8. An ecological approach to medicinal plant introduction.
Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants, 3, 1992, pp. 175-199
The purpose of this review is to emphasize the ecological aspects related to the introduction and domestication of medicinal plants.
Medicinal and aromatic plant introduction began centuries ago and continues today. As the search for new plant-derived products continues, the need for the introduction and cultivation of an increasing number of these species will remain an integral process in the final processing, utilization, and availability. Approximately 50 species have been introduced and are maintained in large-scale cultivation in the temperate zone. The traditional medicinal and aromatic plant-producing appear to be making special efforts to collect and preserve wild plants and to introduce some of the economically significant species into cultivation.
The structure of medicinal plant production, however, has been undergoing substantial change during the past few years. Most apparent is the limitation in the availability of gathered plant drugs, and to some extent, a reassessment of the role of large- versus small-scale production systems. There also appears to be a trend to introduce medicinal and aromatic plants into the less favorable agricultural regions of many countries so as to develop the agricultural base of these areas by providing cash crops or export crops.
Programs such as this type have been established in Italy, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia, and in Czechoslovakia and Poland. In Greece, a country of varied physiographic conditions, 3 centers of aromatic plants have been established with the goal of producing Ocimum basilicum L. (basil), Lavandula spp. (lavender), Melissa spp. (balm), and Mentha spp. (mint).
The introduction of medicinal plants to cultivation is also increasing outside of Europe. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are producing plants of the genera Rauvolfia and Zingiber (ginger) and others. New Guinea is investigating potential cultivation of Elettaria cardamomum L. Maton (cardamom) and Capsicum frutescens L. (tabasco), and Indonesia is beginning to produce Syzgium aromaticum (L.) Merrill & L.M. Perry (cloves), Myristica fragrans Houtt. (nutmeg), and Curcuma domestica Val.
Once the basic biological requirements of a species are understood, the agronomist, agricultural engineer, horticulturist, and plant breeder must develop the planting, machinery,and agricultural techniques that will ensure successful plant introduction from both a horticultural and economical aspect. Manageable production procedures involve plant selection and breeding, propagation, cropping systems, pest control, harvest and postharvest handling, and processing. The developing and testing of productive systems of introduced medicinal crops require the growing of the plants under environmental conditions that will simulate the field ecology. Generally, plants are first grown in small field plots and/or within the controlled environments of greenhouses or climatic chambers to establish ecological models. Production is increased as various cultivated systems prove successful in promoting economically viable crop growth, development, and product synthesis.
The introduction of medicinal plants into cultivation will probably remain a high priority and play an increasingly significant role in the quest for homogeneous, high-quality natural plant products for use in the preparation of medicines.
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Review, crops, humid tropics, arid regions, nuts, cashew, macadamia, kola nut, dika nut, njansan, mongongo nut, ye-eb
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