PARSLEY: A PRODUCTION GUIDE
PARSLEY: A PRODUCTION GUIDE
Parsley is a popular culinary herb, commercially cultivated as an annual in many parts of the world for it's attractive and aromatic leaves. The essential oil of the leaves is considered superior to that from the seeds and is used in condiments or seasonings, and parsley seed oil is used in fragrances for perfumes, soaps and creams.
Parsley usually reaches a height of 1 to 1 1/2 ft., has green leaves and greenish-yellow flowers in compound umbels and seeds that are smooth, ribbed and ovate. Parsley is also a rich source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A and iron.
There are a variety of cultivars available for parsley cultivation. Common or curled-leaf parsley (var. crispum) is used both fresh (primarily as a garnish), and dried (primarily in food products). Types of common parsley include: Banquet, Dark Moss Colored, Decorator, Deep Green, Forest Green, Improved Market Gardener, Moss Curled, and Sherwood. Plain, flat-leaf or Italian parsley (var. neapolitanum Danert) is commonly used as a flavoring in sauces, soups and stews. Types include: Plain and Plain Italian Dark Green. Hamburg or turnip-rooted parsley (var. tuberosum Crov.) is grown for it's enlarged, edible root and is popular in specialized markets. The most common type is called Hamburg.
Seeds germinate slowly and unevenly in the cold, wet soils characteristic of early spring. For conditions such as limited acreage, and the desire to market produce at the roadside, the use of transplants may be a preferred alternative. When preparing the field for parsley cultivation, a fine seedbed is required for optimum production. To create a fine seed bed, it is recommended to finish the soil after plowing and disc harrowing with rototillers and bed shapers. Rich moist soil with good drainage and a pH of 5.3 to 7.3 is preferred. The seeds should be planted no deeper than one-quarter inch. If working with heavy textured mineral soils, cover seeds with leaf mold, sand or peat to avoid crusting.
Sowing rates vary from 12 to 20 lbs. to as high as 40 to 60 lbs. of seed per acre, depending on soil and environmental conditions. The seeds should be sown in spring as soon as soil can be worked; in northern regions better results are achieved by starting plants indoors and transplanting after danger of freezing weather is past.
Parsley can be seeded in raised beds with three or four rows, or in double rows on a 36 to 42 inch bed, while transplants may be spaced 4 to 8 inches apart on 36 inch rows. Customized cultivation equipment is required to cultivate between narrow rows and to avoid damage to the seedlings, such as a ground driven basket cultivator. Hoeing is a common method of weed control in the row in addition to herbicides or in states where herbicide product registrations have not been obtained. Research has shown that highest yields can be obtained with very high plant populations.
Following is a summary of costs involved in the production of a spring crop of parsley:
Growing Cost per Acre: machinery, labor, irrigation, seed, fert., etc.. $1,767.00
Harvest and Marketing Cost per Acre labor, containers, rubber bands, ice, etc...... $3,154.00 -------- Total Production Cost per Acre $4,921.00
Grower Breakeven Costs per Bushel Based on Average Yields per Acre
Yield per Acre Cost per Bushel 700 $6.03 900 $5.47 1100 $5.12
Parsley can be marketed as a fresh market culinary green. There are many important quality considerations involved in the marketing of in fresh market parsley: including a healthy dark green color, a favorable aroma, a freedom from cosmetic defects caused by soil, disease or mechanical injury, a trueness to type, long stalks (petioles) for bunching and good field holding capacity.
In the production of parsley, germination and emergence problems often occur. These production problems are sometimes due to non-uniform seed lots; more commonly, the strands are affected by pre- and postemergence damping-off caused by soil fungi. Fungicide treatment in a previously unproductive field will improve strand establishment, plant vigor and yield. Osmotic priming for parsley seed is a technique used for the controlling of water imbibition of seeds that has improved seedling emergence under adverse field conditions. Seed priming appears, primarily, to enhance yields of early spring plantings and to provide some benefit in Pythium spp. infested soils. However, priming has little effect on the yield of crops planted under the optimum conditions of later spring. Some growers pre-treat seeds with a water soak for 24 hours prior to sowing to avoid water imbibition.
The rate of fertilizer application will depend upon soil type and prior cropping history of the planting site. On well drained, lightly textured soils and on muck soils, higher fertilization rates are frequently used. In these cases, generally one-third of the fertilizer is broadcast.
Parsley should be treated as a leafy, green vegetable and should also be irrigated as such. Overhead sprinklers or drip irrigation are applicable as needed. In most states, Stoddard Solvent is the only herbicide currently registered for use on parsley. It should be applied postemergence at a rate of 60 gal. per acre after the seedlings have three true leaves and continued until the seedlings are two inches tall. It is important to check State Cooperative Extension Service to verify the labeling and current status of registered herbicides.
There are several insects common to parsley which can be chemically controlled. Aphids can be controlled by applications of Phosdrin 4 EC at 1-2 pts per acre at a pre- harvest interval of 5 days. Cabbage looper or beet army worm can be combatted with applications of Methomyl 1.8L at 2-4 pts. per acre. This insecticide's PHI is 10 days. Carrot weevil is controlled by the use of Guthion 2 S or 50 WP at 1 qt. or 1 lb. per acre, an insecticide which has a 3 application maximum and a PHI of 21 days. When applying this pesticide, it is helpful to obtain a copy of the label at the time of application. Corn earworm is controlled by Sevin 80S at 1 1/4 to 2 lbs. per acre; the PHI for this insecticide is 14 days. Flea beetles, leafhoppers or tarnished plant bugs are combatted by Malthion 57% EC at 2 pints per acre (PHI is 21 days), or with Sevin 80S at 1 1/4 lbs. per acre (PHI is 14 days).
There are also several foliage diseases to which parsley is susceptible but which can also be controlled. Rootknot Nematode control is accomplished prior to planting and only after tests indicate counts above an economic threshold. Septoria leaf spot can be seed borne and/or splash disseminated. Purchase of quality seed is the best method of disease prevention, and the use of drip or trickle irrigation rather than overhead sprinklers can reduce the spread. Aster yellows can be controlled by the elimination of leafhoppers.
Hand labor is the preferred method of harvesting, employed in order to obtain the lowest amount of crop damage acceptable for fresh market use. To harvest by hand, begin by grouping a bunch of plants together with the hand, slicing the stalks with a knife and slipping a rubber band around the cut stalks to maintain bunch integrity. Packing methods differ, as some markets may prefer parsley to be packed loose for bunching later. If multiple cuttings are desired, the parsley must be cut at least 1 to 1 1/4 inches above the crown. Multiple harvests by hand or by machine are possible, depending on crop quality.
For the fresh market, parsley should be washed and any faded or yellowing leaves should be discarded. The parsley may be packed and shipped hydrocooled or packaged iced to maintain crispness and fresh appearance. Optimum storage and handling temperatures are 32 to 36 degrees at 95% relative humidity.
Parsley: A Production Guide Commercial Horticulture-Dept. of Horticulture Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, West Lafayette, IN James E. Simon, Vegetable Crops Specialist, Purdue University Jack Rabin, Vegetable Crops Specialist, Rutgers University Laura Clavio, Extension Associate, Purdue University