By Jolly Gwari
Aloe Vera is a succulent, almost sessile perennial plant with radically arranged leaves and many fibrous supporting roots penetrating into the soil. Aloe Vera barbadensis miller as scientifically known originated in warm, dry climates of Africa. However, its wide adaptability and importance as a medicinal plant had it distributed to other parts of the world.
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is a popular medicinal plant. It belongs to the liliaceae family. It is a perennial plant, growing to the height of 1½ – 2½ ft. Its leaves are long and thick, juicy with a wheel like phylotaxy. The two sides of the leaves have a thorny structure with a thorny tip.
There are no varieties of Aloe Vera released for Ugandan consumers, but there are known species like; Aloe Aristata, Aloe Ferox, Aloe Arborescens, Aloe Marlothi, Aloe polyphylla, Aloe plicatilis, Aloe dichotoma.
How to propagate Aloe Vera on your farm
Aloe plants well propagate through vegetative means. This is normally done using root suckers (pups) or by use of cuttings of the new growing rhizomes.
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 sunlight. Shady conditions result 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 aloe vera cultivation.
Seedling Preparation and Planting Since it is difficult to grow aloe vera from seeds, seedlings are normally raised from roots of the plants. Sucker itself can be used as seedlings as in Banana. The 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 is made.
How to plant Aloe Vera in Africa
The best way to start an Aloe Vera plant is by using 4-month-old suckers having 4-5 leaves, and about 20 to 25 cm in length. To plant open up pits 15 cm deep and place in a sucker while maintaining 60 x 60 cm spacing. After planting, firm the soils around the root zone by pressing to remove air pockets. Also, make drainage channels in the field to ensure surface runoff and to avoid stagnation.
To enhance soil nutrient composition manure may be added at the time of soil preparation and even in subsequent months as the plant grows. Weed the field to cut off the competition of nutrients. During the first years of planting, you can fully utilize the spaces that are open by inter-cropping with less competitive crops like legumes, sesame, coriander, cumin, also watch out for suntan, especially during sunny conditions the sun usually turns them brown.
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.
After 40 days, weeding and earthing up are done. Earthing up is also practiced after top dressing of fertilizer. 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 insects and pests. Special care is needed for their control in medicinal plants like aloe vera where the juice of the leaves is directly taken as medicine. Clean cultivation, intercultural operation, and regular and need-based irrigation, application of adequate organic manure, treatment of sucker before planting, and cultivation of aloe vera in sunny conditions are conducive for the healthy growth of the aloe vera crop. Use of organic source of plant protection materials like raw garlic juice, neem oil, tobacco extractant, gives 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.
Use of the Aloe Vera plant is dated as far as at the start of human civilization. The plant has market starting with your local neighbors, cosmetic firms and even medicinal companies. Pharmacologically the plant is taken as an immune booster and detoxifier and is particularly used to treat diseases connected to the digestive system. 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 is used for human health.