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Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink Can you tell me something about the production and marketing of pyrethrum?

New York

Pyrethrum, known botanically as Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium or Tanacetum cinerariaefolium, is a perennial plant with white, daisy-like flowers adapted to temperate growing conditions. The flowers of pyrethrum are used to produce a natural botanical insecticide, most commonly by extracting the active pyrethrins but also in dried powder form.

Historically, pyrethrum was raised exclusively as a commercial crop in the African countries of Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania as well as in Papua New Guinea and Ecuador (1). These locations have ideal climatic growing conditions for pyrethrum as well as abundant labor for hand harvesting of flowers. New regions of pyrethrum production include Australia, Chile, Uganda, China, France and South Africa (2). Kenya remains the world’s largest producer of pyrethrum.

Beginning in the late 1980s and proceeding into the 1990s, a large commercial pyrethrum industry emerged in Tasmania, an island province located off the southern coast of Australia. Botanical Resources Australia Pty. Ltd., or BRA, has developed pyrethrum into a high-value broad acre herb crop. Technological advances in mechanized pyrethrum production include direct seeding instead of transplanting, and refinements in weed control and irrigation practices. BRA's Tasmanian pyrethrum crop is grown on contract with farmers in northwest Tasmania and is harvested by a fleet of 25-35 combines, 11 windrowers, and 40 grain trucks. BRA operates a state-of-the-art laboratory facility for the analysis of pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide, biochemical parameters of raw botanicals, and product analysis for pyrethrum and other Tasmanian-grown herbs. BRA now supplies more than 30% of the world's pyrethrum market (3).

Beginning in the late 1990s and proceeding into the 2000s, field trials investigating the potential of pyrethrum as a commercial industrial herb crop in the United States have taken place in North Carolina. These evaluation trials are under the guidance of Dr. Jeanine Davis at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Fletcher, NC, coordinator of the specialty crops program at North Carolina State University (NCSU).

The North Carolina trials were based on mechanical harvest of fresh flowers which have a higher potency than the dried flowers typically harvested in Tasmania. This advancement was made possible by the accession of a pyrethrum variety from Chile which has an upright flowering habit and blooms all at once. Likewise, a prototype machine was built to harvest these plants.

Two research reports were generated by the NCSU field trials on pyrethrum in North Carolina. Contact Dr. Jeanine Davis (4) for further research and development updates. She is also a source for understanding the market potential of pyrethrum as a commercial industrial herb crop in the United States.

McLaughlin Gormley King Co. (1) in Golden Valley, Minnesota, is one of the oldest manufacturers of pyrethrum products in the world, and is a major buyer of raw pyrethrum.

Several Web sites are listed below, including those from World Pyrethrum Forum, Pyrethrum Board of Kenya, and East Africa Pyrethrum Institute.

Pyrethrum Post was the scientific journal sponsored by the Kenya pyrethrum industry between 1948–1999, no longer being published. It contains a wealth of technical and practical information on the agronomics, cultivation, propagation, chemistry, and use of this biopesticide. A complete collection of past journal issues is now available on CD-ROM, available from "Friends of Pyrethrum," 9 Cole Road, Aylesbury, Bucks, HP21 8SU UK; Tel: +44 (0)1296 392408; Fax: +44 (0)1296 392404. A single CD-ROM copy costs $150.

In summary, these resources can help you understand pyrethrum cultivation, production, and harvesting and its use as a botanical insecticide. However, unless you can establish a firm contract with a buyer for harvested flowers, it is not very feasible as a commercial crop in the United States.


1)McLaughlin Gormley King Co.
8810 10th Avenue North
Golden Valley, MN 55427
800-645-6466 Toll-Free
763-544-6437 FAX

2) Hyde, Keith (editor). 2000. Pyrethrum—Botanical Resources Australia. In: Thirty Australian Champions: Shaping the Future for Rural Australia. Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation.

3) Botanical Resources Australia Pty. Ltd.
Sandy Bay
Tasmania, Australia

4) Jeanine Marie Davis
Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Horticultural Science,
North Carolina State University
Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center
455 Research Drive
Fletcher, NC 28732, U.S.A.
828-684-8715 FAX


Home Production of Pyrethrum
Ecological Agriclture Projects, McGill University

Flower Power, 50 years On
Botanical Resources Australia Pty.Ltd.

Pyrethrum — From Ancient Discovery to Advanced Agriculture
by Gabi Mocatta
New Agriculturist, November 2003

Natural Defences -- The Power of Pyrethrum
by Gabi Mocatta
Australian Geographic, Issue No. 65, April-June 2002

Pyrethrum—Botanical Resources Australia
In: Thirty Australian Champions: Shaping the Future for Rural Australia
Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation.

Study of the Feasibility of Pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium) as a New Crop for North Carolina
Jeanine M. Davis, NCSU Horticultural Science

Investigations into the Feasibility of Pyrethrum as a New Industrial Crop for N.C.
Jeanine M. Davis, NCSU Horticultural Science

Web Resources:

East Africa Pyrethrum Institute (EAPI)

Pyrethrum Board of Kenya

Growing Pyrethrum in Kenya

World Pyrethrum Forum

Chapter 9: Crop Plants and Exotic Plants: Pyrethrum
USDA, Insect Pollination Of Cultivated Crop Plants

by Antonia Glynne
Pesticide Outlook, October 2001



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