Basils (Ocimum species) of the mint family Lamiaceae are well known for their multiple uses as culinary, aromatic, and medicinal plants worldwide. Basils are integral components of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine and are also widely used for treating diabetes and cancers. Basil has a limited acceptance as a culinary herb in the United States. The potential exists for development of culinary, medicinal, aromatic, and ornamental basil cultivars for production in the southeastern United States. In a preliminary field trial, 84 accessions belonging to six species of the genus Ocimum were evaluated for agronomic parameters in single-row plots. Wide variations exist between and within species for all agronomic traits studied. The mean percent emergence between species ranged from 60.0% for O. americanum var. americanum to 100.0% for an unknown species from Italy and O. campechianum. The aboveground fresh biomass per plant ranged from 424.0 g for O. sellol to 1450.3 g for the unknown Italian accession. The unknown Italian accession produced more branches per plant and also had the highest root, leaf, stem, and inflorescence fresh and dry weights among species. Ocimumsellol plants emerged late, had a slower rate of emergence, and produced a lower total biomass than other species. Ocimumgratissimum partitioned a greater proportion of the total dry weight to leaves (37.9%) and roots (14.4%), whereas O. basilicum.O americanum var. americanum, and O. campechianum partitioned a greater amount of dry matter to inflorescence and the least to roots than other species. In this presentation, the agronomic traits and basil cultivars with potential for ornamental and medicinal purposes will be discussed.
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