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Cultivation of wasabi
Cultivation of wasabi

In Japan, wasabi sometimes grows naturally in the gravel beds of mountain streams and is highly adapted to this environment. For commercial wasabi growing two types of cultivation methods are used. These are upland or soil grown wasabi and flooded field cultivation or water grown wasabi. Japanese growers select the method depending on the particular end use of the plants after harvest. Wasabi plants grown using the upland soil production method are harvested primarily for producing leaf and petiole products while wasabi plants grown using stream cultivation are harvested mainly for their enlarged rhizome, and only this plant part is used to make food products. Thus, it is believed in Japan that flooded systems can produce superior high quality enlarged stems. These are highly sought after and command higher prices.

Soil grown wasabi

Wasabi requires specific environmental conditions to thrive. Upland wasabi requires an air temperature from 6-20 with 8-18considered optimal. Soil of pH 6-7 are considered best. It is most often grown on well-drained soil under mulberry or plum trees in Japan, whereas in New Zealand wasabi is usually grown in soil and in shade houses rather than under trees.

Water grown wasabi

Stream grown wasabi requires air temperatures ranging from 8-18. However, a narrower range of temperatures (12-15) is considered ideal. An air temperature of less than 8 inhibits plant growth and at less than 5 plant growth ceases. Other factors can have an effect on the growth of wasabi and need to be considered carefully e.g. stable water temperature, good nutrient status in the water and well aerated, neutral or slightly acidic pH a high dissolved oxygen level and a large supply of water to maintain consistent flow (this particularly depends upon the field system being used). Rainfall accumulation is also important, with an even distribution desirable to stabilize the water supply and temperature. Spring water is considered best because of its clarity, stable temperatures and high level of oxygen. At warmer temperatures the dissolved oxygen in the water decreases, which inhibits the growth of plants. Silty or muddy water is undesirable as it may contain insufficient oxygen, but some silt in the water is considered beneficial as a source of nutrients. In Japan, wasabi grows on the wet banks of cool mountain streams and springs. Overall, construction and establishment of a flooded field is expensive and labour intensive. Water grown wasabi is produced in 42 prefectures, and soil grown wasabi in 21, out of 47 prefectures in Japan, which indicates that flooded cultivation is popular and is considered top roduce a high quality product.