Rose Scented Geranium (RSG): An Important Plant for Aromatic Industries in India
Rose Scented Geranium (RSG) scientifically know as pelargonium graveolens is a perennial aromatic shrub having height about one meter belongs to family geraniaceae. This plant is native to South Africa, is extensively grown in Morocco, Congo, Malagasy, Egypt, France, Russia, China and India. In India rose scented geranium was first time introduced in Neelgiri and Shevroy hills of South India during early 20th century and subsequently it has been circulated in the different parts of India. RSG can be cultivated in tropical to temperate region with an elevation of 700 to 2200m above sea level and the most favorable elevation is between 1200 to 1800m asl having annual rainfall 1000 to 1500mm. The well drained loam and sandy loam soil with adequate amount of organic matter is preferred for the cultivation of RSG.
The essential oil of RSG is used for the a variety of purposes such as in cosmetic industry, foods industry, beverages, high quality soaps, waxes and in different classes of creams used for the skins. In the Indian medical system the traditional healers are using essence of aromatic plants for the mental peace known as aroma therapy. The common compound found in the RSG is Geraniol which is highly useful to cure the neurological disorder hence this oil has also put in the category of medicinal plant. Owing to high demand of RSG oil equally in national and international market it has got massive importance. In India only, the requirement of RSG oil is approximately 200 tonnes per year while the annual production of oil in India is less than 20 tonnes and remaining requirement is met by importing the RSG oil.
RSG is cultivated in Indian climatic condition cultivated through vegetative cuttings because in Indian geographical conditions it does not bear the seed therefore; the cutting is the only method to propagate this crop. Cutting can be taken from 5 to 6 month old plant of RSG. The pencil like thick and 12 to 15 cm long cutting is considered to be of standard size. A cutting should have 4 to 6 buds and must be taken either in the month of February –March or in September-November. For the early initiation of root it is advised to treat cuttings through IBA (Indol Butyric Acid) or rootex harmon. The cuttings are placed either in nursery bed in the nursery or in poly bags to prepare the planting stock.
For planting the RSG in the field, the preparation of field is to be done either in the month of February or in September. The first deep ploughing is essential because once the crop will establish, it will survive for 5 to 8 years therefore, it is essential to have a first deep ploughing. In order to maintain the soil fertility status vermin-compost @ 50 quintal per hectare or bio-compost @ 300 quintal must be applied before transplanting the RSG seedlings in to the field. The major varieties for RSG cultivated in India are Bourbon/Reunioun, Algerian/Tunitioun and Egeption/kelkar, however, the bourbon and Algerian varieties are considered to be more feasible in Indian climatic condition.
Usually the leaves of RSG become ready for harvesting after 5 to 6 months and this is the time of first harvest of leaves during generally prior to onset of monsoon. The leaves should be harvested in its adequate and mature stage means neither they should turned to over mature nor to be under mature. For the identification of mature leaf the colour of leaves should be turned to deep green to light yellow and emits the pungent smell while rubbing it. The stage at which the leaves emit the deep rose like smell is considered to be suitable for harvesting because at this stage the amount of geraniol in the leaves is higher. The freshly harvested leaves of RSG are placed in the shade for half to an hour and then leaves are transported to the distillation unit for oil extraction purpose. The time required for harvesting of leaves in the field to the distillation unit should not exceed more the 3 to 4 hours.
The extraction of RSG oil is done through hydro-distillation method. There is need of safeguard during distillation because the quality and quantity of oil mainly depend upon the distillation process. The quantity and quality of RSG oil is depend upon method of distillation, quality of leaves, season of leave harvesting, method of transportation, variety, geographical location and management of field. In the hills of Uttarakhand (1200 to 1800m) the variety like Bourbon gives 0.3 percent of oil where as in some other pockets of the country is goes down to 0.15 percent. One hectare of land gives average 300 quintal of herbage in all cuttings across the year which an average gives to 45 litre of oil per hectare per year.
The main produce of RSG is scented oil which has high demand in market, in addition to oil there are certain other minor produces/ residue of RSG that can be easily sold after their value addition and the extra income can be earned. The leaves remaining after distillation of RSG are dried in the sun light and used for making Scented sacred goods (Hawan samagri, doop batti etc.), the residue (kind of tannin) left in the bottom of distillation unit after extraction of oil is used for making police and paint. The water which is used for the boiling of RSG leaves can be used as scented water for scented bath and can be sold in sacred places easily. The average 300 quintal of green geranium leaves can be produced in a hectare which @ 0.2% recovery of oil can yield 40 to 60 liter/hectare of essential oil. The estimation based @ Rs. 6000/lire can earned gross income of Rs. 2,40,000/- to 3,60,000/- per hectare which after deduction of all expenses the net income of Rs. 1,40,000/- to 2,60,000/- can be earned/hectare/year.