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Soilless culture of moringa (Moringa oleifera Lam.) for the production of fresh biomass

George William Crosby, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The many medicinal, nutritional, industrial, and agricultural uses of moringa are well documented, although studies remain focused on moringa as a wild, uncultivated plant and little horticultural research has been devoted to its culture. Greenhouse experiments were conducted at the State University of New York at Cobleskill, New York, USA during the summer of 2006. Soilless culture has been investigated as an alternative production system for medicinal and aromatic plants, and moringa seedlings were grown using hydroponic and aeroponic culture at a pH of 5.5-6.0 and electrical conductivity levels of 2.0-2.3 dS˙m-1 in order to maximize leaf biomass production and gain access to root biomass. Moringa leaves are valued for their human nutritional benefits and as a livestock feed, however the monopodial growth habit of moringa requires removal of the terminal growing point in order to encourage branching and maximize leaf production. Seedlings are often subjected to extreme levels of vegetative harvest when grown in high-density agroforestry production systems, often resulting in high levels of mortality. Seedling decapitation induced outgrowth of lateral buds, and no lateral buds were released by intact plants that were not decapitated. The release from apical dominance was repressible by the application of exogenous auxin (0.5% IAA) to the stumps of decapitated seedlings. Seedlings decapitated to node 6 (15 cm, counted acropetally) released buds more quickly and produced three times the dry weight per plant than seedlings decapitated to node 1 (5 cm). Seedlings decapitated to 30 cm (approximately 12 nodes) released 2 more buds per plant and twice the dry weight compared to those decapitated to 40 cm (approximately 16 nodes). Pinching seedlings to remove 5 or 10 cm of apical stem resulted in little regrowth with few buds released and low dry weights. The percentage of stem removed was more important than the actual height to which a seedling was decapitated in order to maximize regrowth. Twice-decapitated plants released more buds (6.7/plant) than once-decapitated plants (2.7/plant), demonstrating enhanced lateral bud response of previously decapitated seedlings. The effect of four different pruning strategies on leaf biomass production of young, pollarded moringa trees was also examined.

Subject Area

Botany|Horticulture|Plant propagation

Recommended Citation

Crosby, George William, "Soilless culture of moringa (Moringa oleifera Lam.) for the production of fresh biomass" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3254941.