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The potential ability in terms of biomass, achenes, oil and energy yield of two Cynara cardunculus L. genotypes (one cultivated cardoon and one wild cardoon) was evaluated along a 7-year experiment. It was carried out in a marginal farmland of Southern Italy, with low soil fertility and minimal external inputs. Under these conditions, they reached an annual harvestable biomass ranging from 0.74 (wild cardoon) to 1.46 kg m−2 (cultivated cardoon) and an energy yield ranging from 13.8 to 27.5 kJ m−2. The lower heating value of biomass (including achenes) was on average 18.2 kJ kg−1, while the oil yield from achenes varied between 25.1 and 25.7 g 100 g−1 of dry matter. The cultivated cardoon was able to produce high yields until the fifth season and therefore is prone for medium long-time cropping systems. Conversely, wild cardoon showed a most stable yield pattern and plant survival over seasons, suggesting its particular suitability for perennial cropping systems in Mediterranean marginal areas.
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