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The Agronomy and Economy of Turmeric and Ginger: The Invaluable Medicinal Spice Crops

The Agronomy and Economy of Turmeric and Ginger: The Invaluable Medicinal Spice Crops by K.P. Prabhakaran Nair. Waltham, Massachusetts: Elsevier Insights; 2013. Hardcover, 544 pages. ISBN: 978-0-12-394801-4. $140.00.

This book, part of the ‘Elsevier Insights’ series published by Elsevier, focuses on two commercially traded spices: turmeric (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae) and ginger (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae). The book provides extensive information on agricultural aspects of both plants. The first 14 chapters deal with turmeric and the last 13 chapters with ginger. This book would serve as a useful resource to all those involved in cultivation of these spice crops as the author has laboriously covered botany, genetics, agronomy, nutrition management, entomology, nematology, other diseases, and postharvest and traditional uses of both spices.

There are, however, some aspects that limit broader utility of this book. Starting with an absent preface, the readers are not given guidance on the objectives and the organization of the book. Unfortunately, most of chapters do not have citations beyond 2007, barring a few exceptions. The information could have been contemporary if the author had consulted recent literature. The sections on chemistry and biotechnology of turmeric also are inadequate.

In the chapter on the origin and history of turmeric, the author has provided data from the Spices Board of India on turmeric productivity in different states of India. A detailed analysis and recommendations to enhance productivity would have been useful. While addressing the pests and diseases of turmeric, the author recommends the use of several synthetic chemicals, many of which have been banned in most countries. The sections on nutrition and nutrient management, agronomy, diseases, entomology, nematology, harvesting, and postharvest management are informative. Farmers can make use of this information to improve productivity.

A chapter on the agronomy and economy of ginger includes details on crop improvement and genetic resources. In the chapter “Biotechnology of Turmeric,” the author has reviewed various methods of detection of adulteration using molecular markers, which is noteworthy. Apart from the above information on genetic fidelity, information on candidate genes for disease resistance also was provided. Also, isolation of candidate genes for important agronomical traits and genetic transformation has been reviewed. Further, useful tips have been provided for the management of diseases and pests of ginger apart from controlling nematode infestation.

A major hurdle to exporting spice crops is conforming to an importing nation’s regulatory guidelines. Each country has its own limits for pesticide residues, aflatoxins, and heavy metal residues. In the chapter “The Postharvest and Industrial Processing of Ginger,” the author has described limits for pesticide residues and heavy metals in Tables 23.7, 23.8, and 23.9. Table 23.7 provides details on tolerance limits of pesticides in ginger under regulations in the United States. However, no reference has been cited, leaving the reader unclear as to whether the author is referring to limits set by the US Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, or the United States Pharmacopeia. There are several international quality standards published on both ginger and turmeric. The book could have benefited from a better review of available quality standards. Unfortunately, the section on quality specifications of turmeric does not address a majority of the published international standards.

Though the main purpose of the book is to provide updated information on agronomy- and economic-related aspects of ginger and turmeric, the chapter on the nutraceutial properties of turmeric and pharmacology and nutraceutical uses of ginger could have included the available information on meta-analysis of various clinical studies already published. The author also could have focused more on the clinical studies rather than providing an extensive review of preclinical studies, which have relatively lesser utility.

The chapter on other economically important ginger species — some of which are ornamental, bear edible flowers, and a few that can be groomed to attractive garden and cut-flower plants — is worth mentioning. This chapter has useful additional information for those who want to study new pharmacologically active compounds from these ornamentals. Information provided on production, marketing, and economics of ginger is useful in understanding the dynamics behind intensely fluctuating market prices of dried ginger. The author has tried to provide useful ideas for further research and suggested opportunities for making complete utilization of the resource by minimizing wastages. For instance, under “The Postharvest and Industrial Processing of Ginger,” the author explains how ginger oil can be obtained from the scrapings of freshly harvested rhizomes that are normally thrown away by the farmers. In the chapter “Production, Marketing, and Economics of Ginger,” the author has provided interesting comparisons of productivity among various ginger-growing countries, the competitiveness of the Indian ginger industry, and also some recommended policy measures for strengthening the Indian ginger industry.

In spite of certain deficiencies, the book is a source of useful information and is recommended for researchers, farmers, user industries, students, and faculty of agricultural institutions.

—Amit Agarwal, PhD Director, Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd. Bangalore, India