Development of weed control methods and irrigation requirements for organic medicinal herb production in New Mexico, 2003-2004

 Small-scale and family-oriented organic growers must be continually innovative and efficient in their operations in order to remain in business. One strategy for small and organic farmers is development of niche markets and specialty or high-value alternative crops, such as medicinal herbs. The American Southwest has a large number of native medicinal herb species that have been used traditionally by indigenous and Hispanic cultures. By and large, these species have been wild-harvested from native stands, mostly for personal, family, or local use. Some of them appear to be adaptable to cultivation, and have the potential of becoming "new" alternative crops. Three in particular, oshá (Ligusticum porteri), cota (Thelesperma gracile syn. T. megapotamicum), and yerba del manso (Anemopsis californica), show promise for organic growers in New Mexico and elsewhere in the Four Corners region of the United States. Oshá (Ligusticum porteri Coult. & Rose), in the family Apiaceae, is also known as Porter's lovage or bear root. It is native to North America, and is found primarily in the Rocky Mountain States from Montana to New Mexico, and less frequently in high mountain regions of northern Mexico. Oshá prefers higher elevations, from 7000 to 10,000 feet. It is a slow-growing perennial herbaceous plant, and because the root is the part used, must be destroyed when harvested. The dried root traditionally has been used internally for colds, flu, bronchial congestion, and as a purifying tonic in the spring. Externally, the juice of the fresh root, or a poultice made from the dried root was applied to wounds as an antiseptic.