# Stevia - Natural Sweetner, Shugar Free Products In Punjab, India
Posted: Dec 23, 2016
Raised bed preparation
Forming raised beds is the most economical way to grow Stevia. The raised bed should be of 15 cm in height and 60cm in width.
The quantity of plants per acre is 35,000 from February to mid-May gives better results. Immediate after planting one Irrigation is necessary. The concentration of stevioside in the leaves increase when the plants are grown under long day condition where vegetative period is longer and steviol glycoside yields will be higher.
It needs irrigation, as Stevia cannot stand drought.Micro sprinkler or Drip irrigation system is highly recommended and have been found to be advantageous since the herb is highly sensitive to water stress and requires frequent light irrigation. During summer, Irrigation at 3-5 days interval gives best results.
In order to reduce the impact of drought and high temperature, addition of mulches around the plant is recommended.
No serious pest and diseases have been observed. Neem oil diluted in water may be sprayed against aphids if appear. Deer and rabbits are fond of Stevia due to sweet taste.
Time of harvesting depends on land type, variety and growing season. The first harvest of the crop can be had in four months after plantation and subsequent harvest once every 3 months. Short days induce flowering. Optimum yield (biomass) and stevioside quality and quantity is best obtained just before flowering. The easiest harvesting technique is to cut the branches off with pruning shears before stripping the leaves. The tips of the stem can be clipped off and added to harvest yield, as they contain as much Stevioside as do the leaves. On an average the commercial harvest can be obtained per year. It is better to cut the plants leaving about 10cm stem portion from the ground. This will facilitate new flushes to emerge, which can be harvested as the next crop.
Immediately after harvest the herb is dried. This can be accomplished on a screen or net. The freshly harvested plants can be hung upside down and dried in shade. It can also be dried using simple drying racks inside transparent poly or transparent glass roofing or by passing dry air just above room temperature. Drying of the stem and soft green leaf material is completed immediately after harvesting utilizing a drying wagon or a kiln or done naturally in case of large scale production. Depending on weather conditions and density of loading, it generally takes 24 to 48 hours to dry Stevia at 400 to 500 C. The drying process does not require excessive heat; more important is good air circulation. On a moderately warm fall day, stevia can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. Longer drying times will lower the Stevioside content of the final product. A home dehydrator can also be used, although sun drying is the preferred method.
After adequate drying, the leaves are stripped of the stems/ twigs and packed and stored in cool, dry place. For large –scale commercial production artificial drying threshing of the dry herbs to separate leaves may be employed.
It gives on an average of about 2.5 to 3.50 tons of dried leaves per acre per year. Then decreases after the fifth year therefore it is advised to renew the cultivation after the fifth year.
Replacement and replanting
From the subsequent years some plants will die off duet to various reasons, these gaps should be immediately filled by well-developed seedlings.Depending upon the soil type and management the productivity will decline after 5 years and this should be replaced with new plantation.
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