After the commencement of hydroponics and protected environment (poly house, nethouse, glasshouse) lettuce farming has became very easy and accessible.
Writer: Saurabh Upadhyay
Lettuce is one of the commercial grown or consumed salad in the world. Lettuce is a commercially important crop to earn high profits from less area of land because it's per hectare yield is very high.
The botanical name of lettuce is Lactuca sativa L. It belongs to family Asteraceae.
It has been believed that lettuce has originated from Asia continent. China is the leading producer of lettuce followed by USA. India is the third largest producer of lettuce in the world and it occupies 4% of the total lettuce production in the world. The Nilgiri area of the South India has emerged as a leading producer of iceberg lettuce, which is produced for the McDonald's multinational food giants in the world.
The demand for lettuce is very rapidly growing because of its high nutritive diet value. Lettuce is mainly used in making of cuisine like burger, pizza, sandwich, wraps, spring roll etc. All these food items are becoming hub of eating for the young generations in India. Also, the way of restaurant industry is blooming in India makes lettuce an exotic item. People are fond of eating exotic food items. The demand of lettuce is never going to end up in countries like India.
Lasted for a few years lettuce cultivation has increased. Earlier people usually cultivate lettuce in soil and in open environment but after the initiation of hydroponics and protected environment (poly house, nethouse, glasshouse) its farming has became very easy and accessible.
The leaves of lettuce plant are of green and of red colour. Lettuce leaves are eaten, which is smooth, broad, radical and spirally arranged. Romania and iceberg variety of lettuce are commonly cultivated India and these having high nutritional value.
Lettuce cultivation guide
Nutritional and health benefits of lettuce
Varieties of lettuce
There are five different types of lettuce, which are categorized by leaf and head type. Each of these varieties offers you with different colours, texture and taste.
1.)Romainae or cos lettuce
The word Romainae is come from latin language referring to its milk juice found in the mid rib of the leaves. It has sweet and crispy taste.
The leaves of Romainae variety are of medium to dark green in colour. White ribs or veins blended in leaves. It has loaf like shape.
2.) Butter head, Boston or Bibb lettuce
It is one of the most fragile variety of lettuce. Butterhead is creamy to light green in colour on the lower part. It's exterior part is loose, soft and medium green.
3.) Iceberg or Crisphead lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is commonly known as Crisphead because it has a tight head and crispy leaves. It is one of the most delicious and commonly cultivated variety which you have tasted in your local restaurants. Difficult to grow in summer.
4.) French crop or summer crisp
This type of variety is somewhat between iceberg and loose leaf.
It is most suitable for summer season and also resistant to blotting with delicious flavor. The leaves are thick, crispy, sweet and juicy in flavor.
5.) Loose leaf
It is one of the most easiest grown lettuce. It doesn't form head. Leaves or either whole plants are harvested after maturity.
Soil requirement for lettuce farming
Lettuce can be grown in wide variety of soil but soil with good fertility (rich in organic matter), drained, loamy and having optimum water holding capacity are best suited for its cultivation.
The optimum pH range of soil for lettuce farming should be 5.5 to 6.5.
Farmers who wanted to start commercial farming of lettuce then they should go for soil testing. Based on the result of soil testing, they will better know the efficiency and deficiency of nutrients and it will be easy to fulfill the nutrients requirement.
Climate requirement for lettuce farming
Lettuce is manly favorable for cool or winter season. It requires an average temperature of 15 to 20°C.
However, among five varieties of lettuce French crisps and loose leaf varieties are most suited for warm season.
Lettuce can be grown all around the year and it usually requires shade area in summer for its better growth and development.
However, At large scale lettuce cultivation is mainly practiced in hydroponics and in protective environment.
Seed rate for lettuce farming
Lettuce seeds are very small and minute in size and also its weight is very low.
Do you know? Only 350 grams of lettuce seed required for the cultivation in 1 hectare. About 800 seeds come in 1 gram.
As the seed is very fine it can't be sold directly so, it is necessary prepare nursery seedling.
Nursery preparation and planting of lettuce
Nursery preparation of lettuce is easy. You can do it by two ways. Either germinate seeds in soil by preparation of nursery bed or you can germinate seedling by using inert growing media. I recommend you to use inert growing media for the preparation of seedling. For this you need inert media like cocopeat, perlite, vermiculite and vermicompost to grow seedling in the protray. Take 75% weated cocopeat and 25% vermicompost or the mixture of perlite and vermiculite as your choice. Put the seed in the holes made in the protray. Spray little amount of water daily for it better growth.
You should prepare nursery in the month of mid September to November. It usually takes 3 to 4 days to start germinating seeds. After germination it requires little amount of water and 3 to 4 hours of morning sunlight. After 3 to 4 weeks when the seedling raised to a height of 5 to 6 cm then transfer it to the main field.
Once the seedling is ready to transplant in the main field take row to row spacing 45 cm and plant to plant space should be 30 cm, (45×30)cm.
The depth of sowing should be 2-4 cm.
The ideal temperature should be maintained between 20 to 28 °C for its better germination.
Land preparation for lettuce farming
Deep plough the land 2-3 times with country plough and tractor. The land should be prepared well so that it gets fine tilth and brittle.
Irrigation requirement for lettuce cultivation
There are various types of irrigation like furrow irrigation, drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation. Drip irrigation is recommended for lettuce farming as it saves 30 to 70% water as well as it provides 30% higher yield. After planting the crop, irrigation should be provided within an interval of 4 to 7 days as per the moisture required. In lettuce farming uniform moisture supply is prerequisite for high yield as well as for better growth of plants.
Manure and fertilizer requirement in lettuce farming
The application of fertilizers greatly influence the yield of crops so, it's very important to apply it on time.
FYM (Farm yard manure) = 20 tonnes/ha.
N (Nitrogen) = 90 kg/ha
K (Potassium) = 60 kh/ha
P (phosphorus) = 65 kg/ha
Half amount of the nitrogen and phosphorus should be given before sowing the crop and rest of the amount given after six weeks of transplantation.
Integrated disease and pest management in lettuce farming
As we all know that if proper disease and pest management wouldn't be taken care. There will be a destructive loss in its yield and quality of produce. So, here we will discuss the integrated disease and pest management in lettuce so that we can get higher yield and also changes the farmers life style by giving him right information for its management.
Common pests of lettuce
Control measures- Before spraying any insecticides, first examine, if there is large number of aphids attack then spray, Alpha- cypermythrin or chlorpyriphos @20- 40 ml/ 20 litres of water.
Control measures- Apply pasylomysis or pseudomonas or Trichoderma plus in a amount as mentioned of the package.
Control measures- Spray dettamethrin 2.8% EC @ 30- 40 ml/20 litres.
Control measures- Spray Abamectine or cyromazin(WP), Recommended dose should be a written on package.
Control measures- Use Imidacloprid 70% WG. Use Recommended dose as written on package.
Control measures- Use Carbaryl or melathion or premethrin. Use Recommended dose as written on package.
Common diseases of lettuce
Menab is an fungicide which is commonly used to control downy mildew in lettuce.
Copper hydroxide and copper sulphate is used to control various bacterial disease as well as downy mildew.
Farmers can also use these for effective control of diseases:-
Harvesting of lettuce totally depends on the variety used in cultivation if we talk of head lettuce it is grown to full size to develop a solid head because market required a fully mature and develop lettuce.
Generally, lettuce is ready for harvest after 40 to 60 days of sowing.
Yield of any crop depends on various factors like variety, management, soil etc. If we talk of an average yield of head lettuce. It provides 11,000 to 15,000 kg product/ha.
Leaf type of lettuce gives comparatively high production than head lettuce.
Marketplace for lettuce in India
As the shelf life of lettuce is very short so it should be marketed as soon as possible.
In India the demand of lettuce is very high because it has high nutritive value and helpful to overcome many diseases. Now lettuce has become a standard food which makes the morning plates more nutritious.
As the restaurant industry is rapidly growing in India the demand of salads and exotic vegetables are also increasing. Lettuce is mainly used in burger, pizza, Sandwich and other junk foods so, its a big opportunity among lettuce growers to sell their produce to giants of food industries like McDonald's, Domino's, Jubilant food works, KFC, Pizza hat and many other food industries.
You can also sell it locally in local supermarkets, malls and hotels.