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Aloe (Aloe vera ) is an important and traditional medicinal plant belonging to the family Liliaceae. It is indigenous to Africa and Mediterranean countries. It is reported to grow wild on islands of Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Carary cape, Cape Verde and arid tracts of India. This is a hardy perennial tropical plant that can be cultivated in drought areas. But its potential is yet to be exploited. Aloe, despite being identified as 'a new plant resource with the most promising prospects in the world', remains a disregarded plant. It is scattered in the wild, along the coast of southern India. China, U.S.A., Mexico, Australia and some of the Latin American countries are the major producers and exporters of aloe products. These countries are exploiting the plant potential with the growing cosmetic and neutraceutical market. Aloe can substitute synthetic ingredient used in cosmetic industry very competitively and is finding increasing use in the ever growing consumer product segment.

In India, aloe is cultivated in Alwar in Rajasthan, Satanapalli in Andhra Pradesh, Rajpipla in Gujarat and some parts of Tamil Nadu.

Medicinal properties and uses
Aloe contains  a mixture glucosides collectively called 'aloin', which is the active constituent of the drug. Aloin and its gel are used as skin tonic, has cooling effect and moisturizing agent and so it is used in preparation of creams, lotions, shampoos and allied products. It is also used in gerontology and rejuvenation of aging skin.
The aloin is extensively used as active ingredient in laxative and anti obesity preparations.

The products prepared from aloe leaves have multiple properties such as emollient, purgative, antibacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, antiseptic and cosmetic. The Food and Drug Administration of the UAS has approved the developmental study of  aloevera in the treatment of cancer and AIDS. 
Traditionally, aloe is extensively used in treating urine related problems, pimples, ulcers, etc. 

The plant can be grown in a variety of soils ranging from sandy coastal soils to loamy soils of plains. It  is sensitive to water logged conditions. The crop also comes up well in light soils. It can tolerate higher pH and high Na and K salts.  Growth is faster under medium fertile, heavy soils such as black cotton soils. In well drained, loam to coarse sandy loam in a pH range upto 8.5, it grows well with higher foliage.

Aloe has wide adaptability and can grow in various climatic conditions. It can be seen growing equally good in warm humid or dry climate. However, it  is  intolerant to extreme cool conditions. The plant flourishes well on dry sandy soils at localities with lower annual rainfall of 50 to 300mm. It needs protection against frost and low winter temperature.

Commercially important sub-species are Aloe  barbedensis, A. chinensis, A. perfoliata, A. vulgaris, A indica, A. littoralis and A. abyssinica.  National Botanical and Plant Genetic Resource, ICAR, has released varieties like IC111271, IC111269, IC111280 etc.  Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Lucknow, has also released the variety AL-1 for cultivation.

It is generally propagated by root suckers or rhizome cuttings. For this purpose, medium sized root suckers are chosen and carefully dug out without damaging the parent plant at the base and directly planted in the main field.
It can also be propagated through rhizome cuttings. In this case, after the harvest of the crop, the underground rhizome is also dug out and made in 5-6 cm length cuttings which should have a minimum of 2-3 nodes on them. It is rooted in specially prepared sand beds or containers and after starting sprouting, it is ready for transplanting. On an average, about 36500 suckers are required for a nursery of 1 ha size (14550 for 1 acre nursery).

Spacing and plant population 
Normally a spacing of 40cm x 45cm or 60cm x 30cm is followed. This accommodates about 55000 plants per hectare.

Land preparation and planting
The land is ploughed  and cross ploughed  thoroughly. Farm yard manure is added @ 15 t/ha during the last ploughing. Ridges and furrows are formed at 45 or 60cm apart.  The plot may be irrigated if necessary. The suckers are planted at 40 or 30cm apart, maintaining the spacing suggested.

Manures and fertilizers
The crop responds well to the application of farm yard manure and compost. In the first year of plantation, FYM @15 t/ha is applied during the land preparation. During the subsequent years, the same dose of FYM is applied every year.  Besides 50 :50:50 kg/ha of N:P:K is applied as basal dose.

Aloe can be successfully cultivated both under irrigated and rainfed conditions. Provision of irrigation immediately after planting and during summer season will ensure good yields. However, the plants are sensitive to water logged conditions.

Plant protection
Aloe  is known to be infected by fungus causing leafspot disease. This effects yield and quality of the gel adversely. The disease can be controlled by spraying recommended fungicides.

In order to facilitate healthy soil atmosphere, soil works like spading, earthing up, etc. are required in aloe plantation.  Weeding at regular intervals are some important intercultural operations.

The thick fleshy leaves are ready for harvest from the second year after planting.  Normally, three harvests  are taken in a year  by removing three to four leaves per plant.  Harvesting is labour intensive.  It is carried out in the morning and / or evening. The leaves will regenerate from the scar and thus the crop can be harvested upto 5 years after planting.  Apart from leaves, the side suckers, which can be used as planting material, can also be sold. 

Yield may be as high as 50 - 55 tonnes of thick fleshy leaves from one hectare plantation. However, a conservative yield of about 40 t/ha may be considered for working out day viability of bankable schemes.  Suckers from about 55-60% of the plants could be sold out annually.

Post harvest management
Care must be taken in preparing the leafy plant material for drying or distillation. Freshly harvested plant are generally allowed to wilt and loose moisture in the field before transporting, although some volatiles are lost. Wilting is noticed  normally  within 24 to 72 hours. But the plant should be kept dry and cool to prevent fermentation or mould growth.  A concrete floor under shade can be used. The best oil is in the top leaves.

Economic life
Commercially yield is obtained from the second to fifth year, after which it needs replanting.

Technical guidance
Technical guidance for aloe planters is available from different institutes and organisations such as Central Institute for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, National Research Centre for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, State Agricultural Universities (e.g. Kerala Agricultural University, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore), Regional Research Laboratories, etc. National Medicinal Plants Board may also be approached for technical guidance and marketing of the produce. 

Marketing and export potentiality
The produce can be marketed in different commercial pharmaceutical and herbal firms located in India. Cosmetics containing aloe content command phenomenal rates in the markets abroad. But hardly any export takes place. Traded in processed form such as gel, juice and concentrate, aloe content is present in over 80 per cent of the cosmetics in the European market.
The major marketing centres of medicinal and aromatic plants in India are presented in Annexure-I.

Unit cost

In the present model, the unit cost for the development of aloevera in 1 ha of land works out to be Rs.68700.00.  This may be modified to suit the local conditions taking into account the different techno-economic parameters prevailing in the locality.




















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