Ngoc Linh ginseng, a precious medicinal species indigenous to the mountain of the same name in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum, has been conserved and developed to become a key commercial product.

Ngoc Linh ginseng (Panax articulatuc) was discovered on the mountain in 1973. Research has found it to be among the four most precious ginseng species in the world, which contain substances beneficial to human health and thus high in economic value.

According to a research project conducted by the Health Ministry in 1978, Ngoc Linh ginseng rhizome contains 26 saponins (chemical compounds) that have previously been identified in other species and 24 completely new ones. In comparison, Korean ginseng contains only about 25 saponins. A high amount of the compound in ginseng is generally seen to be an indicator of better quality. As such, Ngoc Linh ginseng is now more expensive than its Korean counterpart.

However, the species has been over-exploited since its discovery and is in danger of extinction.

The Ngoc Linh ginseng conservation centre under the Kon Tum-based Dak To Forestry Co. Ltd. in 2004 launched a project to preserve and develop the plant with the participation of the local community.

Director of the centre Nguyen Thanh Chung said that at present, the project has 10 hectares planted with pure seedlings in an effort to expand ginseng cultivation.

The best time for planting is June and July, the rainy season, which will gives the air high humidity levels and help reduce irrigation, Chung explained.

Ngoc Linh ginseng is a perennial plant that takes dozens of years to grow and develop. Its quality and productivity depend on seeds, climate, soil, fertilisation and growth period, he added.

Kon Tum province has long considered ginseng as one of the nine key products and tried to create a trademark for it.

In a plan to develop Ngoc Linh ginseng in the 2012-2015 period, the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has concentrated cultivation in Tu Mo Rong and Dak Glei districts. It is striving to have 500 hectares by 2015, of which 100 hectares can be harvested.

The plan also includes a vision to 2025, when it is hoped there will be 7,000 hectares planted with the ginseng. Up to 500 hectares would be harvested every year, producing 250 tonnes of ginseng which will be used to make medicines sold in domestic and foreign markets.-VNA