Mint Condition

I would like to review an article that I noticed in a farm-related magazine. It is a very fitting article for this group of people. The article is titled, "Mint Condition" goal of PNW plant researchers. It is found in the April 2018 issue of Western Farmer-Stockman magazine, in the crop management section. The author of the article is Melissa Hemken, a contributing writer for the magazine.  I might add that she did an excellent job and covered a number of important aspects. I would like to convey some of that material to you. 

The United States is considered to be the top country producer of Peppermint and Spearmint oil in the world. Last year there were 22,300 acres of mint producing 5,778 pounds of oil. So you have a figure of just a little bit over 4 ounces of mint oil produced per acre. So let that sink in, basically 4 ounces per acre. So it takes many acres to provide for the oils needs for an essential oil company. Then since we know Peppermint and Spearmint oil are popular ones, well, makes for an interesting perspective. With production like this and the price of the oil at the farm level, you can see that essential oil production isn't the most lucrative job. Especially when the input costs are factored into the equation. 

Before the 1920's the bulk of the mint oil production was in the mid-west. Then in the 1920's a problem came to surface. That problem was Verticillium dahliae, a soil borne fungus. I will explain more about the fungus later. But the fungus traveled with the transferred plants. Now the growers in the Pacific Northwest are having the same problem. So along comes a professor of plant pathology from Washington State University-Pullman, Professor Dennis Johnston. We want to change this because we are running out of fields, says Professor Johnston. From this point on he explains the situation.

Peppermint and Scotch Spearmint are susceptible to this disease, but native Spearmint is resistant. It is believed that the fungus can live in the soil for up to 10 years. But it appears that that might be a tad too conservative, as it appears that it could live much longer than that. But the Verticillium is sort of a symptom of the problem. What is happening here is there is a Microsclerotia mat of resistance fungus mycelium. There are several things going on here. But to explain more, you have Microsclerotia gets close to the plant, the exudation of the plant's roots then causes it to germinate. Then the fungus will colonize, which leads to it invading the roots and choking them off, choking off the water to the plant, thus leading the mint plant to wilt. 

What they are basically focusing on is developing some diagnostic tools to determine whether or not the fungus will infect the mint crop in a field or not. Then that information leading to a decision to plant in that field or not plant in that field. No real solution to solving the problem. In the article, he also mentions that the weeds that typically invade a mint crop also carries this fungus.   Other studies that are being done are ones related to mint root borers and at what amount of a borer infestation indicates for insecticide application. Also, studies to determine the levels of borer population will cause crop damage. 

He goes on to explain that most growers distill their crops for mint oil because of the increasing demand for mint oil. Part of the increase in demand for mint oil is due to the problem of a shortage of some of the citrus oil due to citrus greening, which cuts the number of peels available for oil production.  Many cleaning products will use citrus oils as part of their aroma and cleaning properties. Many times mint oil can be substituted for the same purpose. I am sure many of you have noticed many more mint scented or mint oil containing cleaning products. I will discuss the Citrus Greening issue in another discussion. Anyway, in addition to mint oil being used in cleaning products, it is also used in chocolate, chewing gum, and toothpaste. So in reality, as he says, most people have been touched every day by a mint oil due to the assumption that most everyone will brush their teeth every day. So one way or the other, most people use an oil, and since all of this mint oil is distilled, they use essential oils every day of their life. Think on that one for a while. Pretty much the whole population will use an essential oil every day of their life. Comical when you see these people freaking out about essential oils and not sure about using them.  And.. drum roll...they not only use them, but they ingest them. Hee Haw, lol. I couldn't pass up that one. Anyway, this is why many of the citrus oil and the mint oil have seen price increases. For perspective, if you don't see a rise in these oil's prices, then your supplier may not be skimming off of the top of the crop. Do you buy the best and raise the prices or do you keep the prices the same and buy lower quality oil?

As he is discussing the use of mint oil, he mentions that there was a push about 15 years ago to sell U.S. Mint oil in China. It didn't work, it went down in flames. Why? Because the Chinese by and large prefer a toothpaste that is "Green Tea" flavored.  

Many times in doing consulting work with the essential oils, the companies will say, oh we want this or that oil blend or even single. My first question is this, What is the target population? People look at me like, I am speaking some extraterrestrial language. This is why I ask because people and/or other cultures have their own unique tastes, etc. What we like here, isn't always liked in another country or culture. 

This article really intrigues me. It is so full of examples of various topics that we can discuss, that I don't know if we can cover it in a month of discussions. There are so many Duhh type constructs that it actually amazes me. First off, why do we have these pests, what they call diseases? It is to take a diseased tissue and break it down and return it to natural elements. In this situation is it plant tissue. Weeds carry the fungus because the role of weeds is to break down the soil, recondition the soil and prepare it for the next step of rehabilitation. The pests come in to break down the plant. But my favorite is the mycelium. Just what is mycelium? Have you ever heard of mushrooms? A mushroom is the fruit of the mycelium fungus. That fungus goes and invades the organism and breaks it down.  This is why the mushroom is such an excellent food and health product, at least in my opinion. A raw mushroom will do wonders for a person's health. As it will contribute to breaking down the stomach contents, ie; digestion, and aid in removing toxins from the whole digestive system. We see first hand what it does in plants, thus we know what it does in a digestive system and itis all good. The problem in the Midwest and now in the Pacific Northwest is the one and same, nutritional deficiencies in the soil.  Once it is depleted down, to some predetermined point, determined by nature, nature then takes over. 

Once it hits this point, rather it is with plants or in our case, people, well I guess you can apply the old saying, it ain't over till the fat lady sings. Well, the fat lady is singing. Back in the 1920's the fat lady started to sing, so they took mint production to a different stage. Now they looking for a new stage, but, they can't find a new stage to perform on. 

Anyway, more on some of this stuff later. Its really fascinating, I can hardly wait to share it with you.