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In vitro propagation of Agathosma betulina an indigenous plant of economic importance
Agathosma betulina (Berg.) Pillans, previously known as Barosma betulina, is a member of the Rutaceae family, and indigenous to the fynbos botanical biome of the Western Cape of South Africa. It is commonly known as buchu. Extracts as well as powdered leaves have traditionally been used for the treatment of various ailments. The increase in the international demand for A. betulina for health as well as food and beverage benefits, have raised concerns over exploitation of wild populations and the lack of horticultural information necessitates this study to evaluate the propagation of this economical important species. The main objective of this study was to establish a simple and highly productive micropropagation protocol for A. betulina through experimenting with nodal explants. Testing of the effect of various treatments (physical scarification, chemical scarification, GA, stratification, smoke and combinations thereof) on the in vitro germination of A. betulina seeds was done to elucidate the factors which control seed germination. The study revealed that the physical scarification and smoke-induced germination had a significant effect on germination percentages. In terms of germination rate, the radical generally started to appear after approximately 10 days in the physical scarification with smoke treatment. Initial decontamination methods with the exposure of various concentrations of NaOCl gave fatal results, however 1.5% NaOCl had more phenolic reactions rather than fungal or bacterial contamination. Interestingly, contamination rates of explants were influenced by the stage of maturity of the explant material. This plant material was used to test different strengths of regeneration media, to ensure that the explants receive ample nutrients. Results made exhibited that ½ MS was the best strength for growing A. betulina nodal explants. Compared comparison between in vitro derived explants and ex vitro collected explants showed that the ex vitro derived explants had significant results, but the explants lost vigour soon after the initial exponential growth leading to the explants dying off. Furthermore, ex vitro decontaminated plant material was not economically viable to continue with. Seedlings derived from germinated seeds appeared to be the preferred method of propagation as this spent the least time in culture and produced a stable plant with an established root system, which is essential during the hardening off process after in vitro growth. When exposing nodal explants to phytohormone 2,4-D it responds best to dosages 0.5mg Lˉ¹ and 1mg Lˉ¹. Phytohormone BA was very effective in producing soft friable callus. The best results were shown when 0.5mg Lˉ¹ BA was applied to ½ MS media. For both shoot length and multiple shoot production, a combination of phytohormones BA-NAA (1: 0.5mgLˉ¹) had the most significant results. Interestingly, a higher phytohormone concentration of NAA is necessary to develop multiple adventitious roots. The effect of 3mg Lˉ¹ was significant in that it resulted in multiple adventitious roots, but fewer calli was observed in this treatment. Micropropagation becomes valuable as little attention between subcultures is needed; making it less labour intensive compared to conventional nursery propagation systems where weeding watering and spraying of plants are labour intensive. In the traditional world of medicine, more so in Southern Africa, extracts are prepared by adding boiling water to the plant material; however commercial ethanol is used as an extractant. Establishment of the essential oil quality of the in vitro cultures post exposure to various treatments was done. Analysis of essential oils from A. betulina resulted in the identification of twenty one compounds. The results showed qualitative as well as quantitative differences amongst the samples used in the study. The highest relative concentration of limonene was observed in the callus of nodal explants after it was exposed to 0.5mg lˉ¹ NAA. No pulegone was found in this treatment making it ideal for limonene production. This suggests that liquid culture with the same treatment may produce more calli making it ideal for the production of limonene.
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