Field and laboratory experiments were conducted at two sites in Nova Scotia during 2001 and 2002 to assess the potential to grow fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) as an essential oil crop in the Maritime region of Canada. Three cultivars—`Shumen', `Berfena', and `Sweet Fennel'—and two seeding dates—24 May and 8 June—were evaluated. Essential oil yields and composition were determined and compared to commercially available fennel essential oil from the U.S. The highest herbage yields were produced by `Shumen' from the earlier seeding date. Essential oil content and yields were lowest in `Sweet Fennel' and highest in `Shumen'. The major component of the essential oil was anethole, 47% to 80.2%. Other major components of the essential oil were methyl chavicol, fenchone, α-phellandrene, α-pinene, ortho cymene, β-phellandrene, fenchyl acetate, β-pinene, and apiole. The essential oil composition was unique to each cultivar. The highest methyl chavicol content was in `Shumen', while the highest concentration of phellandrene, fenchyl acetate and apiole were detected in `Sweet Fennel' oil. Fenchone, ortho cymene, β-pinene, α-phellandrene, and α-pinene were the highest in `Berfena'. The composition of the oil was similar to the commercially purchased oil and met industry requirements of oil composition. The results suggest there is potential to grow fennel as an essential oil crop in Nova Scotia.
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