Cultivation of Tribulus terrestris
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Saied Kianbakht
Posted on: May 22, 2002

I would like to know how Tribulus terrestris can be cultivated?. In other words I would like to know the proper season for cultivation of the seeds of Tribulus terrestris, the required conditions of soil, the procedure of irrigation and how long it takes for the seeds to grow and produce fruits of the plant.

There is no published information on commercial cultivation of tribulus. Reportedly it is cultivated in Bulgaria where the plant’s steroidal effects have been studied and utilized for medicinal purposes.

Tribulus terrestris is annual herb found throughout much of the world. It is a prostrate vine that forms dense mats emanating from a woody taproot. The stems can reach 1.8 metres (6 feet). The medicinal part, its spiny burrs, has earned it the name "puncturevine" because the burrs can puncture tires and penetrate the soles of shoes. The burrs are interchangeably referred to us "seeds" or "fruits" in this article.

Tribulus can be invasive in warm temperate regions. It requires high temperatures for germination and growth, and can adapt to most soils. Typically, where it is a weed, it is found in disturbed soils, waste areas, roadsides, pastures, and farms. Because of its invasive potential, careful consideration should be given how it will be grown in order to prevent escape. Tribulus is considered a noxious weed in parts of the United States and Australia. Local weed regulations may prohibit cultivation and they should be checked for your region.

Tribulus propagates by seeds. Fresh seeds exhibit seed dormancy and few will germinate immediately after development. The seeds are dormant over the autumn and winter months and then germinate in late spring and early summer when conditions are moist. High temperatures are needed for germination and growth. Yellow flowers can appear within three weeks. The fruits (the burrs) are produced continuously through the summer and autumn months. A single plant can produce as many as 400 fruits. The seeds can remain viable for many years.

Because of the herb’s invasive potential, its continuous production of fruits, and its spreading vine-like growth habit, it may be best to grow this crop over a woven plastic barrier. A barrier will prevent fruits from falling into the soil and may facilitate easier harvesting of the fruits. To this end, the seeds should be germinated in deep plugs or pots so that the young plants can be transplanted to rows in the field. The optimal spacing of plants, as well as optimal fertilization and crop care, are unknown.

It is advisable to stratify the seeds first in moist sand for 1-3 months to break seed dormancy. Check seeds frequently for signs of swelling or sprouting and as soon as there are these signs dormancy is broken remove the seeds from the sand and sow in plug trays or pots.

Two weevils, Microlarinus lareynii and M. lypriformis, from India, france and Italy, are known to be pests of tribulus. They attack the seeds and stems and have been used as biocontrol agents in the United States with good success.

There is no published information on harvesting and processing. Mechanical harvesting methods such as vacuuming fallen fruits off the plastic barrier or use of a low combine should be investigated.

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