Growing a plant with a deadly combination of beauty and toxicity – Castor Bean can be a bit challenging but once you get the hang of it, bingo! This commercial crop can give you good returns in both forms – produce and profit.
The Bean which is Actually Not a Bean
Castor bean plants (Ricinus communis), also known as African Coffee Tree, Arandi, Bi Ma Zi, Bofareira, Eranda, Gandharva Hasta, Wonder Tree, and so on, is a tropical plant having striking star-shaped foliage that grows quickly and forms a beautiful shade cover that can reach 3 feet (1 m.) in length. Native to the Ethiopian region of Africa, castor beans love warm climates and moist soil and hence are commonly found in the wild along stream banks and riverbeds on low-lying areas.
Castor bean is not exactly a bean, in fact, it’s the vibrant red seeds of it that are pressed to produce pure castor oil, which is also said to be toxic if consumed as it is by humans or animals. Now, you may think who would grow it if its seeds are poisonous? Well, castor bean is a plant more suitable for farming than as an ornamental plant in the backyard of the house despite having gorgeous star-shaped leaves. So, let’s understand how castor farming is done and what are the things required and one must keep in mind before digging soil for castor plants.
Guide for Castor Farming
From the seed used for germination, to the climate, soil, watering, fertilizer, everything contributes to the growth of the castor plant hence let us ponder upon each factor for a better yield.
As mentioned before, castor beans love a warm climate hence can be sewn directly to the soil if living in warmer regions but if not, then you have to start indoors. If you want the seeds to germinate faster, soaking them will give you a good start. Select a few large, oval-shaped, castor seeds having a small nub that sticks out slightly. Soak them in a deep container filled with warm water for 24 hours before sowing. You can also soak them in diluted organic fish emulsion, liquid kelp, or compost tea to give a boost. Keep them indoors for 6-8 weeks for better results. After soaking, you may see seeds being popped out which is a sign they are ready.
- Prep up the land and the soil
A three to four deep ploughings must be done to prepare the land for castor farming. It will loosen up the soil as a pulverized 40cm deep loose sub-soil is what a castor plant requires for proper germination. Next, ensure that the soil is deep, moderately fertile, with slightly acidic conditions, and well-drained sandy loam soil with a pH value around 6.0. It must be nutrient-rich and if not, you can use some organic matter to increase the nutrient density.
- Suitable climate
Castor plants like full sun and humid conditions and hence for better results are typically grown during the summer. It is an ideal crop for marginal lands of the dry zone where it gets both rainfed and irrigated well. Although it loves summer, the castor crop is sensitive to high temp ( above 40°C) and humidity.
Castor seeds must be planted properly since they need enough space to grow. Make about 1 – 1 1/2″ deep hole and drop a seed into it. Cover with a moderate amount of soil and gently press it down. Ensure it’s neither too deep as the seed will rot at the base nor too shallow as it will expose the delicate roots. Also, keep the proper spacing between the seedings i.e about 36-48″ apart for best results because castor plants sprout quickly and extensively and overcrowding will limit its growth.
After sowing, the castor plant needs dedicated monitoring. For a castor plant to reach sprawling heights, it must get full light of at least eight hours. It must be planted away from any towering trees that can impact the amount of light it can get as the more the sunlight, the fuller the plant will be.
Next, ensure your seedlings are getting a good drink i.e consistent watering is required as castor plants love moist soil but also take care not to overwater them. Around 1 inch of water per week, either from rainfall or manual watering or more depending on the conditions is enough for the healthy growth of castor plants.
Don’t forget to feed your castor bean plant once a month with a general, all-purpose fertilizer or organic fertilizer for healthy and quick growth.
Next, carry out thinning process i.e after your seedlings have sprouted a few inches tall, start removing the smallest/weakest one by simply cutting them off at the base using a pair of micro-tip snips or bonsai shears because pulling them may damage the tender roots of the crops.
Regular weed management is necessary for a castor plant like any other crop or else all the nutrients, water, fertilizer, manure that you are feeding your castor plant will be consumed by the weeds.
Carry our pest and disease control in castor cultivation if necessary and try to use natural methods rather than spraying chemicals all around.
Generally, a castor plant becomes ready to harvest in about 140 to 175 days but still, the maturity depends upon the variety of the plant. Look for signs like drying and if 1 to 2 capsules in a bunch are beginning to dry, remove the whole cluster. Later dry them in the sun for a couple of days and then start separating the seeds from it. The collected seeds can be then processed to produce castor oil products as desired. Castor oil obtained from pressing seeds is then treated in different ways to get castor oil derivatives which are used in various industries as per their chemical properties.
Castor farming like any other crop needs proper care and attention as it’s the seed that contains the precious oil and if not taken care of, you will get nothing out of it. We at Ambuja Solvex, use such carefully and organically grown castor plants to produce 100% pure and unfiltered castor oil that you can trust blindly which has helped us earn the place among the top castor oil manufacturers in India.
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