‘Baby ginger’ isn’t your neighbor’s kid. It’s NC A&T State University’s new cash crop

Piedmont Triad News

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Thanks to North Carolina A&T State University researchers, Hawaii might not be the only state that grows ginger commercially.

Ginger is a tropical plant that grows in countries like India and China. But inside of the University Farm greenhouse at North Carolina A&T, nine varieties of ginger plants are thriving.

Dr. Sanjun Gu is a horticultural specialist and one of the ginger researchers. He described the feeling of walking through the packed greenhouse.

“We are so excited because our farmers are excited,” Gu said. “That’s what research is for.”

Ginger is huge in the marketplace, but Hawaii can only supply 20% of the demand in the United States. Gu believes North Carolina farmers can help fill the need for domestically grown ginger.

“Ginger is probably one of the most important spices. Almost every day people eat ginger,” said Gu.

The demand is growing because people are looking for natural ways to maintain their health. Ginger can help fight the common cold, morning sickness and chronic indigestion. It might be helpful in some cancer treatments as well.

So the trick is how do you grow one of the nine varieties of the tropical plant in North Carolina?

This is where Dr. Guochen Yang stepped in. Yang used a technique called micropropagation, or tissue sampling, to produce a line of ginger that is resistant to disease and grows quickly.

“Our data shows the tissue culture ginger seedlings have a higher yield than the conventional seed, sprout ginger,” said Yang.

The researchers refer to their ginger as “baby” ginger because it’s not as large as traditional ginger. But don’t be fooled by the size. Yang said the baby ginger has more healthy compounds than traditional ginger.

The scientist are also reviewing the best method to grow baby ginger that can be profitable for farmers. So far, it appears growing baby ginger inside of a structure called a high tunnel works.

Triad farmers are following the researchers’ work. Some have even started using their methods to grow baby ginger on their farms.

“Baby ginger can be sold up to $20 per pound at the farmers market,” said Gu. “So that’s a great potential for farmers to grow and make some money.”

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