Aloe is a fleshy perennial, a shallow-rooted crop of 30 – 60 cm high. Nowadays, the demand for aloe vera is increasing owing to its medicinal properties. It is cultivated around the world. There are around 275 species of aloe vera. Of those, only a few are recommended for cultivation. Long thick, fleshy leaves with spines at margins are the commercial product of Aloe Vera.
How to Grow Aloe Vera
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Sandy loam to slightly alkaline soils is recommended for aloe vera cultivation. We can find aloe vera in barren lands. So, aloe vera cultivation is possible in a wide range of soils. Aloe vera grows well in marginal and low fertile soils. It does well under soil P. H 8.5. However, avoid soils with poor water drainage and tend to waterlog for aloe vera cultivation.
The water requirement of aloe vera is low compared to the other crops. So, it can be grown in arid parts of the world. It can tolerate drought conditions. Temperate regions of the world are not suitable for aloe vera cultivation. Optimum rainfall is 35 – 40 cm to 150 – 200 cm. The temperature of 25 – 40 ̊ is suitable for aloe Vera cultivation.
Plough the soil 2 – 3 times and remove the weeds and previous season crop residues. Level the land before sowing. Make drainage channels at 15 – 20 ft apart.
Root suckers and rhizomes are used as propagating materials. Use 15 – 18 cm root suckers or rhizomes bits. Place the two-third portion inside the soil. Around 15 000 cuttings are required to plant aloe vera in one hectare of land.
A spacing of 60 × 60 cm between row to row and plant to plant is followed.
The application of organic manures will increase the yield. So, apply 8 – 10 tonnes of farmyard manure per hectare of land. During the last plowing, add 35-kilo grams of nitrogen, 70 kilograms of P2O5, and 70 kilograms of K2O per hectare. Apply 35 – 40 kilograms of nitrogen as a top dressing. Neem cake application at a rate of 300 – 400-kilo grams per hectare will reduce the termite problem. However, these fertilizer doses will increase or decrease depending upon soil fertility.
As aloe vera can tolerate drought conditions, its water requirement is less compared to the other crops. Irrigate the crop immediately after planting. Maintain optimum soil moisture in the field until plants get established. Aloe vera requires around 4 – 6 irrigations per year. Even it is tolerant of drought but sensitive to water stagnation. So, care should be taken to ensure proper drainage in the field. During the summer season, irrigate the crop at every 20 days intervals.
Keep the crop free from weeds as weeds interfere with intercultural operations and reduce the yield. Practice light cultivation. The first weed removal can be done after 30 to 40 days after planting. In aloe vera, around 4 – 5 weedings along with one hoeing per year are required to reduce damages caused by weeds.
Earthing up needs to be done after weeding by covering the base of the plant with soil.
Pests and diseases of aloe vera:
Pest and disease attack is very less in aloe vera cultivation. However, there is little incidence of termites and leaf spots in some parts of the world. A termite problem can be managed by applying light irrigation. The leaf spot can be controlled by spraying fungicides.
Aloe Vera is a perennial crop. Harvesting lasts up to 4 – 5 years after planting. Leaves can be harvested every three months. Harvest the leaves which are mature enough. First harvesting can be taken after 8 – 10 months after sowing. Commercial yield starts from the second year onwards and lasts up to 5 years. Outermost 3 -4 leaves are harvested by cutting with the help of a sharp knife at the white base. Care should be taken while cutting the leaves without causing any injuries to the leaves and plants. Because these injuries may act as entry points for the various infections. Dry the leaves in the shade properly before processing.
On an average basis, aloe vera farmers can get 15 – 20 tonnes of fresh leaves in an area of one acre by adopting good management practices.
Its cultivation is possible in low fertile and marginal soils. So, the cultivation of aloe vera in such soils provides good returns to the farmer, where he may not be able to grow other crops. In that way, aloe vera cultivation helps the farmers in areas prone to drought and low fertility.
Tips to indoor cultivation of Aloe Vera:
- Its cultivation is possible as indoor plants along with field cultivation.
- Fill the containers with drainage material, compost, coarse sand, and a little bone meal.
- Provide proper drainage holes to the growing containers as aloe is very sensitive to waterlogging.
- Place these growing containers where they can receive adequate sunshine for their growth and development.
- Water the plants lightly at frequent intervals until they are established properly.
- During the rainy season, watering is not necessary. But in summer water the plants whenever you find soil dry.
- Care should be taken while watering as overwatering may kill the plant permanently.
- Clean the drainage holes regularly to ensure better drainage.
- Apply organic fertilizers like compost, farmyard manure or household wastage, etc.
- Once plants established, it starts producing offshoots; these can be removed and transplanted into new pots.
- Remove the loose soil and supplement it with new garden soil if necessary.
- We can harvest leaves after 8 – 10 months after planting. We can take one harvesting for every 3 months.
- Harvesting of leaves was done by cutting outer 3-4 leaves without causing any injury with the help of a sharp knife near the white base.