Forest edible and medicinal plants
Farming ramps sustainably
Ramps, a wild leek that grows in the Appalachian Mountains, is a popular regional staple, leading to concerns about overharvesting. To help ease the burden on the wild population, researchers at the Catawba Sustainability Center are developing methods to grow ramps in contained environments.
Pabitra Aryal, a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, is growing ramps from seed to find out how long it takes for the plant to mature. She is testing the impact of Endomycorrhizal fungi, which has a beneficial relationship with plants and could positively influence the growth rate of ramps on both bulbs and seeds.
Testing the viability of forest farming of ramps could open the door to a whole host of other crops for farmers – mushrooms, ginseng, and other products – further boosting the financial success of farms with forests.
Through an Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development grant to Roanoke County, the center will establish a nontimber forest product herb network, where forest farmers in the region can learn firsthand from Virginia Cooperative Extension experts.
Part of the project also includes a propogation station for goldenseal, ramps, and black cohosh, and American ginseng are also grown at the center.
The center provides technical support, training for growers, plant stock, workshops and demonstrations, processing facilities, and help with marketing of forest-grown botanicals.