Sweet herb Stevia is a “Wonder Crop” with a strong sweet taste that has been used to sweeten drinks and make tea since sixteenth Centuary.
During World War IInd England started to examine Stevia as substitute of sugar which was hard to find in those days.But in 1970’s the Japanese started to use stevia to replace banned artificial sweetener SACCHARIN. In 2011 European Food Safety Authority Approved the use of steviol glycosides as sweetener and finally in 2015 FSSAI of India allowed the use of stevia in food items and breverages.
Stevia is called by numerous names in various parts of India,It is popularly named as “Meethi tulsi”, Meethi Patti” and Madhu patrika. Though the farming of Stevia is being done for the last so many in different parts of the world but in India it has been started during last two decades and is being grown in a big way as it’s consumption increases with the increase in diabetic patients in India.At present India has about 30million diabetic patients which will increase more than 80 million until 2025. India’s total production varies from 550 to 600 tons.The weather condition in many parts of India is very good for stevia cultivation.
Soil and growing condition
Stevia can be grown in a wide variety of soils,but it gives the best outcome, when planted in sandy soil,loamy and well drained soil with high organic content,the ph required ranges from 6 to 7.5 is best and its time of sowing is Feb. to May however after acclimatisation can be grown throughout the year though the production for unfavourable season will decrease. 20,000 to 25,000 plants can be grown in one acre of land.
Irrigation,fertilisation and compost
Irrigation is the most significant part of Stevia. Farming the plants require light irrigation and at intermittent times may be after 8 days depends on climatic conditions. Do not overwater and water should not be stagnant in the field. Organic manure preferably vermi compost is much better than fertiliser. Application of Organic compost keeps the root cool and also prevents moisture loss.
Species to be planted
there are more than 100 species grown in the world but in India conditions only four or five are presently grown in India.
MDS-13 and MDS-14 gives best result in the regions with high temp and low rainfall.
SRB-123 & SRB-128 this variety gives best results in southern regions
Packaging & marketing and growth potential
Dry leaves are stored in cardboard boxes ,sealed and after powdering is packed for marketing. Stevia is mainly used in the food beverages and pharmaceutical market, because of rising demand of low calorie drinks. Stevia extract is currently imported at a cost of 6 lakh for 100 kg shipment.In order to boost the growth, the National Medicinal Plants has declared a 20% subsidy at the expense of production of stevia.
At last I am encouraged to write this article because of finding a large number of farmers in Karnataka growing stevia in a big way in and around Chikodi (Belgavi District) Karnataka. However I am growing stevia in my terrace garden for the last so many years and this can been used as perennial houseplants to meet your daily needs. Sweet herb stevia leaf is 100% natural and healthiest alternative to sugar. It contains “0” calorie and “0”carb along with many health benefits. Sweet herb stevia leaf can be used in tea, coffee, smoothies, cakes, protein shakes or any recipe that require sweetening. Stevia plants and dry powder of stevia is available at Bonsai and flowers paradise Gandhinagar Jammu.
(The author is Former Director Floriculture Jammu.)