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  • Author or Editor: Wansang Lim* x
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The Catskill Mountains of New York are an important source of wild-collected American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium), and increasingly, of woods-cultivated ginseng. The objective of this study was to assess genetic diversity among eight different wild ginseng populations from the Catskill Mountains and to compare Catskill populations to five wild populations from other states including Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and one cultivated population from Wisconsin. Randomly amplified polymorphic DNA markers were used to estimate the genetic difference among the 14 populations using PCR amplified nuclear DNA. Fifteen random primers were selected from a total of 64 random decamer primers by screening bulked DNA samples from the eight Catskill populations. These 15 primers were then used to compare 10 plants each from the eight Catskill populations and three to four plants each from the non-Catskill populations. The 15 primers produced 124 polymorphic bands. The genetic distance within and among populations was estimated using the ratio of discordant bands to total bands. Multidimensional scaling of the relation matrix showed separation of Catskill and non-Catskill population clusters. Significant differences between these groups was confirmed using pooled chi-square tests for fragment homogeneity. Although the eight Catskill populations differed from the non Catskill populations, there were no significant differences among the Catskill populations. This study shows that presence and absence of bands can be used as population specific markers for American ginseng. Although these results do not rule out the possibility that there may be some level of genetic differences among Catskill populations, 10 plants per population was not sufficient to establish such differences.

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We determined the effect of moderate water stress on the growth of american ginseng (Panax quinquefolium), and on concentrations of six major ginsenosides (Rg1, Re, Rb1, Rc, Rb2, and Rd). Two-year-old “rootlets” (dormant rhizome and storage root) were cultivated in pots, in a cool greenhouse (18.3 ± 2 °C). Pots were watered either every 5 days (control) or every 10 days (stress), repeatedly for 8 days. Soil volumetric water content was measured during the last 10 days of the experiment for both treatments. Leaf water potential, measured on the last day of the experiment, was -0.43 MPa for the control and -0.83 MPa for the stress treatment. Drought stress did not affect above-ground shoot or root dry weight. Initial rootlet fresh weight (covariate) had a significant effect on the concentration of ginsenosides Re, Rb1, Rc, and Rb2. Drought stress increased the concentration of ginsenosides Re, Rb1, and total ginsenoside concentration.

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Woods cultivation of North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium L.) can generate income for forest land owners and decrease collection pressure on wild populations of this increasingly scarce forest herb. For woods cultivation, supplemental calcium by soil application of gypsum (CaSO4 2H2 O) is often recommended, but the effects of this practice on soil characteristics, plant growth and quality of American ginseng are not well characterized. In a greenhouse pot culture experiment, 3-year-old seedlings were treated with 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 Mt/ha gypsum and grown for 12 weeks. Gypsum application decreased soil pH slightly and elevated soil electrical conductivity and available soil calcium. Tissue levels of calcium were not affected by gypsum treatment but a significant increase in both shoot and root dry weight occurred. Total ginsenosides, which are the pharmacologically active components of ginseng, were increased slightly in roots but not in shoots of plants treated with 4 Mt/ha gypsum. Rb1, the most abundant ginsenoside in roots, was elevated in roots of plants treated with 3 Mt/ha gypsum. Ginsenoside Rg1 was elevated in shoots of plants treated with 2 Mt/ha gypsum. Regardless of gypsum treatment, qualitative differences (relative concentrations of different ginsenosides) between roots and shoots were observed.

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