Lettuce Farming Guide:
Introduction to Lettuce:- Lettuce is one of the popular cool season leafy salad crops grown throughout the world due to its food value in diet. Among all, garden lettuce is being grown on commercial scale. Lettuce is most often grown as a leaf vegetable, but sometimes for its stem and seeds as well. This leafy vegetable is a nutritious and great source of minerals and vitamins. Apart from salad purpose, it is also used in soups, sandwiches and wraps or it can also be grilled. Lettuce is native to Egypt and later spread across the world. As lettuce is low in calories, it being used in weight loss programs. Lettuce can be grown in backyards, containers, polyhouse, shade net and greenhouse. This crop also can be grown hydroponically (without soil and water based). Commercial Lettuce growers can select from a large variety of lettuces that are easy to grow, highly productive in limited space, and virtually pest and disease free. Lettuce crop can be grown with little care when compared to other leafy vegetables. Selecting right type is very important to be successful in lettuce farming. In the following write-up, let us discuss more about growing lettuce.
Scientific Name or Botanical Name of Lettuce:- Lactuca sativa L.
Genus of Lettuce:- Lactuca.
Family Name of Lettuce:- Asteraceae.
Top 10 Countries of Lettuce Production:- The following are top 10 production countries of Lettuce.
Common Names of Lettuce:- Lettuce, Tshilai.
Lettuce Names in Other Parts of World:- Salad patta (Hindi, India), Kropsla (Dutch), Kopfsalat (German), Salaar (Somali), Tukhm kahu (Urdu), Sałata (Polish), шанцайны ургамал (Mongolian), Marule (Albanian), Μαρούλι (Greek), Zelena salata (Bosnian), Letsugas (Cebuano), Aedsalat (Estonian), Leitís (Irish), Sangchu (Korean), Hassa (Maltese), Chukndar (Nepali), o alface (Portuguese), zelena salata (Serbian), lechuga (Spanish), خس / khass(Arabic), marulya (Bulgarian), 生菜 (Chinese), litsugas (Filipino), Lactuca sativa / lattuga (Italian), salat (Norwegian), ผักกาดหอม (Thai), rau diếp (Vietnamese), Hazar (Armenian), zelena salata (Croatian), lehtisalaatti (Finnish), xasa (Hebrew), れたす (Japanese), lapu / salāti (Latvian), salată verde (Romanian), සලාද ගස (Sinhalese, Sri Lanka), saladi (Swahili), សាឡាត់ (Cambodian), Locika setá (Czech), laitue / salade (French), Zelena salata (Macedonian), sallad (Swedish), marul (Turkish), 莴苣 (Cantonese), salathoved (Danish), Salatis potoli (Georgian), saláta (Hungarian), Salad (Malay), kāho (Persian), endivija (Slovenian), Wōjù (Taiwanese).
Health Benefits of Lettuce:- Romaine has one of the highest nutritional values in the lettuce category and the following are some of the health benefits of Lettuce.
- Lettuce is good source of vitamins and minerals.
- Lettuce has low calorie content and almost fat free.
- Lettuce is good source of fiber and cellulose.
- Lettuce is good for heart.
- Lettuce is good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Lettuce helps with insomnia.
- Lettuce is good for hydrating.
- Lettuce is good for skin
- Lettuce is low in Glycaemic Index (GI), which is good for diabetic patients.
- Lettuce is good for weight watchers.
Types of Lettuce:- Lettuce is grouped into 5 classes.
- Butter head: This takes 45 – 60 days to harvest (Soft and sweet).
- Crisp Head or Iceberg: This takes 75 -100 days to harvest (Crisp texture and mild taste).
- Loose Leaf (Red and Green): This takes 45 – 60 days to harvest (Delicate taste and leaves).
- Romaine: This takes 75 – 90 days to harvest (Sweet and crunchy).
- Summer Crisp, French Crisp or Batavian.
Cultivars (Varieties) of Lettuce:- There are many varieties of Lettuce grown in the world under above mentioned classifications or groups. The most popular varieties of Lettuce are; Iceberg Lettuce, Great lakes Lettuce, Bogampo Lettuce, L-S-1 and L-S-2. Del Rio, Del Oro, Frosty, Winter crisp and Winter Supreme, Aviram, Commander, Tropical Emperor, Empire 2000, Summer Gold and Victory, Grand Rapids. Depending on your local climatic condition, a proper variety should be selected. Contact your local horticulture department got suitable variety for your region.
Climate Requirement for Lettuce Farming:- Lettuce is a cool season crop and thrives best in temperatures of 12 – 20 °C. It survives under light frost and winter conditions. Temperatures above 30 °C will affect the lettuce head development and quality of leaves. Apart from this, high temperatures cause the low percentage of seed germination. Humid, hot and rainy conditions will result in head rot in Lettuce farming.
Soil Requirement for Lettuce Farming:- Lettuce can be grown on wide variety of soils. However, it thrives best in rich friable and well-drained soils. It requires soils rich in organic matter and good moisture holding capacity. These conditions are much required as it has a very shallow root system. Lettuce cannot tolerate high acidic conditions of soil and the soil pH range of 5.8 – 6.5 is ideal for its cultivation. If you are planning to grow on large scale, soil test should be done to find the fertility and other characteristics of soil.
Land Preparation in Lettuce Farming:- As Lettuce seeds are small in nature, it requires the fine tilth soil which is not prone to crusting. This can be achieved by giving couple of ploughings and some cross harrowing with local tractor. This also ensures clod-free field. Levelling of land should be done for uniform emergence of crop.
Propagation in Lettuce Farming:- Lettuce crop is propagated through seed. Seeds can be sown directly in fields or raise saplings in nursery and transplant in the main field.
Seed Rate, Sowing and Spacing in Lettuce Farming:- Seed rate depends on variety, sowing method and soil type. Generally seed rate of 3 kg is required to cover 1 hectare field. This seed rate will be less when the seedlings are raised on nursery beds. Usually, Lettuce seeds are sown in the nursery beds and transplanted to filed when the seedlings 6 weeks old. However, leafy type varieties are sown directly in the field. Sowing on raised beds is best because, it provides well-drain conditions along with good aeration. This also can reduce number of diseases in the crop. Lettuce seeds are sown in rows 15 to 25 cm part directly in the field to a depth of 12- 15 mm. Later they can be thinned out to desired spacing. The best season for sowing is after rainy season is completed.
Irrigation in Lettuce Farming:- Maintaining uniform moist conditions are very important in Lettuce farming due to it shallow root system. The frequency of irrigation can be carried out @ 4 to 5 days interval. The number of irrigations depends on soil moisture holding capacity and climate. The filed should be well-drained in case of excess water or flood.
Manures and Fertilizers in Lettuce Farming:- Lettuce crop responds very well to manures and fertilizers. To increase soil fertility, 15 to 20 tonnes of well-decomposed farm yard manure or garden compost should be applied during land preparation. When it comes to application of N:P:K (Nitrogen: Phosphate: Potash); 100 kg of “N”, 60 kg of “P” and 60 kg of “K” per 1 hectare should be applied.
Intercultural Operations in Lettuce Farming:- For healthy crop, one should make sure weed-free environment. Couple of weeding and hoeing are required for good aeration and controlling the weeds. Care should be taken to prevent any root damage in this process as Lettuce has shallow root system.
Pests and Diseases in Lettuce Farming:-
- Pests: Aphids are most common insect pests found in Lettuce farming and they damage the head development..
- Control Measures: Apply 4 % of nicotine dust when the pest is noticed in the crop.
- Diseases: Soft rot, Downy Mildew and Mosaic are common diseases those attack the Lettuce crop.
- Control Measures: Maintaining uniform soil moisture and using seed borne or soil borne disease free resistant varieties help to control these diseases.
Note: Your local Horticulture is a good source for finding suitable solutions for controlling pests and diseases in Lettuce farming.
Harvesting in Lettuce Farming:- Leaf varieties can be harvested when the leaves are tender and immature for table purpose. Usually, the first harvesting should be done 35 to 40 days after sowing. In case of head varieties, the crop should be harvested when it has attained a good size and solid head. The harvesting time depends on group or class of Lettuce it falls under.
Yield in Lettuce Farming:- Yield of any produce depends on many factors such as soil type, cultivar, climate and other crop management practices. In Lettuce farming, on an average, one can obtain 10,000 – 11,000 kg/ha in case of head lettuce. Open leaf cultivars give comparatively higher yields.
Marketing of Lettuce:- Freshly harvested lettuce can be packed and transported to local vegetable markets.