Aloevera (Aloe barbadensis) is a popular medicinal plant. It belongs to liliaceae family. It is a perennial plant, growing to the hight of 1½ – 2½ ft. Its leaves are long and thick, juicy with a wheel like phylotaxy. The two sides of the leaves have thorny structure with a thorny tip. The inner substance of the leaves is jelly like, with bad odour and bitter in taste. The length of the leaves ranges from 25-30 cm., while the breadth ranges from 3-5 cm. Normally it flowers during October to January and the long inflorescence has a large number of small pink flowers all around. Fruits are developed during February to April. It is normally not propagated through seeds. Vegetative propagation is easy and convenient. Of late, because of sky rocketing price of allopathic medicines with its known side effects, medicinal plants and ayurvedic medicines are becoming popular. World trade worth about 80 million US$ dollars exists now and this is likely to increase by 35-40 percent within 5 years. USA dominates the market (65%) while India and China have a share of 10 percent each which could be enhanced by its commercial cultivation.
Soil and Climate
Aloe vera is found to grow in hot humid and high rainfall conditions. It is grown in all kind of soils but well drained soil with high organic matter, is most suitable. It grows well in bright sun light. Shady conditions results in disease infestation It is highly sensitive to water stagnation. Therefore, well drained high land should be selected for its cultivation. A rainfall ranging from 1000 – 1200 mm is ideal for aloevera cultivation. Seedling Preparation and Planting Since it is difficult to grow aloevera from seeds, seedlings are normally raised from roots of the plants. Sucker itself can be used as seedlings as in Banana. Rainy season is ideal for sucker plantation. A spacing of 1.5 x 1 ft, 1 ft x 2 ft or 2 ft x 2 ft is followed. Land Preparation About 2-3 ploughings and laddering are done to make the soil weed free and friable. Land leveling is then followed. Along the slope, 15-20 ft apart drainage are made.
Application of Plant Nutrients
Before land preparation, about 8-10 tonnes FYM/ ha is applied. Before the last ploughing, 35 kg N, 70 kg P 20 5, and 70 kg K2 0/ha are added. For controlling termites, 350-400 kg Neem Cake / ha may be applied . In September – October about 35-40 kg N as top dressing may be applied. If the soil is rich in organic matter, N dose can be reduced.
Irrigation and Interculture
After 40 days or so weeding and earthing up are done. Earthing up is also practiced after top dressing of fertiliser. Aloe vera is slightly tolerant to drought, but very sensitive to water stagnation. Therefore, proper drainage is more important than irrigation. As per need light irrigation during drought is enough.
Aloe vera is infested by various insets and pests. Special care is needed for their control in medicinal plants like aloevera where the juice of the leaves are directly taken as medicine. Clean cultivation, interculture operation, regular and need based irrigation, application of adeguate organic manure, treatment of suker before planting, and cultivation of aloevera in sunny conditions are conducive for healthy growth of the aloe vera crop. Use of organic source of plant protection materials like raw garlic juice, neem oil (10,000 ppm) 2-3 ml / lit, tobacco extractant 20 ml / lit gave reasonably good result.
Harvesting of leaves starts after 7-8 months of planting. Sharp knife is used for harvesting. Care has to be taken to reduce the loss of juice from the cut portion. If harvesting is done once in a year, October – November are the best period for harvesting. Second year gives maximum yield and for about 4-5 years good yield could be harvested . After harvesting leaves are dried in shade and then in sun before storages. Flowers are collected in December – January and preserved after proper drying. Yearly 100 – 115 quintals raw leaves and 350 – 400 kg flowers / ha are obtained (3).
Both the juice of leaves and flowers are used as medicine, but medicines are prepared from leaves. Intake of juice of leave, improves hunger, and helps in digestion. Juice when mixed with sugar cures cough and cold. Besides these, it also cures nervous weakness, asthma, Jaundice, etc. The leaf flesh (about 7-Sg) mixed with honey, taken in morning and evening cures constipation. Besides, it is good medicine for many other diseases.
It contains various organic compounds which ci1res diseases. Of these, the main use is aloine. Besides, these it contains 12 types of vitamin, 20 kinds of amino acids, 20 kinds of minerals, 200 different types of polysaccharides, and various kinds of glycol- protein which are used for human health. Alaine A, and Alaine B, are principles of the ayurvedic medicine (3).
Expenditure to be incurred for Aloe vera cultivation normally amounts to about Rs.1,10,000 / ha. The expected income with a yield of about 110 – 115 quintal would be about Rs. 340,000/ha. The net profit would be about Rs.230,000 /ha/year. In addition to monetary benefit, social benefit would be anormous. Better management can results in much higher income and net profit.