Wild Lettuce
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Jackie Rive
Posted on: August 16, 1999

Do you have a good seed strain for Wild Lettuce (Lactuca virosa)? If so could I have a price please with possible yields? Do you have any information on the commercial production of this plant as I want to grow 1000 kg organically?

There are no specific selections of wild lettuce available, just the wild type which is not improved over what is found growing in the wild.

There is little production information on this crop. It is a biennial weed in England where it has been cultivated to a very small extent for the extraction of the flesh flowering plant. It is hardy to USDA zone 5.

It will thrive in any soil that suits cultivated garden lettuce (L. sativa). It needs full sun, and responds well to fertilizer like the garden lettuce. Seeds are sown in spring and transplanted in rows 60 cm apart, with a 30 cm spacing wthin the rows. This spacing works out to about 50,000 plants per hectare (20,000/acre).

From environmental data taken from areas where wild lettuce is found growing, the pH range is 6.5 to 8.2 with the optimum at 7.3. The temperature range is 6.9 to 23.5 degrees Celsius, and the precipitation range is 35 to 173 centimetres annually.

There are 1100 seeds per gram. The typical germination rate of commercially available seeds is only 35-40%, so in figuring how much seed to order expect to get 300-400 plants per gram.

The plant produces a large rosette of leaves in the first year and does not flower. In the second year flowers, reaching a height of 1.2-1.8 metres. The whole plant is harvested. There is no information on the fresh or dried herb yield. We would guess that fresh weight yield will be somewhere around 2-4 tonnes per hectare and the dry weight yield will be around 0.5-1 tonne per hectare.

For your project we recommend planting a hectare with 50,000 plants. For that you will need about 150-200 grams of seed, but conservatively you should double these numbers to be sure of getting enough plants.

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