Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is stevia and why should I consider growing it?
Stevia is a perennial crop grown for its leaves, which contain compounds called glycosides that can be up to 300 times sweeter than sucrose. These glycosides are extracted from leaves and used as a no-calorie, natural sweetener in many commercial products. The market for stevia is rapidly expanding worldwide and companies are expanding their production areas to meet market demand. One of those areas is the southeastern US, where NC has taken the lead in addressing challenges that growers will face in producing the crop.
Where is stevia currently grown?
At present, most stevia is grown in China, with smaller production areas in South America and other Asian countries. US and North American production of stevia is small by comparison, but the climate and existing infrastructure make the southeastern US a potentially competitive and viable production area.
How do I get started growing stevia?
Currently, all stevia in NC is directly contracted with companies. US Stevia and Pure Circle are the two companies currently contracting with growers in the state, with the possibility of additional companies entering the market in NC in the future.
Can I grow stevia for personal use?
Yes. Many big-box stores sell potted stevia plants each spring and seeds are available from many outlets. Stevia grows well in many soil types and is a perennial that can be grown for many years. Following frost, plants die back to the ground each winter, but new shoots will emerge the following spring for larger and more vigorous plants than the previous season. NC is at the northern limit of overwintering temperatures that stevia can withstand, so plant death can be observed following unusually cold winters.
What equipment do I need to grow stevia commercially?
Many growers are adapting equipment from other production systems like tobacco to produce stevia crops. At present, plants can be purchased from stevia contractors, but this may change in the future. Specialized stevia transplanters and harvesters are available but may be expensive in the initial phases of production. This information can be covered more thoroughly by contacting contracting companies.
Can I use herbicides on my stevia crop?
Glyphosate may be applied at fallow intervals prior to transplanting.
Clethodim (Select Maxx) is currently labeled for use on stevia in NC.
Can I use fungicides on my stevia crop?
No. There are no fungicides labeled for use on stevia at this time.
Can stevia be certified as organic?
Yes. Organic certification for stevia works the same as other crops.
Have other questions? Contact us through the “Meet our Staff” portal page or via social media @southeaststevia.