Farming of herbs goes commercial

Kathmandu, November 5:

After more than three years of experimental farming of around 12 medicinal plants in various parts of the nation, the Department of Plant Resources (DPR) has begun farming some of these high-value medicinal plants on a commercial scale after the DPR developed agro-technology to cultivate these.

The DPR has placed 12 medicinal plants on its top priority list for investigation and experimental farming at nine different places in seven districts. Acting director general of DPR, Hari Krishna Saiju, said the department has begun farming Satawari (wild asparagus), Pipala (long pepper) and Chiraitto on a commercial scale.

Besides these three, medicinal herbs on which respective district offices under the DPR are carrying out research are Panchaule (Salep), Kutki, Jatamansi, Sugandhawal (Valeriana), Loth Salla (Himalayan Yew), Timur (Zanthoxylum), Sarpagandha (Serpentine Root), Sugandha Kokila (Nepali Sassafras) and Gurjo (Tinospora).

These plants were selected from among 30 species of medicinal plants in a priority list by the DPR for immediate study. According to Saiju, farming and research are on in districts including Ilam, Dhanusha, Makwanpur, Salyan, Banke, Jumla and Kailali.

Assistant Scientific Officer Kuber Jung Malla said since the setting up of the DPR in 1960 agro-technology has been developed for cultivating 11 species possessing aromatic and medicinal value. This includes indigenous Valeriana (Sugandhawal) and Sarpagandha (Serpentine Root), which have already been adopted by the local farmers for commercial farming. The farmers have also begun farming Nepali cinnamon.

“The DPR has given high priority to the endangered high Himalayan species — Kutki, Panchaule and Atis — Aconite which are in high demand and very expensive.

For this, DPR is staging experiments to develop requisite agro-technology in Jumla,” Malla said. DPR is also cultivating saplings of Jatamansi which is a common species but in high demand. These saplings are distributed to the community forests users’ groups.

“The government has imposed a ban on collecting, transporting, selling and exporting Panchaule, which is the most difficult species in terms of cultivation. Hence, it needs special attention,” Malla said.

Of some 5,856 known indigenous species of flowering plants found in Nepal, around 246 species are native and found only here while 690 species have medicinal value. Of these 690 species, 30 have been selected on a national priority basis for immediate study.