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Thistle Cultivation in India – Things you need to Know

Thistle Cultivation in India - Things you need to Know

Thistle does not grow commonly in India as a herb. It needs specific environmental conditions to grow, and the market does not accept thistle very well as a medicinal plant in India. A popular herb in European medicine, thistle does not have much use in Indian remedies and treatments. People use it as a liver, kidney, and eye health supplement and a blood purifier. Thistle is an exotic herb in India with uses only in a few herbal products. Unfortunately, importing thistles from European countries is abundant and competes with local thistle production.

Silymarin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, comes from thistle. Thistle has to detoxify and cleansing properties, and people also call it milk thistle, holy thistle, or Silybum marianum. In India, people rarely cultivate it for its medicinal benefits. The thistle grown in India is more for personal use and on a very small scale. Thistle has no commercial cultivation, and the market is hard to find.

The Process

When you grow thistle, remember a few key things to success. First of all, start small. One thistle patch should be enough for you to start and get a feel of the market. Selling the produce fresh will be difficult. In addition, you will also get to know the crop’s demand. You will find people willing to buy the product and for what purpose. You can also make corrections if the buyer does not require the variety of thistle you are growing. Starting small also means a lesser loss. A large plantation of thistle is not a recommended risk.

Climate for Cultivation

Thistle grows best in temperate regions but not in extreme cold or heat conditions. Therefore, people have cultivated thistles in warmer areas far from the mountains. People have successfully grown thistle in Delhi and Hyderabad but mostly indoors. Commercial cultivation requires moderate weather and well-drained soil. 

Ideal Soil for Cultivation

Thistle needs light, fertile soil, which is rich in humus, for better silymarin content. Heavy soil with poor water drainage will result in lower silymarin content, and the plants may wilt soon. On the other hand, the ground in hilly areas where water usually drains very fast is ideal for thistle growth. You can use a tiller mounted on your Farmtrac 60 Powermaxx to till your soil.

Varieties of Thistle

Wide varieties of thistles have different characteristics and uses. People widely cultivate wild, milk, and globe thistles for their medicinal or ornamental value. The other types are mostly weeds and invasive plants. Creeping thistle, Canada thistle, and Scotch thistle grow rapidly and spread by roots or seeds. They have very limited use for any purpose. Therefore, their commercial value is very limited. 

Propagation

Seed or division propagates thistle. Cuttings can also propagate them. When you propagate from seeds, ensure that you sow the seeds in well-drained soil with full sun exposure. You should also leave them in an area where animals or humans will not disturb them. The seedlings are usually very small for weeks before you can transplant them to the desired location. Therefore, propagation is best done during February and March.

Season

Thistle is a biennial or perennial crop, with no particular season. Flowering happens once a year and usually during summer. The plant’s maturity and seeds determine the harvesting, and you typically collect the seeds when they are ripe. Land Preparation: The soil should be loose and well-drained with moderate fertility. Thistle is usually cultivated on a large scale in temperate regions; thus, you plant it in rows with adequate spacing. Planting thistles in gardens is unnecessary, as they can become invasive and prickly.

Planting, Spacing, and Density

Sow the seeds in well-drained soil with full sun exposure. You should also leave them in an area where animals or humans will not disturb them. The seedlings are usually very small for weeks before you can thin them to the desired density. Thistle has a deep taproot that does not tolerate disturbance, so transplanting is unnecessary. Space them 16-24 inches apart. Irrigate sparingly and only if the soil is very dry. 

Harvesting

The plants are ready for harvest in the fall when the flowers start to dry out and turn white or silver. Cut the flower heads at 6 inches long and dry them in a paper bag for 5 to 7 days. Once dried, shake them in a sack to separate the seeds from the chaff. An average of 1 tablespoon of seeds can be harvested per flower head. A specialised harvester makes the process simpler. You just have to mount it on your Mahindra Yuvo 575, and voila! A job-well-done!

Post Harvest

Fresh thistle is rarely available in the market except for places where people grow them. However, for commercial purposes, thistle is available in seed form. The thistle seeds are stored in airtight containers before being transported to various locations once harvested.

Conclusion

In conclusion, thistle is a crop with great potential. The demand and supply determine the price, but the market is curious about a new medicinal plant. The product has many health benefits, and a few farmers are exploring the opportunities to grow thistle. Unfortunately, few farmers have succeeded in thistle as a sole crop, but there is room for improvement and innovation.