Effect of irrigation on the production and volatile compounds of sweet basil cultivars (Ocimum basilicum L.)
Introduction: Irrigation plays an important role in the cultivation of medicinal plants. There is a lack of information on intraspecific variability of reactions to the effect of drought. Objective: The aim of the current study was to test the effect of irrigation on four sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) cultivars (‘Genovese’, ‘Kasia’, ‘Keskenylevelű’, ‘Wala’). Methods: In an open field experiment irrigated and non-irrigated treatments were set. Plants were harvested in full flowering stage. Before the harvest, the stomatal conductance and chlorophyll content were measured. The production-related parameters were recorded. In the plant material the glandular hair density, essential oil content and composition (GC-MS) and volatile composition (SPME-GC-MS) were identified. Results: Stomatal conductance of the irrigated plants was 2.5–4.5 times higher than in the non-irrigated ones. The chlorophyll content showed only slight changes. The irrigation had a positive effect on the production. The leaf to stem ratio was not modified by the watering. Irrigation negatively influenced the glandular hair density and the EO content, however it increased the EO yield by 40–129%, depending on the cultivar. Significant compositional changes were registered only in the EO of cultivar ‘Kasia’ for linalool, 1,8-cineole and tau-cadinole ratios. Conclusion: Irrigation increases the biomass and EO yield of basil while the composition of the EO is mostly unchanged. Only slight differences were observed among the cultivars.