Optimum Stand Density for Maximum Essential Oil Yield in Commercial Fennel Crops

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  • 1 School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 54, Hobart Tasmania 7001 Australia

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) is grown commercially in Tasmania for the production of a steam-distilled essential oil, which is high in trans-anethole. Often, only the generative canopy is harvested since this contains the bulk of the oil and further this oil is higher in anethole than oil from other parts of the plant. Regardless of whether the whole crop is forage harvested or the generative canopy alone is removed using a combine-harvester, the most efficient oil production occurs when the greatest proportion of the canopy is generative, giving maximum oil yield from a minimum of fresh weight to be processed. A trial was conducted to examine the relationship between stand density and the various yield components of fennel in order to predict the likely effect on yield of increasing stem density as the short term perennial crop matures. As for most crops, planting density and biomass yield are closely related and the optimum planting density was predicted using a mathematical model. The results suggest that an initial stand density of 10 to 12 plants/m2, in a square layout, would produce the greatest yield of essential oil per unit area by maximising the production of the generative canopy. This density also maximises the yield of oil relative to the weight of material to be distilled.

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