Yield, Quality and Water Consumption of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni Grown under Different Irrigation Regimes in Southern Italy
AbstractStevia rebaudiana Bertoni is a herbaceous perennial plant originating in the north-east of Paraguay. Its leaves contain low-calorie sweetening agents that can be used as a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. The leaves are consumed in special human diets and for the treatment of various diseases. The aim of the present work is to study water consumption, yield potential and quality characteristics of this species under different irrigation levels in southern Italy. The field work was carried out in 2006-2007. Irrigation treatments consisted of a control (T100), irrigated with 100% restitution of water consumption and two treatments that received a water depth of 33% (T33) and 66% (T66) of treatment T100. Watering volume was estimated to replenish the soil profile to field capacity for a depth of 0.40 m. The crop was harvested twice a year, and agronomic performance as well as the major cation and glycoside contents (stevioside and rebaudioside A) were evaluated. Overall, the crop coefficients were similar between the two years, although in each year the second growing period showed higher values due to the higher evaporative demand of this period. Interactions of years with irrigation treatments and harvest time were not significant either for yield or yield components. In both cuts the T100 treatments achieved 40% higher leaf dry yield than T33, while T66 showed intermediate values. The harvest index and water use efficiency showed no differences between the two cuts for the same treatments, while the values of both indices decreased with the increase in irrigation regime. Stevioside, rebaudioside A and cation content in the leaves were unaffected by irrigation regime. In order to develop the field cultivation of this species, field experiments are required to prepare a cultivation protocol as well as a genetic improvement program to develop varieties that better respond to the local environment.
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Copyright (c) 2008 Antonella Lavini, Maria Riccardi, Cataldo Pulvento, Sergio De Luca, Michela Scamosci, Riccardo d’Andria
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