Medicinal plants represent a valuable commodity due to the beneficial effects of their natural products on human health, prompting a need for finding a way to optimize/increase their production. In this study, a novel growing media with various perlite particle sizes and its mixture with peat moss was tested for hydroponic-based production of Echinacea purpurea medicinal plant under greenhouse conditions. The plant growth parameters such as plant height, total fresh leave weight, fresh root weight, total biomass, total chlorophyll, leaf area, and essential oil compositions were assessed.
Perlite particle size in the growing media was varied from very coarse (more than 2 mm) to very fine (less than 0.5 mm), and the ratio between perlite and peat moss varied from 50:50 v/v to 30:70 v/v. In addition, two nitrate (NO3−) to ammonium (NH4+) ratios (90:10 and 70:30) were tested for each growing media. The medium containing very fine-grade perlite and 50:50 v/v perlite to peat moss ratio was found to be most optimal and beneficial for E. purpurea performance, resulting in maximal plant height, fresh and dry weight, leaf surface area, and chlorophyll content. It was also found that an increase in NO3−/NH4+ ratio caused a significant increase in plant growth parameters and increase the plant essential oil content.
The major terpene hydrocarbons found in the extract of E. purpurea with the best growth parameters were germacrene D (51%), myrcene (15%), α-pinene (12%), β-caryophyllene (11%), and 1-Pentadecene (4.4%), respectively. The percentages of these terpene hydrocarbons were increased by increasing of NO3−/NH4+ ratio. It can be concluded that decreasing the perlite particle size and increasing the NO3−/NH4+ ratio increased the plant growth parameters and essential oil compositions in E. purpurea.
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Ahmadi, Fatemeh & Samadi, Abbas & Sepehr, Ebrahim & Rahimi, Amir & Shabala, Sergey. (2021). Optimizing hydroponic culture media and NO3−/NH4+ ratio for improving essential oil compositions of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea L.). Scientific Reports. 11. 8009. 10.1038/s41598-021-87391-9.