronella on their farms can generate a net profit of up to ₹1,20,000 to 1,60,000 per hectare.
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Citronella Farming Guide
Follow these guidelines to get optimum yield by cultivating citronella.
Soil For Citronella
You can cultivate citronella in a wide range of soils, but sandy loam soils rich in organic matter under a pH range of 5.8 to 6.0 are best. Avoid growing citronella in clayey or sandy soils, as it can affect the yield. Roots of citronella can also get affected by root rot due to waterlogging in the field, therefore make sure to avoid waterlogging.
Climate For Citronella
Citronella can be grown in tropical as well as sub-tropical climates. Humidity and sunlight play a vital role in the yield and quality of the oil, humidity above 70% is ideal. Annual rainfall of around 2000 to 2500 mm is good for the growth of citronella plants.
Propagation Of Citronella
Farmers can propagate citronella through the vegetative propagation method, i.e., by slips. For propagating citronella by slips, separate well grown clumps, each slip containing 1 to 3 tillers. From a 1 year old clump, you can get about 50 slips. After separating you can plant them in your field.
When To Plant Citronella?
Farmers can start planting citronella anytime during the year, but before the onset of monsoon is considered the best time for planting. Before planting, prepare the field by discing and tilling to bring it to a fine tilth.
How To Plant Citronella?
Soon after separating clumps, plant slips vertically 10 centimeters deep. Farmers can also prepare ridges and furrows to plant citronella on the ridges. However, they should make sure to avoid waterlogging in the plantation area. Irrigate immediately after planting citronella if there is no rain. Planting during late evenings is considered best. Plant citronella at a spacing of 60 cm x 60 centimeters or 90 cm x 90 centimeters apart.
In regions with annual rainfall of 2000 to 2500 mm that is well distributed over the year, then there is no need to irrigate your field. But, in drier conditions, you need to irrigate your citronella farm once every 5 days to promote good growth.
Fertilizers For Citronella
Citronella requires high doses of nitrogen-rich fertilizers for luxurious foliage growth. Every year farmers need to supply 80 to 120 Kilograms of nitrogen, and 40 Kilograms each of phosphorus and potassium per hectare in 4 split doses. During the rainy season to overcome iron deficiency, farmers can apply 0.25% ferrous Sulphate solution at 14-day intervals for 3 to 4 times.
Harvesting Of Citronella
Leaves of citronella are harvested because they contain oil. With the help of a sickle farmers can cut 20 to 45 centimeters above the ground. Citronella can be harvested four times a year. You can get the first harvest 6 months after plantation, and subsequent harvests can be taken thereafter at 2.5 to 3-month intervals. Harvest only the leaf blade and the sheath should be left because the sheath contains only little and poor quality oil.
Yield Of Citronella
If you follow all these guidelines carefully, then you can expect a yield of up to 15 to 20 tonnes of fresh citronella leaves per hectare in the first year and the oil content is about 1% based on fresh weight of leaves. From the second year, farmers can expect a yield of up to 20 to 25 tonnes per hectare. The oil yield of citronella is about 100 Kilograms per hectare in the first year and from the second year, it can be around 200 to 250 Kilograms per hectare.
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