A Thuan takes care of his ginseng garden in Ngoc Lay Commune, Kon Tum Province
(Photo: ​tuoitre.vn)


Kon Tum (VNS/VNA)
- The early onset of the monsoon has prompted ethnic minority residents of Ngoc Lay commune in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum to look for faster ways to cultivate "duong quy".

The herb produced here is different from the renowned Ngoc Linh ginseng, developed both in Nam Tra My district in Quang Nam province and in Kon Tum province. While the Ngoc Linh ginseng is grown only in the forest, the "duong quy" (Angelica sinensis, commonly known as "female ginseng") is planted in gardens and cultivated as part of swidden agriculture, and even as a side-crop.

The commune, where the Ngoc Linh ginseng was first discovered in 1973, is planting the "duong quy", a crop that has developed fast across Tu Mo Rong district of Kon Tum province.

A Thuan, an ethnic minority teacher in Dak King village, gets up at dawn to water his "duong quy" field before going to school. "Even though it is the rainy season, the plants need to be watered regularly for them to grow fast," he said.
A Thuan is among the few people able to make a decent income from "duong quy", a relatively new variety that is bigger sized. The "duong quy" previously grown in the area were small-sized and of low yield, and therefore fetched cheap prices.

In 2016, the Hanoi Medical Herbs Centre provided 1,500 new "duong quy" seedlings to Ngoc Lay residents. This new seedlings suited local land conditions, so they grew rapidly.

According to the centre’s experts, new seedlings can only be harvested after 18-24 months, but A Thuan’s "duong quy" roots are ready for the market after nine months. In the first crop last year, he sold out 300kg at a price of 70,000 VND per kilo, earning 21 million VND.    

“Ngoc Lay commune’s soil is suitable for growing duong quy, but it requires the farmer to take good care of it,” he said.

Emulating A Thuan, his neighbour, A Bien decided to sell 200kg of one-year-old đương quy roots. “With the new variety, one kilo of duong quy root equals two to five bulbs, against 10 bulbs from the old variety, so it is ready for harvesting after a year. I hope that more and more local residents can see my results and start growing this female ginseng," he said.

Highway 40B, running to the south of Quang Nam province, was expanded several years ago, helping the Xo Dang ethnic minority residents of Ngoc Lay commune access the “outside world.”

Before the large road was built, their villages nestled in the immense forests of Ngoc Linh Mountain are always covered in smoky mist. Even when they lack arable land, the Xo Dang people never destroy the forests and have always protected it. The new crop is changing local lives significantly.

Now, local residents are proud of the green fields of "duong quy". One woman said her family had started this crop last December, and now, their field has 10,000 "duong quy" plants.

“I planned to sell the roots after two years, many traders have visited my field already,” she said.

In Tu Bong village, 26 of 32 households are growing this ginseng and expect to harvest their first crop early next year.
Many ethnic minority households have decided to plant "duong quy" on their paddy fields. Knowing that the plant develops well on  moisturized land, they have begun planting "duong quy" on terraced paddy fields near the stream, creating favourable conditions for watering during the dry season.
Post-harvest rice fields next to water sources are also being reserved for "duong quy" cultivation. Some farmers also planted the root in the shade of coffee trees with good results.
 
Growing "duong quy" with coffee has been a boon to many farmers. Farmer Y Nheng said commune residents did not have much arable land and access to forests was restricted.

“Growing duong quy on coffee-growing land could help us use the land fully,” she said.

They also planted ginseng after harvesting rice on terraced fields, because decayed rice straw is a source of good nutrition source for đương quy, Y Nheng said.
 
"Decayed roots of rice and rice straw help the plant develop and make the bulbs bigger," Y Nheng said.

In the next few months, the Xo Dang people in Ngoc Lay commune will be harvesting "duong quy".

At current average price of 70,000 VND per kilo, everyone is waiting for a bumper harvest. Notably, this year, most farmers in the commune are able to manage seedlings by themselves. Some of the poorest families in the commune were given free seedlings.

Another farmer Y Linh, said that her family had spent 2.5 million VND to buy 2,500 "duong quy" seedlings. She said that she would retain the best plants, waiting for their seeds. “Next year, I won’t need to go to Kon Tum city to buy seeds,” she said.

Nguyen Van Dang, Chairman of the Ngoc Lay People’s Committee, said this variety was suitable for local conditions, so authorities planned to expand cultivation area. It is estimated that the commune now has about 15,5ha of "duong quy".

He said that although the commune had signed a product consumption contract with a trading company in Kon Tum province, "We still hope authorities at both district and provincial levels promote consumption of this precious medicinal herb."-VNA