Gypsum Effect on Performance of American Ginseng

in HortScience
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  • 1 Cornell Univ., Horticulture, Ithaca, NY 14853
  • | 2 Cornell Univ., Horticulture, Ithaca, NY 14853
  • | 3 Cornell Univ., Horticulture, Ithaca, NY 14853
  • | 4 Cornell Univ., Horticulture, Ithaca, NY 14853

Woods cultivation of North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium L.) can generate income for forest land owners and decrease collection pressure on wild populations of this increasingly scarce forest herb. For woods cultivation, supplemental calcium by soil application of gypsum (CaSO4 2H2 O) is often recommended, but the effects of this practice on soil characteristics, plant growth and quality of American ginseng are not well characterized. In a greenhouse pot culture experiment, 3-year-old seedlings were treated with 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 Mt/ha gypsum and grown for 12 weeks. Gypsum application decreased soil pH slightly and elevated soil electrical conductivity and available soil calcium. Tissue levels of calcium were not affected by gypsum treatment but a significant increase in both shoot and root dry weight occurred. Total ginsenosides, which are the pharmacologically active components of ginseng, were increased slightly in roots but not in shoots of plants treated with 4 Mt/ha gypsum. Rb1, the most abundant ginsenoside in roots, was elevated in roots of plants treated with 3 Mt/ha gypsum. Ginsenoside Rg1 was elevated in shoots of plants treated with 2 Mt/ha gypsum. Regardless of gypsum treatment, qualitative differences (relative concentrations of different ginsenosides) between roots and shoots were observed.