Echinacea on 80 Acres
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Robert F. Waters
Posted on: October 29, 1999

I have purchased my St Johnswort seed from you and now I am looking into growing echinacea and other crops (goldenseal, ginseng, etc). Our acreage is in Montana with 13" of rainfall on non-irrigated land. I know Echinacea grows north and east of us. Here are some questions?

1. Approximate seeding cost per acre? (U.S. Dollars)

Most growers are planting plugs, not direct seeding. The main issue is weed control. Direct seeding means you have to figure out very carefully how you plant to control weeds. Marlin Huffman discussed echinacea production in detail at last year’s Richters commercial herb growing conference. You should get the transcripts because you will learn a lot from one of the leading growers of echinacea.

We do not recommend direct seeding Echinacea angustifolia because the seeds are slow to germinate and are very expensive. Direct seeding of Echinacea purpurea is possible.

If you choose to direct seed, you will need anywhere from 1 to 5 kg per acre. Huffman suggests 1 kg/acre is enough; we think you need more. The current price in U.S. dollars is about $88/kg ($40/lb). If you order 10 kg or more, the price is $70/kg ($32/lb).

2. After establishment what is the conservative yield of foliage and eventually roots AND the approximate current wholesale (broker) price per unit weight to the farmer. (U.S. Dollars)

Dry weight foliage yields range from 6,000 pounds per acre to 10,000 pounds per acre in years 2 to 4. Dry weight root yields are approximately 1,000 pounds per acre in year 4.

The farmgate price of Echinacea purpurea is between $2 and $3 a pound. The roots are between $8 and $10 a pound. Prices could go lower, so you should allow some room in your projections for lower prices. How low? No one knows, but it seems unlikely to us that it will go down by more than 10-20% in the next year or two. Overall demand is still rising, so even as more crop is coming into production, the price is still getting some support from the growth in demand.

3. How do you plant Echinacea seed. Furrow seeders, double disk seeders? AND at what seeding rate based on conservative germination rates.

I have already discussed the seeding rate. There are a variety of seeders that will work. The seeds are relatively large (compared to many other herbs) so it is possible to configure seeders to work. It make be necessary to blend in a filler such as sand to even out the spacing.

4. Could you supply enough Echinacea seed to plant 80 acres and would there be a price break for such volume?

Yes, we can supply that amount. In addition to the 10 kilogram price quoted above, we offer volume discounts of 10% on orders totalling $2,000 or more, and 15% on orders $5,000 or more.

5. Does anyone grow Echinacea commercially in Montana whom I may visit?

Yes, echinacea is grown in Montana, but because growers generally do not want to be contacted by other potential growers, we, as a rule, do not provide contact information. Sorry.

The best way to network is to attend conferences. Marlin Huffman, for example, will be at the 1998 conference, and there will be other echinacea growers also.

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