Artemisia annua L.: agro-techniques for semi-arid environments

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Marcello Scarcella *
Francesco Grassi
Marcello Mastrorilli
(*) Corresponding Author:
Marcello Scarcella | marcello.mastrorilli@entecra.it

Abstract

Artemisia annua L. is an aromatic annual plant native in Asia, probably in China, and is widespread in all temperate regions. Aerial parts contain aromatic volatile oils and non-volatile sesquiterpenes used in pharmacopoeia. The most important sesquiterpene is artemisinin and its derivatives, which are used as a remedy against malaria. In the Mediterranean region, interest in cultivating Artemisia resulted in emerging industrial activities demanding local biomass with high content of artemisinin to start new production chains. The goal of this paper was to find out appropriate agro-techniques for semi-arid climate regions to be followed by local growers in order to get convenient yield in terms of biomass and artemisinin content. The specific research objectives were to test germplasm and to develop a pilot model for A. annua, including the main agro-techniques (plant density, nitrogen supply and irrigation requirements). Results were obtained after a two-year field study carried out in an area of Salento region. The effects of the season and of the tested cultivars were not significant. The highest biomass production (36 t ha-1 of dry biomass), associated with a high percentage of artemisinin (0.97 % on dry weight), was achieved by using 7.3 plant m-2, and by supplying 60 Kg N ha-1 and 150 mm of irrigation water.

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