The Artemisia annua L., a species of the family Asteraceae (or Compositae), is a wormwood can reach over 3 meters high in culture. Its natural range extends all the warm temperate zones. The plant is also present in some countries inter tropical regions, particularly in Vietnam.
The Chinese know the virtues of Artemisia for over 2000 years and antipyretic use this plant effectively against malaria and cancer. By 1990, Chinese scientists have sought collaboration with the European pharmaceutical industries.
From that time, modern science became interested in striking efficacy of this plant.
Artemisia annua contains a sesquiterpene lactone, artemisinin, effective against several strains of the parasite responsible for malaria and against cancer. A eight years ago initiated breeding program has developed a rich variety of artemisinin (its dried leaves can contain more than 1.3%). This variety has been the subject of a request for protection from the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), under the name of Artemis.
Mastering the culture of this species is currently the subject of extensive agronomic experiments, but a number of technical information may already be available.
Based on experience to date, it appears that Madagascar, the optimal cultivation calendar, from November-December to July-August.
Correct cultures were apparently carried out with seedlings that are spread through February, but the crop cycle is all shortcut and reduced yields.
Spontaneously, the plant likes well exposed land, rather light, but rich in nutrients.
In culture, however, the plant adapts to many soil types, even relatively clay. Regarding the climate, the region of Antananarivo proved ideal for growing. In fact, in this region, the limiting factor is constituted by the photoperiod, lengths of day twelve hours tends to induce flowering.
No pest or important pathogen has so far been observed on this crop.
Maintenance and watering.
The plant has a remarkable development and culture so quickly covers the ground. However, 1 or 2 weeding may be necessary in the first weeks.
Herbicides used in this case are not yet known, as a mechanical weeding is it currently recommended: strawberry (tiller or tractor) between the lines and hoe on the line.
As for watering, the plant bears a relative dryness, even if it responds well to fluid intake. It is mainly for planting a little water intake win.
However in the tropics, where the photoperiod is unfavorable, water stress may initiate a too early blooming.
In Madagascar, a lack of water during the months of January to March was initiated in some plots early flowering from April.
In this country, the parcels must be equipped with an irrigation system.
Harvesting, stripping and drying.
The harvest takes place about 5 months after planting, but not later than during the formation of pimples, because in the tropics, the artemisinin content drops sharply and very quickly when blooming.
To date, no harvesting machine has been developed for this plant. Also, using a mower to harvest the whole plant is she currently recommended.
The target molecule is present exclusively in the leaves, so it is necessary to separate the latter stems.
For this, one can sieve the dry material previously cut into sections approximately 10 cm, on a grid having a mesh size of about 0.5-1 cm, or by means of a combine harvester.
However, in appropriate areas for manual harvesting, we would advocate now gathering field of the sheet only.
This can be achieved by pinching one end of the branches between the thumb and forefinger and then back along the rod to pull the leaves.
This method has the advantage of giving very clean equipment and to solve the problem of the subsequent separation of the leaves and stems.
In addition, it provides an easy material to dry (2-3 days in a dry and ventilated atmosphere) and a minimum volume.
Soil preparation and fertilization
Soil preparation involves plowing and milling or harrowing.
If the schedule allows, it may be wise to previously make a false seedlings, that is to say, a first site preparation, followed by a second harrowing after emergence of weeds.
As for fertilizer, the plant responds well to nutrient inputs.
Based on some information currently available, the following inputs may be proposed (units / ha) N 80, P70, K90
Sowing crop establishment
Because of the extremely small size of the seeds (12 000 seeds per gram), direct seeding is tricky.
So do we now advocates the preparation of planting. This method greatly facilitates the control of the weed flora.
Plantings are made in flowerbeds protected from rain and direct sunlight (a 20 to 25 m2 surface for the 5 g of seeds for the preparation of seedlings for one hectare of culture).
The seeds are mixed with sand or ash (1 kg of sand for seed 5g), deposited on the surface of the border, then sprinkled with sieved soil and / or sand, this more to stabilize the seeds for truly cover.
then it should maintain good wet sowing, but without excess.
Night temperatures of 16-18 ° C daytime and 23-25 C are optimal. Germination usually takes place in the following week.
A planting in small compressed potting soil clods is performed 3-4 weeks later when the seedlings reach the stage 2-3 pair of leaves (3-4 cm high), with well-formed roots (4-5 cm) . Field planting takes place 3 weeks later, when the plants have reached the height of about 15 cm.
The recommended planting density is 60 cm x 60 cm, or about 30 000 plants per hectare. According maintenance and harvesting machines to be used, a larger spacing distance may be justified.
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