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Noelle J. Fuller, Ronald B. Pegg, James Affolter, and David Berle

The use of medicinal plants in the United States is increasing. Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum L. and Ocimum gratissimum L.), a medicinal herb native to India, has become increasingly popular for its therapeutic benefits. Traditionally, holy basil has been used to promote longevity by reducing stress and restoring balance to the body. Because it is easy to grow and adapts to a wide range of growing conditions, there is great potential for holy basil production in the southeastern United States. The purpose of this study was to evaluate holy basil varieties for harvestable weight and essential oil content. Fourteen varieties of holy basil were grown during the 2015 and 2016 seasons and compared. The main active compound in the holy basil essential oil fraction, eugenol, was quantitated and compared for each variety, because it is believed to be responsible for many of the health-promoting effects. Overall, there were significant differences in harvestable weights and essential oil yields among the varieties, and a significant effect of growing season. The eugenol content was highly variable among the varieties examined, with higher eugenol contents in 2016 than in 2015. The variety that had the overall highest yield, essential oil content, and eugenol concentration was PI 288779, a USDA accession, suggesting its use in future breeding research.

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Yi Gong, Ronald B. Pegg, Adrian L. Kerrihard, Brad E. Lewis, and Richard J. Heerema

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is a tree nut native to North America. Although inhibited light exposure (most specifically as a result of overlapping tree canopies) has been shown to impair yield, the effect of this factor on nut antioxidant properties remains unknown. This study investigated effects of mechanical pruning and canopy height position of fruit on pecan kernel antioxidant contents and capacity. Beginning in 2006, trees in a ‘Western’ pecan orchard in New Mexico were subjected to three mechanical pruning frequency treatments (annual, biennial, and triennial) paralleling conventional practices, while other trees were maintained as unpruned controls. During the 2012 to 2014 seasons, pecans were sampled at fruit maturity from three canopy height zones (“low,” “middle,” and “high,” corresponding to 1.5 to 3.0 m, 3.0 to 4.5 m, and 4.5 to 6.0 m above the orchard floor). In vitro phenolics contents and antioxidant capacities of the nutmeats were evaluated by total phenolics content (TPC) and oxygen radical absorbance capacity (H-ORACFL), respectively. Soluble ester- and glycoside-bound phenolics were quantified by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). For both TPC and H-ORACFL, results determined pruned samples had significantly higher values than unpruned samples (P < 0.001 for both comparisons), and that samples of “high” canopy height were significantly greater than those of “middle” height, which were in turn greater than those of “low” height (P < 0.001 for all comparisons). HPLC findings showed that in all three phenolic fractions (free, esterified, and glycoside-bound phenolics), nuts acquired from pruned trees had substantially greater concentrations of ellagic acid and its derivatives. Our findings indicate mechanical pruning of pecan trees and higher tree canopy position of fruit increase nut antioxidant properties.