Monday, May 30, 2005



Intensive Moringa leaf production can lead to green biomass yields at levels which are hard to grasp and even harder to believe.

Whether produced for use as a green manure, for livestock feed or for human consumption, it has been already consistently proven that Moringa can be grown intensively with yields of up to 650 metric tons of green matter per hectare even without clonal selection or particular efforts to set records. This compares very well to even the best other green manure crops, such as lablab beans, which yield up to 110 tons/hectare of green matter in pure stands, or to hemp, or even water lillies.

These high yields are not theoretical numbers, but actual results. They were obtained in a South-American sub-tropical location through subsoiling to a depth of 60 cm or 2 feet, to encourage drainage and good root development, followed by rotavating, then planting Moringa seeds at a 10x10 cm or 4"x4" density, for a total of 1 Mseeds per hectare or 400 Kseeds per acre, with sufficient fertilizer -- ideally, cow manure, preferably composted, if possible in the form of McAndrews type bio-dynamic compost. In the referred experiment done in South America, sub-soiling was done with a deep plugging unit produced by a German company called HOWARD -- unit cost was US$ 8,000 and required a 150 HP tractor.

The green matter was harvested every 35-40 days when plants reached a height of 50 cm-20" or more, cut at a distance of 15-20 cm or 6"-8" above the ground. Although losses of seedlings may be of the order of 20-30% in the first year, the vigorous regrowth of the remaining seedlings produced 3 or 5 new shoots after each cutting. Up to nine harvests can be obtained annually. In time (some of these Moringa stands are now over 5 years old) the 15-20cm/6-8" stems will become thick and woody but will continue to send up green shoots. Total copicing (cutting at soil level) from time to time might actually also be a promising option. In such case, stems could be peeled for their medicinal bark, the (soft) woody portion yielding a high quality paper pulp. It has also been hypothesized that, soaked, woody portions might actually yield food suitable for goats.

The 650 metric ton green biomass yield was obtained in sandy, well-drained soil at 30 meters altitude in a sub-tropical South-American location. Rainfall was 1,300 mm annually with irrigation practiced during the dry season. At this level of production, the recorded nutrient requirement per hectare each year was:
1,800 kg Calcium, 1,400 kg Magnesium, 380 kg Phosphorus, 280 kg Nitrogen, 0.6 kg Boron, 0.5 kg Copper, 0.3 kg Zinc.
Note: This seems rather low on Zinc for optimal human nutritional requirements, and the tree would accomodate much lower levels of precipitation or irrigation. Once roots reach the water table, no irrigation is necessary anymore, Moringa being basically a desert tree, doing quite well even in the Sahel region of Africa. Actually, it should be noted that some Moringa species, such as the very promising M. Stenopetala, are native to Abyssinia and Arabia.

For bulk orders, local fertilizer producers can mix such compositions to order. Barring that, adding urea to existing fertilizers can provide many of the needed nutrients. Depending on local soil, portion of these requirements and fertilizer needs may be naturally present. Compositions of rock dust, humic supplements and composted seaweed and cow and chicken manures should provide all necessary nutrients organically.


As for the market value of such yields, if used for human consumption, it is nothing short of astonishing. We are talking here about proven yields of 572,000 pounds green mass per acre of a product currently sold in the USA in dry form (fresh to dry yield 3-4:1) as a food supplement anywhere from $15 to $40 per pound, retail, and worth every penny of such prices, when compared to other available foods not even closely comparable nutritionally.

Sold directly to the public by organic producers in particularly desirable forms, such for example as fresh young organic leaf, fresh organic leaf juice or spray-dried / freeze-dried raw organic leaf juice, it is conceivable to see people knowing what they are doing achieve 7-figures incomes out of very limited cultivated surfaces. Therefore, 6-figures incomes are certainly in the range of reasonable expectations for almost anyone with available land and understanding the basics of Moringa cultivation.

(C) Moringa Trust 1998, 2000 & Moringa Mission Trust, 2005. All rights reserved worldwide.


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