Botanical name of fennel is Foeniculum vulgare. It is a stout and aromatic spice crop which is commercially cultivated as an annual herb. Fennel is known in various names in different parts of the country.
In Hindi, fennel is known as ‘saunf’ and in Tamil it is known as ‘perungeerakam’. Major production centers of fennel in India are Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Haryana.
Cool and dry climate is best for the cultivation of fennel crop. Dry and cool weather during the seed set increases seed yield as well as the quality of the produce.
Fennel can be cultivated in all types of soils that are rich in organic matter. Shallow sandy soils are not suited for fennel cultivation. Best soils for fennel cultivation are black cotton soil and loamy soil containing lime. Proper drainage is also an important requisite for commercial cultivation of fennel crop.
Tall, erect and with stout stem; long, and bold grains; matures in 150–160 days; average yield is 15.5 q/ha.
Short plants with compact umbels; long, bold grains; matures in 110–130 days; yield is 17.3 q/ha of seed
Tall, spreading plats with medium-sized, hairless and green seeds; tolerant to sugary disease, leaf-spot and leaf-blight; matures in 225 days; average yield of 12.8 q/ha.
Gujarat Fennel 1
Tall and bushy plants with oblong, medium-bold and dark green seeds; tolerant to sugary disease and leaf-spot; matures in 225 days; average yield is 16.5 q/ha; suitable for early-sowing; tolerant to drought.
Medium tall plants with diffused branching; matures in 220 days with an average yield of 5.67q/ha; suitable for drought-prone, waterlogged, saline and alkaline conditions; suitable for hilly areas.
Fennel seeds can be directly sown in the main field or seedlings can be raised in nursery beds and later transplanted in the main field. ((Direct Sowing)) Ideal sowing time for fennel is Mid-September to mid-October. Delay in sowing reduces the yield. Seed rate required for direct sowing is 10–12 kg/ha. Sowing should be done deep in rows with spacing of 45–60cm apart. The field is irrigated after sowing. ((Transplanting)) Seedlings are raised during June or July on well-prepared nursery beds. Afterwards, 7–8 weeks old seedlings are transplanted in the field in August.
At the time of field preparation FYM (farmyard manure) is added @ 10–15 tons/ha. Afterwards, apply 90kg N/ha in three equal splits– first as basal dose along with 40kg/ha P2O5, second and third applications at 30 and 60 days after sowing.
Weed infestation is a serious problem in commercial cultivation of fennel crop. First hoeing and weeding is recommended at 30 days after sowing. Both mechanical and chemical control of weeds can be practiced. If herbicides are used for weed control, Pendimethalin is most effective. Pre-emergence application of Pendimethalin @1.0kg/ ha supplemented with one hand-weeding 50 days after sowing controls weeds effectively.
First irrigation is done soon after seed sowing and thereafter one or two light irrigations are required until seed germination. Afterwards, the crop is irrigated at an interval of 15–25 days. Water stress must be avoided during flowering and seed formation as water stress during this phase may adversely affect the seed formation and grain yield.
Fennel matures in 170–180 days. Harvesting is done by plucking the umbels when seeds are fully developed and mature but still green. Harvesting duration lasts for a month with plucking being done twice or thrice at 10 days intervals.
On an average, fennel yields 9–10q/ha.
Drying of Fennel Seeds
Harvested umbels are dried in sun for 1–2 days and then in shade for 8–10 days. Care must be taken not to sun-dry the umbels too long as long exposure of seeds to the sun reduces the quality of the produce.
Cleaning and Grading
After drying, fennel seeds are cleaned with the help of vacuum gravity separator or spiral gravity separator. Cleaned seeds are then graded based on its quality and then packed in jute bags for marketing.
Dried and clean seeds are stored in jute bags in damp-free aerated store.
Fennel crop is vulnerable to frost damage which can be minimized by spraying 0.1% solution of sulphuric acid prior to the incidence of frost.
Uses of Fennel Oil
Essential oil extracted from fennel seeds is used for manufacturing cordials and as a fragrant agent in toiletries such as soaps and shampoos. Fennel oil is extensively used as a flavoring agent in baking and confectionary industries.
Health Benefits of Fennel
Fennel is useful in the treatment of anemia. Fennel is one of the best remedies for curing indigestion. Fennel is also used as an anti flatulent agent. Fennel is extensively used for treating constipation, diarrhea, renal colic, respiratory disorders, and menstrual disorders. Fennel is also used for eye care and other medicinal properties of fennel include diuretic properties (increases amount and frequency of urination) and anti-inflammatory properties (reduces swelling of body parts).
Fennel water is commonly given to infants as medicine. The root of fennel plants may be used as a purgative. Fennel seeds are used as stimulant and as a carminative. Fennel is extensively used in cure of colic pains also. Fennel seeds alone or in combination with sugar are used as a mouth freshener in India.