Helping growers make lavender thrive in muggy Missouri
University of Missouri Extension is about to take some of the guesswork out of growing lavender in Missouri. The first of three lavender demonstration plots in the state was planted May 14 at the MU Extension center in Ste. Genevieve.
Two others — at the Springfield Botanical Gardens and the Adair County MU Extension center in Kirksville — will also be planted as part of a $39,274 grant through the Missouri Department of Agriculture to help determine how to grow lavender as a commercial crop in Missouri.
“There is a lot of interest and potential market for specialty crops like lavender that can be grown on smaller acreage, but we don’t have any research-based guidance and information to share with growers,” said MU Extension horticulturist Kelly McGowan, lead researcher for the grant.
Lavender appeals to small growers, McGowan said. Every part of it can be used as product — from essential oils to dried arrangements — and it offers opportunities in agritourism. But the plant thrives in arid climates, so Missouri’s cold winters and humid summers can make it difficult to grow here, she said.
Research on the three plots — each planted with six cultivars and located in different microclimates — will help develop standardized practices such as cultivar selection, soil preparation, establishment, fertilization, winter protection, dealing with insect and disease issues, and parameters for optimal flower and oil production.
Beginning in late 2022 or early 2023, MU Extension will share results through publications, presentations and workshops.
“One of my favorite things has been all the people who’ve reached out to me since this project has started,” McGowan said. “Farmers learn from and want to collaborate with other farmers. I’m also creating a growers network so interested farmers will have a way to connect with each other.”
Funding for the Missouri Department of Agriculture grant comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.