Ginseng/Goldenseal Research Project 2003-2004

  • Jones, Richard (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium 1.) and goldenseal (Hvdrastis canadensis 1.) continue to be highly valuable natural resources that are harvested each year from forests across Kentucky. Because American ginseng is a threatened species it has been necessary to monitor changes in the wild ginseng population, in order to determine if annual harvesting is a threat to the long term survival of the species. Annual monitoring of the wild ginseng population is required for continued harvest and sale. In 1999 federal regulations requiring that all wild ginseng for sale and export must be at least 5 years old were enacted. At the Second National Ginseng Dealer and State Coordinators' Meeting held in Louisville, KY in May, 2000 the United States Department ofFish and Wildlife Services (USF&W) made a request that more detailed monitoring data be collected yearly from the ten (10 states) that were the leading exporters of wild ginseng. A decision to allow the continued harvest and export of wild ginseng could only be made if these states furnished data so that USF&W could show that we were in compliance with The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES). At a follow up meeting in St. Louis, Mo. in February of2003 it was reported that only three states were taking part in this survey. These three states are collecting detailed data according to criteria developed by Dr. James McGraw. Sites are being monitored annually to determine changes in the wild ginseng population. The three questions that still need answering are 1.What fraction ofthe wild plants are harvested annually? 2. The impact of harvest on the natural population. 3. What can we do about the potential impact of harvest? An example might be to not allow harvest until the berries are fully ripe. Ginseng harvest impact assessments await rigorous population viability analyses which requires high level monitoring across ginseng's natural range. Funding for this additional work must be found within the individual states listed as part of the intensive ginseng survey. States that dig and sell small amounts of ginseng are being asked to conduct less intensive surveys of their wild ginseng populations. Dr. McGraw prepares a comprehensive report each year for USF&W. Without this data it may be necessary to suspend the harvest and export of wild ginseng. Goldenseal was placed on the endangered species list in 1999 and a "voluntary" dealer monitoring program was requested by the Federal Government. It is possible that Federal requirements may eventually include a monitoring program for goldenseal. At least one neighboring state, North Carolina, has banned the harvest and sale of all wild goldenseal. Commercial production in that state requires a licence. As part of the on going ginseng program we have found fifty nine wild populations of goldenseal that can be monitored if needed. We are seeking to gain a better understanding of the population dynamics of both species so that ginseng and goldenseal will remain sustainable marketable natural resources for Kentucky. Agro-forestry has the potential to provide needed income for Kentucky growers, as well as reduce digging pressure on native wild populations. The combined efforts over the past twenty five years between the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture have resulted in approval by the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service for the continued annual harvest and marketing of millions of dollars worth of wild ginseng each year. High prices for ginseng root coupled with the 67% decline in tobacco acreage has lead to increased harvest pressure and interest in production of "wild simulated" ginseng. We believe that goldenseal sales are close to two million annually in Kentucky, but its harvest and sales have gone largely unmonitored. Emphasis on research with "woods grown/wild simulated" ginseng and goldenseal plant populations is necessary to better understand production in a forest environment. Research on commercial production should eventually help relieve some of the pressure from harvesting on the wild population. Two years ago "wild ginseng" was selling for $350.00/1b until the 9/11 tragedy, then world market prices fell dramatically. In 2000 wild ginseng sold for over $385.00/lb. In 2001, due to a glut in the market, goldenseal sold for $12.00/lb, down from $50.00/lb in 1999 and $30.00/lb in 1997. The ability to produce a "wild simulated" ginseng or "woods grown" goldenseal offers economic opportunities that are not currently being exploited by many Kentucky forest owners. The decline in potential tobacco income for Kentucky has serious economic implications. Growers with small tobacco allotments will be among those hardest hit by the cutbacks. Many of these small growers have woodlands that could be used to produce medicinal herbs for sale.
Effective start/end date7/1/0312/31/04


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