Potential Implications of Medicinal Plant Production in Controlled Environments: The case of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

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  • 1 The University of Arizona, Yuma Agricultural Center, Yuma, AZ 85364-9623
  • | 2 Clemson University,. Coastal Research and Education Center, Charleston, SC 29414-5332
  • | 3 Clemson University, Department of Horticulture, Clemson, SC 29634-037
  • | 4 Clemson University, Department of Packaging Sciences, Clemson, SC 29634-0375
  • | 5 Clemson University, Department of Plant Pathology and Physiology, Clemson, SC 29634-0375

The purpose of this review is to promote a discussion about the potential implications of herb production in controlled environments, focusing on our recent works conducted with feverfew. Research suggests that the content of secondary metabolites in medicinal plants fluctuates with changing environmental conditions. Our studies with feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium [L.] Schultz-Bip., Asteraceae) lend support to this hypothesis. Feverfew plants exposed to different water and light conditions immediately before harvest exhibited changes in content of some secondary metabolites. The highest yield of parthenolide (PRT) was in plants that received reduced-water regimes. Phenolics concentration however, was higher in plants receiving daily watering. Light immediately before harvest enhanced accumulation of PRT, but reduced the phenolic content. Notably, PRT decreased at night whereas total phenolics decreased during the photoperiod and increased at night. PRT also increased with increased plant spacing. UV light supplementation increased PRT only in plants that had undergone water stress, whereas phenolics increased when UV was applied to continuosly watered plants. Clearly, production of medicinal plants under greenhouse conditions is a promising method for controlling levels of phytochemicals through manipulation of light and water as discussed here, and possibly other environmental factors such as temperature and daylength. However, better understanding of how the environment alter secondary metabolite levels is needed as it was revealed that manipulating the environment to favor increased accumulation of one group of phytochemicals could result in a decline of other key metabolites.

Contributor Notes

Corresponding author; e-mail jfonseca@ag.arizona.edu.
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