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Nixwell Mudau, Puffy Soundy and Elsa du Toit

Bush tea (Athrixia phylicoides) belongs to the Asteraceae family. It is a popular beverage, commonly used as an herbal tea and for medicinal purposes. In some parts of South Africa, people consume or drink it as an aphrodisiac. Bush tea was grown under varying nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) levels in the four seasons to determine the seasonal nutrient requirements for improved quality. Treatment consisted of 0, 100, 200, 300, 400, or 500 kg·ha–1 N, P, or K in a randomized complete-block design under 50% shade nets. Three N, P, and K parallel trials were conducted per season (autumn, winter, spring, and summer). Total polyphenols were extracted using Folin-Ciaocalteau reagents and analyzed in a spectrophotometer. Results for the N trial suggested that total polyphenols increased quadratically in response to N nutrition during summer, winter, and spring, but not in autumn. The optimum N level was 300 kg·ha–1. The highest total polyphenol was 51.1 mg·g–1 in winter. For the P trial, total polyphenols also increased quadratically in response to P nutrition regardless of season. Again winter had the highest total polyphenols (46.8 mg·g–1). The optimum P level was 300 kg·ha–1. In the K trial, regardless of season, total polyphenols plateaued at 200 kg·ha–1 and the highest polyphenols were in winter (43.3 mg·g–1). Therefore, for improved total polyphenol content, 300 kg·ha–1 N and P and 200 kg·ha–1 K are recommended regardless of season.

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Puffy Soundy, Winnie Mpati and Elsadu Toit

Fever tea (Lippiajavanica) is one of the important medicinal plants belonging to the Verbenaceae family. The first objective of this investigation was to study the propagation of fever tea using stem cuttings. The main variables studied were cutting position, rooting media and rooting hormone. The germination requirement of fever tea seed is also not known. Therefore, the second objective was to investigate the ideal seed germination temperature and light combinations. Germination was tested at constant temperature regimes (15, 20, 25 and 30 °C) with a continuous light or dark period and at alternate temperatures of 20/30 °C and 16/8 hour (light/dark) combinations, respectively. For the stem cutting investigation, sampling was done every 5, 10, 15, and 20 days from plant establishment. Apical cuttings took less time to root than basal cuttings regardless of growing medium. Response of cuttings to rooting hormone was growing medium-related. With rooting hormone, it took 10 days to root most of the apical cuttings, whereas basal cuttings showed more roots in 15 to 20 days after plant establishment. Cuttings in sand took 5 days longer to root than in pine bark, regardless of rooting hormone. Therefore, for quicker establishment of fever tea stem cuttings, rooting hormone and pine bark should be used for propagation of both apical and basal cuttings. In the germination investigation, it was found that fever tea seeds are positively photoblastic. Regardless of temperature, seeds failed to germinate in continuous darkness. The germination percentage was improved at continuous or alternating temperatures above 20 °C with continuous light. However, the germination percentage decreased with alternating light and dark treatments.

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Bahlebi K. Eiasu, Puffy Soundy and J. Martin Steyn

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.

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Fhatuwani N. Mudau, Puffy Soundy and Elsa S. du Toit

Bush tea (Athrixia phylicoides L.) contains high concentrations of polyphenols that are the primary indicator of antioxidant potential in herbal teas. The objective of this study was to determine the seasonal effect of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) nutrition on total polyphenol content in bush tea leaves. Treatments consisted of 0, 100, 200, 300, 400 or 500 kg·ha−1 of N, P, or K in a randomized complete block design under 50% shade nets. Three (N, P, and K) parallel trials were conducted per season (autumn, winter, spring, and summer). Total polyphenols were determined using Folin-Ciocalteau reagents and analyzed in a spectrophotometer. The results of this study demonstrated that, regardless of season, application of nitrogenous, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizers increased quadratically the total polyphenols in bush tea, with most of the increase occurring between 0 and 300 kg·ha−1 N, 300 kg·ha−1 P, and 200 kg·ha−1 K. Linear relationships between percentage leaf tissue N, P, and K with total polyphenols in bush tea were also observed. Therefore, for improved total polyphenol content in bush tea leaves, 300 kg·ha−1 N, 300 kg·ha−1 P, and 200 K kg·ha−1 N is recommended.

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Fhatuwani N. Mudau, Puffy Soundy and Elsa S. du Toit

The objective of this investigation was to determine the effects of simultaneous applications of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) nutrition on growth and chemical analysis of bush tea (Athrixia phylicoides). Four consecutive trials were conducted at Morgenzon (Louis Trichardt, Limpopo Province, South Africa), a commercial nursery, one at each season (autumn, winter, spring, and summer) under 50% shade. Treatments comprised three levels of N (300, 350, 400 kg·ha−1), three levels of P (250, 300, 350 kg·ha−1), and three levels K (150, 200, 250 kg·ha−1). The experimental design was a 3 × 3 × 3 factorial experiment arranged in a randomized complete-block design with four replications. Parameters recorded were plant height, number of branches and leaves, fresh and dry stem weight, fresh and dry root weight, stem girth, fresh and dry shoot weight, leaf area, and percent concentration of leaf and root tissue N, P, K, and total polyphenol concentrations as influenced by season in a shaded nursery environment. Treatment combinations of N and P at rates of 300 kg·ha−1 and K at 200 kg·ha−1 increased fresh and dry shoot weight, number of leaves, leaf area, and concentration of total polyphenols. Other treatments did not consistently affect concentrations of leaf N, P, or K during the study period, although the treatment that received combinations of N and P at rates of 300 kg·ha−1 and K at 200 kg·ha−1 always had the highest concentrations of leaf N, P, and K and lowest root N, P, and K concentrations. No differences in plant height, number of branches, number of flower buds (autumn and winter), stem girth, fresh and dry root weight, and fresh and dry stem weight due to treatment combinations were observed.

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Ambani R. Mudau, Puffy Soundy and Fhatuwani N. Mudau

Manipulation of microenvironments by means of photoselective nettings is widely used to improve the productivity and quality of high-value vegetables. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of photoselective nettings on growth, productivity, and postharvest quality attributes of baby spinach. Baby spinach cv. Ohio was grown from seeds, and the trial was repeated. Plants were planted in an open field (control) and under closed nets, viz., black, pearl, yellow, and red nets. At harvest, baby spinach leaves were subjected to 4, 10, and 20 °C storage temperatures for 12 days. Crops grown under black nets and stored at 4 °C retained higher level of antioxidant activity (0.23 g·kg−1), whereas the least level of antioxidant activity was observed in baby spinach grown under red and yellow shade nets (0.01 g·kg−1). Similar trend was evident with flavonoid content where baby spinach leaves grown under black nets maintained high level of flavonoids at 4, 10, and 20 °C during storage period compared with other shade nets and the control. The study control showed a better potential in retaining antioxidant activity over red and yellow shade nets. Results showed that black shade nettings have the potential to reduce water loss, decay incidents, and maintain flavonoid content and antioxidant activity followed by pearl and yellow nets.

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Nixwell F. Mudau, Puffy Soundy and Elsa S. du Toit

Bush tea (Athrixia phylicoides) belongs to the Asteraceae family. It is a popular beverage used as an herbal tea and as medicine for cleansing or purifying the blood, treating boils, headaches, infested wounds, and cuts, and the solutions may also be used as a foam bath. In some parts of South Africa, people drink bush tea for aphrodisiac reasons. Bush tea was grown under varying N, P, and K levels in all four seasons to determine the seasonal nutrient requirements for improved plant growth. Three parallel trials for N, P, or K one at each season were laid out in a randomized complete block design (RCBD) with six treatments replicated eight times. Treatments consisted of 0, 100, 200, 300, 400, or 500 kg·ha–1 N, P, or K. Parameters recorded were plant height, number of branches and leaves, fresh and dry stem mass, fresh and dry root mass, stem girth, fresh and dry shoot mass, leaf area and percentage leaf and root tissue N, P, and K. Results of this study demonstrated that, in all trials regardless of season, N, P, or K nutrition increased bush tea fresh and dry shoot mass, plant height, number of leaves, number of branches and leaf area. Regardless of season, the optimum level of N, P and K fertilization for bush tea on growth parameters was 300 kg·ha-1 N or P and 200 kg·ha-1 for K. No significant differences in number of flowers and buds (fall and winter), stem girth, fresh and dry root mass as well as fresh and dry stem mass were obtained.

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Puffy Soundy, Daniel J. Cantliffe and George J. Hochmuth

Phosphorus applied at frequent rates via the flotation irrigation system affected growth of both roots and shoots of lettuce transplants grown with a flotation irrigation system. After an initial P addition of 15 mg·L–1, further P additions up to 90 mg·L–1 P resulted in a minimal growth response. Transplants produced with 0 P had similar poor growth, regardless of the amount of N applied. Nitrogen at 100 mg·L–1 improved the response of shoot growth to any level of P, but adversely affected root growth compared to N at 60 mg·L–1. Quality transplants had a root to shoot ratio of ≈0.25, total root lengths between 276 and 306 cm, and total root area between 26 and 30 cm2 in a 10.9-cm3 cell volume. Only 30% of the plants produced with 0 P could be pulled from the transplant flats, compared to ≈90% pulling success with added P. All pretransplant P treatments had a similar effect of increasing head mass at harvest time, and in reducing time to maturity regardless of production season. At transplanting, plants produced with transplant P were larger than those produced with no transplant P. Thus, at least 15 mg·L–1, supplied every 2 days via flotation irrigation, is recommended for production of high quality lettuce transplants in a peat+vermiculite media containing low concentrations of water extractable P.

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Elsa S. Du Toit, Ilona Von Maltzahn and Puffy Soundy

Hypoxis hemerocallidea (African potato) is in high demand as a medicinal plant and therefore it is becoming scarce in its natural habitat. Thus, the objective of this study was to investigate the effect of cultivation practices on the active ingredients of the corm over a 12-month period. Different TLC (Thin Layer Chromatography) methods were also investigated when separating the different compounds. Plants were grown under a tunnel in plastic bags containing bark or sand growing media. The planted corms were treated with different fertigation frequencies and harvesting took place during four seasons. The harvested material was sliced, freeze-dried, and ground into a fine powder. Different solvents, namely methanol, acetone, and chloroform (chosen for their polarity) were used to extract the compounds from the ground material. The extracted residues were redissolved and spotted as thin streaks onto TLC plates. The TLC plates were then developed in different solvents and sprayed with different chemicals to bring out the different compounds found in the plant extract. Results on the TLC plates indicated that the amount of residue extracted with different solvents were significantly different. Therefore, TLC methods need to be considered when separating the different compounds. The growing media affected the amount of compounds produced from the corms during the 12-month period. The harvest season also played a role in the amount of active ingredients produced during the year. Therefore, cultivation practices influence the occurrence of active ingredients of H. hemerocallidea.

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Salfina S. Mampa, Martin M. Maboko, Puffy Soundy and Dharini Sivakumar

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris), commonly known as table beet, is used as a staple in the diet of many people through the consumption of the entire plant, leaf, and the root. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of nitrogen (N) application and leaf harvest percentage on the yield and quality of roots and leaves of beetroot. The treatment design was a randomized complete block design with five levels of N (0, 60, 90, 120, and 150 kg·ha−1) combined with three leaf harvest percentages (0, 30, and 50) and replicated three times. The first leaf harvest was initiated 35 days after transplanting (DAT) by removing the outer matured leaves and the second harvest occurred 80 DAT by removing all the leaves. The results showed increases in leaf and root yield with an increase in N application. Nitrogen application at 90 and 120 kg·ha−1 increased fresh leaf weight, leaf number, and fresh and dry root weight, including root diameter and length with the exception of leaf area which was significantly higher at 120 kg·ha−1 N. Magnesium and iron leaf content, and N root content were significantly improved by the application of 120 kg·ha−1 N. Leaf harvest percentage did not have a significant effect on leaf yield or leaf and root mineral content. However, dry root weight was significantly reduced by the 50% leaf harvest. Leaf harvest at 30% or 50% increased total protein content of the roots of beetroot, whereas an increase in N application decreased concentration of total proteins. Results demonstrate that leaf and root yield, as well as magnesium, zinc, and iron leaf content, increased with the application of 120 kg·ha−1 N, whereas 30% leaf harvest did not negatively affect root yield.