Cultivation of Cinchona in Bolivia.
By MINISTER GIBBS, OF LA PAZ.
I have devoted some time and attention to acquire data and information relative to the next important article, cinchona bark, or quina, of which large quantities are exported yearly. Formerly it was gathered by the Indians, and in such a manner that large forests were destroyed, trees cut down, the bark taken in any way merely to make up large quantities; to-day the quina plantations, or, as they are called here, quinales, are cultivated and nourished with care and agricultural science, the principal planters being Germans, one, Mr. Otto Richter, possessing two million plants; the estate of Mr. John Kraft, a Hollander, lately deceased, two million.
The cultivation of quina in plantations, systematically, has been carried on for about seven years, hardly long enough to show all the advantages, as there is room for much study and improvement.
Mapire, about sixty leagues north of this place, or about five days' journey, has under cultivation about four million five hundred thousand plants; Longa northeast of this city about twenty leagues, five hundred thousand plants; Yungas, east northeast twenty leagues, one million plants; Guanay, east of Mapire, five hundred thousand plants; total, six million five hundred thousand plants.
Where the principal quinales are it is a very rough and broken country, the Andes being seamed and cut into deep valleys in every direction. The trees are planted on the sides of the valleys or ridges in altitudes of about 3,000 to 4,000 feet above the sea. They will grow higher up, even to 8,000 feet, but are stunted, and will give little or nothing of what is called here the quina salt. The plants want a great deal of sun, heavy rains and fresh winds.
I have conversed with three of the principal superintendents of the large quina plantations, all Germans, and they say that the cultivation of quina is yet in its infancy, and there will be many improvements through time and experience.
A tree will give from fifteen to twenty pounds of seed. The seed collected in November and December (the early summer months here), and planted very thickly in boxes or beds about twelve feet in length and three feet in breadth, and placed on a slight decline or fall and well irrigated. When the plants are about six inches in height and have a few leaves-from five to six (which is about five months) they are transplanted; holes of some eight to ten inches deep are dug about six feet apart, in which they are planted. The plant is covered partly over with twigs and other light stuff, grass and leaves, to keep off the sun for about three months. When the plant is strong and healthy, the undergrowth of other plants is cleaned out and great care is taken. This attention continues for about two years, and then the plants that are left are considered sound. About 25 per cent. of all the plants decay or rot in this time. Afterwards the undergrowth is cleared out once a year, and when the tree is six years old it is productive, grows to about fourteen feet in height, and has a diameter of about six inches, up to six or seven feet. Where the bark is of the most productive kind, the trunk grows straight and slender, and has the form of an orange tree. When a tree is left standing for ten or twelve years, it is over a foot in diameter, the bark is thicker and heavier, but not so productive in quinia. The bark is ready to cut when the tree is about six years old. An incision is made around the trunk of the tree a few inches from the ground, another incision some twenty-four inches above around the tree, and then two incisions opposite, lengthwise. The bark is pulled off in two pieces. Two cuts, and sometimes three, are got off each tree, twenty-two to twenty-four inches in length, and seven to eight inches in width. When removed it curls up like the cinnamon bark. After the tree is stripped it is cut down, leaving a trunk about twelve inches above the ground, and from the base, where the bark has been left, there spring out some fifteen or twenty shoots or sprouts; these are left growing until they are a little higher than the stump, then they are thinned out, leaving two or three; they grow fast and in five years give good bark.
The trees produce on an average about four and a half pounds of bark, and are stripped, in the southern hemisphere, late in the spring, October to January. The bark is placed in paved yards, and is generally cured in four days, but if rain sets in, at times it takes nearly three weeks.
The principal enemy in the insect line is a large black ant, which is very destructive. There are various classes of the quina tree, calysaya, green and purple. The greater part of the quina passes through this city baled and sent to Tacne and Mollendo. Cinchona is the common name for all quina.
The market price is now forty cents per pound, Bolivian currency. It has sold as high as two hundred bolivianos per quintal. It formerly paid a tax of 6.40 bolivianos per quintal; now one half, 3.20 bolivianos, one half to the Government and one half municipal.
As the greater part of the quina forests were destroyed, and until very lately, the cultivation of quina has not been carried out in a proper manner, it is only now that it may be said to be a regular business. The highest exportation of late years has been twenty thousand quintals; but it has dwindled down for various causes, so that this year it will not be more than five thousand quintals, and at present prices leaves no profit, the expenses of getting it to the coast being heavy.—Phar. Jour. and Trans.
The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 57, 1885, was edited by John M. Maisch.