Growing Lavender in India
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Satya Raj
Posted on: August 08, 2006

It seems that south India is not favourable for Lavender growing. I searched and found out that in Salooni, Chambal district, Himachal Pradesh, already someone is growing Lavender. The farm station was set up by the Institute for Himalyan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur, in collaboration with the CSK Agricultural University. I am including the news-clip here under.

Thank you for this valuable information. We often receive requests for cultivation information from farmers in non-traditional areas wanting to grow lavender. This information will be helpful to others in India.

Sweet lavender

Cultivation of lavender has proved profitable for many farmers in Chamba, reports Vibhor Mohan

The secret behind the sweet aroma of most perfumes and talc is now helping scores of farmers in Chamba district to see their income spiral. The cultivation of lavender (Lavendula officinalis), introduced in July 2000 by setting up a farm station in Salooni, has now spread to other parts of the district as well.

Its maintenance-free features, 95 per cent survival and high demand in the market promises a steady income. The hardy perennial plant has a productive life span of nearly 30 years and the fields need rejuvenation only after a period of 10 years. Not just butterflies, the aromatic plant attracts money too.

Every year, June 5 is celebrated as Chamba Lavender Day. The farm station was set up by the Institute for Himalyan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur, in collaboration with the CSK Agricultural University, following an agreement to promote the cultivation and processing of medicinal and aromatic plants in Chamba on complimentary basis.

The most desirable characteristic of lavender is that it is not a very disease-prone plant and does not attract any insects or pests that could destroy the flowers. Stray animals also do not graze on these plants.

Despite most of the villages, where the plantation of lavender is being taken up, are surrounded by forests, which are the natural habitat of wild animals, lavender farms still remain safe.

Mr P.S.Ahuja, Director, IHBT, says lavender is easy to grow, does not need extensive care, needs very little irrigation in addition to the natural rainfall. Moreover, it demands no chemical fertilizers or pesticides as it is fertilized by the farmyard manures, which the village farmers have in abundance.

The institute has developed quality planting material and a nursery of lavender. Agro-technology and processing technology has been developed. Akash, a variety of Lavander, has also been released by the institute. Farmers of the region are adopting the crop with great interest. Distillation units have been established at Slaooni, Chamba and high quality oil, (acceptable by International standards) are being produced form the region for the first time, he adds.

Lavender can be grown only in the Himalyan region, wherever it snows, as it requires water only when first planted. Therefore, its plantation is profitable in parts of Chamba and higher reaches of Mandi and Kullu. It is also known to be a heavy attracter of bees, which helps in pollination, he says.

Another important demonstration by the Salooni farm station was that the lavender could be grown on sloppy fields, which have not been terraced and are used as grassland. "If a 2 by 2 by 2 feet pit is made at the distance of two feet from plant to plant and from row to row, lavender can be easily grown in such fields. Therefore, even if no land is available or the available terraced land is being used for growing other commercial crops like vegetables, lavender can still be cultivated in such unproductive lands by the marginal farmers," reads the status report on lavender by the varsity.

The farm station also provides the facility of processing of lavender flowers. The general odour of the essential oil distilled by steam distillation, lavender plantation can be described as sweet, fruity, hay-like, herbal, floral and slightly weedy. As part of the agreement, an ‘essential oil distilling unit’ costing Rs 5 lakh was donated by IHBT to the farm station

Till now, the farm station has grown over 10,000 plantations as base nursery for production and supply of rooted plants and cuttings to farmers of the area. It also organises farmers’ training camps on lavender and other aromatic crops.

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