Rose-scented geranium oil is extracted from the shoots (mostly the leaves) of the Pelargonium spp. through steam- or hydro-distillation. To extract less than 0.2% oil, farmers must transport and distil bulky herbage. This makes geranium oil production costly, and high time- and energy-consuming process. To investigate the effect of different paclobutrazol (PBZ) concentrations (0, 100, 200, 300 mg/L of water) on vegetative growth, and oil yield and composition of rose-scented geranium, three pot experiments were conducted. The experiments were conducted in a glasshouse of the University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa (located at 25°45′S and 28°16′E, an altitude of 520 m above sea level), between Oct. 2011 and May 2013. The treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design (RCBD) in four replications. The PBZ was sprayed on the plants at 1 month of regrowth stage. Chlorophyll content increased with concentration of PBZ. The reduction of plant height in all PBZ-treated plants was significant, ranged between 18% and 33%. Plant canopy also reduced by 5% to 23%, and the differences were more noticeable in the plants grown between January and May (summer/autumn season), producing compact plants. Leaf area and internode length reduced as PBZ concentration increased. Paclobutrazol had no significant effect on leaf number, and essential oil yield and composition. This implies that, through applying PBZ, compacted (less bulky) rose-scented geranium could be produced without significant change in essential oil yield per plant and essential oil composition.
Pineapple (Ananas comusus) production generates hard currency and, as a labor-intensive industry, it creates jobs. The profitability of pineapple farming in South Africa faces several challenges, including low yield potential and cadmium (Cd) contamination of soils, which damaged the reputation of the industry. To increase the income of pineapple farmers, research was conducted to evaluate the utilization of pineapple crop residue for oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) production and to establish the Cd levels in the mushrooms produced on Cd-contaminated pineapple crop residue. Treatments were maize residue (M), pineapple residue (P), and a mixture of maize and pineapple residues [at 1:1 ratio (on a dry weight basis), M + P]. Biological efficiencies of 90%, 77.6%, and 29% were recorded for the M + P, P, and M treatments, respectively. The P and M + P substrates significantly increased mushroom yield. Mushroom protein contents were 23.3%, 18.86%, and 18.81% (on a dry weight basis) in the M + P, P, and M treatments, respectively. Mushrooms in the P substrate had the highest Cd level (3.3 mg/kg). In the M + P substrate, Cd reduced to a safe level (0.15 mg/kg). This indicates that mushrooms have biosorption capacity, and could be used to solve the problem of Cd pollution and increase the income of pineapple production.
Pot experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of irrigation frequency and withholding irrigation during the week before harvesting on rose-scented geranium herbage yield and essential oil yield and composition. A factorial experiment with three irrigation frequencies (twice a day, once a day, and every second day) and two growth media (silica sand and sandy clay soil) were conducted in a tunnel. One week before harvest, irrigation was withheld for half of the pots in each treatment combination. In a glasshouse, sandy clay soil was used as growing medium, and five irrigation frequencies (everyday, everyday with 1-week irrigation withholding period, every second day, every third day, and every fourth day irrigation to pot capacity) were applied as treatments. Results showed that essential oil content (percent oil on fresh herbage weight basis) increased as the irrigation frequency decreased. Both herbage yield and essential oil yield positively responded to frequent irrigation. Thus, higher herbage and essential oil yields were obtained from the highest irrigation frequency. A 1-week stress period significantly increased total essential oil yield as well as oil content per fresh herbage weight. The results highlighted that conditions of high soil water availability followed by brief water stress just before harvesting would maximize rose-scented geranium essential oil yield. Citronellol and citronellyl formate tended to increase with an increase in the stress level, but the reverse was true for geraniol and geranyl formate. Other major essential oil components were unaffected by water stress.
Knowledge of essential oil content and composition of leaves of different ages could be used as a guide for the right herbage harvesting stage in rose-scented geranium. Change in essential oil yield and composition with leaf age in rose-scented geranium was investigated in a glasshouse of the University of Fort Hare, during the 2012 and 2014 crop seasons. The topmost five pair of leaves on shoots were separately harvested as treatments. Leaf fresh and dry mass were significantly lower in the topmost and the oldest leaf pair. Essential oil in the topmost pair was colorless; but with advance in leaf age, the oil tended to have a blue-green color. Oil content (on a dry mass basis) from the topmost to the bottom most were about 7.0%, 4.9%, 3.2%, 2.4%, and 1.9%, respectively. Oil yield was consistently the highest in the second youngest pair of leaves, and it progressively declined with leaf age. Contributions of the five leaf pairs from the topmost to the bottom most, in respective order, to the total yield were 19.3%, 22.0%, 17.71%, 12.03%, and 8.5%. The citronellol:geraniol ratio was lower in the young leaves than in the old leaves. Linalool and geranyl formate concentrations were the highest in the youngest leaves, and the opposite was true of isomenthone. The current results indicate shorter regrowth cycles would increase essential oil yield and quality of rose-scented geranium, provided an efficient harvesting technique was innovated.