Thursday, September 17, 2015

Growing Goji with Mycorrhizae

The biological activity in the soil and their interaction with the roots, known as the rhizosphere, is composed of many different types of microorganisms including fungus, known as mycorrhizae.  There has been much research in agriculture concerning the beneficial effects of symbiotic fungus and the mycological interactions between the roots and the soil.

Developing a healthy rhizosphere can improve production significantly.  Fungus might be an important factor in developing a healthy team of bacteria, fungus and other microorganisms to facilitate the plants drawing up nutrients from the soil.  Goji Olympus, a Greek organization that is involved with the cultivation of goji, has had some success using a fungus called Trichoderma harzianum to increase the surface of the area of the roots and increase healthy production while reducing susceptibility to pathogenic microbiological activity.

American Goji is currently experimenting with endomycorrhizae and ectomycorrhizae, which are active inside or outside the root, respectively.

  • Endomycorrhizae
    • Glomus mossae
    • Glomus intraradices
    • Glomus dussii
    • Glomus clarum
    • Glomus deserticola
    • Glomus microaggregatum
  • Ectomycorrhizae
    • Psolithus tinctorius
    • Rhizophogon villosullus
    • Rhizophogon luteolus
    • Rhizopogon amylopogon
    • Rhizopogon fulvigleba
We are investigating the possibility of adding Trichoderma harzianum to our experiments. 

Written by: Paul Sober


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fertilizing Goji

Goji is a very strong plant that usually requires very little attention once established.  Learning how to get the most out of your goji plants is a different story all together.  With a little extra effort, you can have your goji plants at maximum production with good flavor and color in your fruits.

If you are thinking about applying fertilizer to your goji plants, STOP!  You probably don't need anything.  Goji plants are descended from wild, thorny  bushes that grow in arid areas and are generally very efficient at extracting nutrients from the soil.  Generally they do not require any fertilization.  In fact over fertilization is a common reason for goji bushes to refuse to produce any berries at all.  Over fertilization can also cause death of the plant.

That being said, if you have dry, sandy soils that are low in nutrients and your plants aren't growing very rapidly, then they might benefit from a little fertilization.  If you decide to try fertilizing then you can use either chemical or organic fertilizer.

Organic Fertilizer for Goji

Organic fertilizer is generally the safest for your plants, although it will tend to take longer for you to see results since most organic fertilizers release slowly over time.  Primarily you want a balanced N-P-K, so anything that lists three similar numbers if you're looking at premixed fertilizer.  If you choose one of the many organic soil additives that are available, then you need to know what the NPK stands for:
  • N - Nitrogen - Promotes leafy growth.  Too much will discourage fruit production
  • P - Phosphorous - Important for root growth
  • K - Potassium - Helps with internal regulatory processes
Only a small quantity is required, whatever you use.  I recommend alfalfa pellets or rice bran, both are readily available at your local feed supply store and provide a broad spectrum of nutrients for your plants at a reasonable price.

Chemical Fertilizer for Goji

Chemical fertilizers are not inherently bad.  Chemical fertilizers are an incredibly efficient way to transport nutrients for plants and are easier to apply with precision using modern agricultural equipment then 'organic' types of fertilizer.

The problem that we run into using chemical fertilizers is that almost all of the commercially available fertilizer mixes are formulated with Muriate of Potash (MP) as a source of Potassium.  MP is composed of chlorine and potassium.  Chlorine is bad for the soil and will reduce the healthy populations of bacteria and mycorrhizae.  If you are interested in using chemical fertilizers, mix your own or search out a brand that uses non-chlorine sources of potassium to protect your rhizosphere and to sustain long-term growth and fruit production.

Sustainable chemical fertilizer brands are becoming more common.  One example is yara.  Yara offers some excellent products that may be available in your area.  They generally use sources of NPK which include extra calcium and sulfur, which are both beneficial, instead of chlorine.

Other Micro-nutrients for Goji

Depending on your location and the soils that you are using to cultivate goji, you may require supplementation of micro-nutrients in the soil.  These are nutrients like zinc and manganese that might only be required in extremely minute quantities for healthy growth.  If you live in a place where the soil has a restricted mineral spectrum, then the addition of a mineral rock powder might solve any unusual problems that you may have and encourage healthier growth.  Glacial rock powder, or any other volcanic rock powder will do the trick.  Add a small quantity around your plant and it will percolate down into the soil over time with watering or mix it into the soil when planting.

pH balancing the soil for Goji

Although technically not fertilizing, adjusting the pH of your soil can have dramatic effects on the growth of your plants, especially if your soil is acidic.  Goji prefer soil in the range of 8.0, which is extremely alkali.  Adding some oyster shell flour to the soil when you are preparing to plant is an excellent way to increase some micronutrients in the soil while ensuring that the pH is in a good range for optimal nutrient uptake.


Whatever is going on with your plants, watch them for clues.  They are closely related to wild plants and do not like to have excessively nutritious soils.  They are happiest in places that are very similar to deserts, maybe we could call them 'highlands'.  Remember to keep their soil well drained and you should be rewarded with berries in a year or so, depending on the source of your material.

Article by: Paul Sober


How to grow goji from seed

Growing goji berries can be very rewarding.  It's pretty easy to do, also.  It requires minimal resources goji is an incredibly hardy and durable plant.  It's quite forgiving for even those who have no experience with plants at all.

First acquire some goji berries from practically any source.  American goji has been collecting samples of goji berries from different sources all around the world for several years and has yet to locate a single batch of goji berries that lacked fertility.  Even berries that appear to have been freeze dried are often fertile and spring into bloom with a little care and effort.

Simply take a few berries and soak them in warm water for a few hours, then mash them up with some soil or sand and spread the mix on top of any well draining soil.  With minimal watering and sunlight, you will be rewarded with many little seedlings in just a few days.

Because goji plants are open pollinated, the genetics of the resulting plants are highly varied, meaning that there is approximately %50 chance that the resulting plants will have some problem or defect.  If you grow many seeds, at least some of your plants will have delicious red berries. 

They are drought resistant and are capable of growing successfully in a wide variety of damaged or depleted soils with minimal inputs.  They are capable of growing in partial shade or direct sunlight and are drought tolerant.  Goji is partially salt tolerant and prefers highly alkaline soils, such as those commonly found in deserts.

Article written by: Paul Sober


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

N1 Goji Strain

Doing some research, looking into the various strains and types of goji that exist.  There is a lot of conflicting information on the internet, but it seems that there are two different species of boxthorn, Lycium Chinense, and Lycium Barbarum.  Boxthorn is a very diverse family of shrubs that generally live in arid environments and usually have edible berries.

By far, the most common type of goji is the N1, or NQ1 type.  Berries from this type are cylindrical and are generally a lighter color red.  This is the strain that is under constant development by the agricultural industry in and around the Ninxia province in China.  Modern versions of this strain produce uniform berries with a larger size and the plants grow rapidly, sometimes producing berries in their first year of growth.  Older versions of this strain still exhibit genetic diversity, producing berries with more variation in size, shape and color.

N1 or NQ1 strain from Ningxia, China

Berries from this strain are also more durable, staying firm and edible and capable of being stored for long periods of time with provided refrigeration and humidity control.  This strain has been actively bred for productivity, fruit consistency, plant resilience, early maturation, etc. for over 20 years by trained professionals and by farmers in the area.

This strain is supposed to be a cross between older varieties namely "Da Ma Ye" and "Zao Ma Ye", but there is a proliferation of misinformation regarding this plant, even in printed literature.  If you know of a source of either of these two ancient varieties, please contact us, we are always collecting and propagating different varieties, both heirloom and agricultural varieties.

The proliferation of venders selling N1 plants or seeds as either of these two heirloom types is very frustrating.  Generally, anyone asking for a ridiculous quantity of money for a few seeds or a small plant is usually a scam artist.

In China, the most recent agricultural development is a strain known as N7, which is said to be reliable at producing fruit in it's first year if germinated and grown indoors before spring.


Chinese Wolfberry Fruit         T3958 Lycium Chinense      GOU QI ZI
Chinese Wolfberry Leaf          T3957                                  GOU QI YE
Chinese Wolfberry Rootbark  T3956                                  GOU QI GEN PI
Ning Xia Wolfberry Fruit        T3955 Lycium Barbarum    NING XIA GOU QI ZI
Ning Xia Wolfberry Rootbark T3954

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Domestication Projects

Goji is an extremely adaptable and durable plant with many environmental uses.  The deep roots draw nutrients and water from deep in the soil and are excellent for mitigating erosion and producing nutrient rich food in areas of the world where depleted soils are no longer useful for traditional agricultural methods. 

In developing areas of the world, goji is becoming a common crop that is capable of producing valuable nutrition on marginal land with minimal inputs.  Alkaline soils, such as those commonly found in desert areas are prime for goji cultivation with minimal water availability.

Goji plants reduce erosion and increase humus in the top layers of the soil by shedding leaves each winter in areas where it gets cold enough to trigger hibernation in the plant. 

Because of their vitality, goji plants have a tendency to reduce desertification or encroachment of the desert on semi-arid areas by holding onto and increasing the quantity of topsoil in a particular area. 

We are also experimenting with shade producing trees as companion plants since many types of goji prefer partial shade.

Article by: Paul Sober


Una buena planta para cultivando en los suelos desérticos

Goji es una planta que puede crecer sin irrigación regular cuando se establece.
Produce bayas que son muy buenos para la salud y las hojas que también se reportan como comestible y / o útil para hacer un delicioso té.

Gran cuidado debe ser tomado al cultivo de bayas goji, sin embargo, es una planta fácil de cultivar. Simplemente rehidratar algunas bayas y plantar las semillas, y un cuarto de las plantas producirán una buena cantidad de bayas.  
La planta producirá una extensa red de raíces, que puede proteger la planta de la sequía. Es una planta desmadejado, lo que requiere una cuidadosa poda para desarrollar plantas que se asemejan a pequeños árboles, y que producen bayas cada año en un nuevo crecimiento.  También, es importante para proteger las raíces de los daños, porque goji tiende a crecer nuevos árboles de raíces dañadas.
Goji prefiere suelo alcalino, con un pH de 8.2-8.4, sin embargo, puede crecer bien en una amplia gama de pH y supuestamente crece en el suelo tan ácida como 6.4.
Es una planta que puede tolerar las bayas de frío y heladas, la producción a finales de verano y principios del otoño en lugares donde los inviernos son lo suficientemente fría para producir hielo. En lugares sin heladas, se informa a producir bayas de todo el año.

Es una excelente planta para la producción de alimentos en determinados lugares, donde otras plantas no crecerán bien. También tiende a escapar de cultivo y naturaliza en cualquier lugar que se cultiva. Los pájaros les encanta comer las bayas y los conejos y ciervos disfrutan del follaje.
Las bayas son buenos para muchas cosas. A menudo se utilizan para hacer té, zumo, conservas y por lo general se secan durante el almacenamiento a largo plazo. En China, donde se han cultivado durante miles de años, que ellos se combinan con uvas para hacer vino. Hay una empresa en los EE.UU. que está desarrollando actualmente una bebida deportiva usando las bayas de goji como ingrediente principal.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Goji Berry Warning

Our research indicates that almost all goji berries produced in China are treated with sulfur dioxide, a preservative used to prevent browning.  If the berries you purchase were sourced through common international trade systems, they are likely to contain this ingredient, and unlikely to list it anywhere on the packaging.

In California, this chemical is on the list of substances known to cause reproductive toxicity and necessitates the appropriate Prop. 65 labelling.  Additionally this chemical is known to have a laxative effect and can induce allergic reaction in some individuals.

Chinese packaging often includes the instruction, "Please wash before consumption" or something to that effect.  I usually rinse them before soaking and throw away the soaking water.  This is a waste of a delicious elixir, but the sulfur dioxide increases the beauty of the berries, which is important for maintaining their value on international commodity type markets.

There are ways to preserve these berries without this potentially dangerous chemical, but the only way to be sure that this chemical is not used is to purchase berries which were sourced directly from a farmer who does not use sulphur dioxide in their practices.

An additional note, price of dried berries continues to drop.  Average prices in our area are around $12/lb.  Prices as low as $5/lb and as high as $25 are fairly common.

Another note, Supreme grade and Super grade are two grades of berry, which are related to the size and color of the fruit.  The supergrade strain, which is available from Chinese growers, is one of the most modern strains in common usage in China and is named because of it's ability to produce large quantities of Super grade berries.

Different growers, groups of growers and industry professionals select for different traits in breeding, resulting in a wide variety of plant types depending on the source.  Occasionally someone produces a strain that is exceptionally productive or that has some other outstanding trait and then that strain is adopted widely by the goji farming industry, similar to the way that the American agricultural system operated so many years ago.