Special Issue "Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in Agricultural Research When considering Criteria of Multifunctionality and Sustainability"

A special issue of Agriculture (ISSN 2077-0472). This special issue belongs to the section "Crop Production".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 10 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Mario Licata
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural, Food and Forest Sciences, Università degli Studi di Palermo, 90128 Palermo, Italy
Interests: agronomy and crop sciences; constructed wetlands; wastewater reuse in agriculture; phytoremediation of polluted water and soil; industrial crops for energy use; aromatic and medicinal plants; turfgrass for sport fields; green roof ecosystem functioning
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Antonella Maria Maggio
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biological, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies, Università degli Studi di Palermo, 90128 Palermo, Italy
Interests: natural compounds; organic chemistry; secondary metabolites from Mediterranean plants; volatile component
Dr. Salvatore La Bella
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural, Food and Forest Sciences, Università degli Studi di Palermo, 90128 Palermo, Italy
Interests: agronomy and crop sciences; aromatic and medicinal plants; constructed wetlands; wastewater reuse in agriculture; turfgrass; green roofs; industrial crops
Dr. Teresa Tuttolomondo
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural, Food and Forest Sciences, Università degli Studi di Palermo, 90128 Palermo, Italy
Interests: agronomy and crop sciences; aromatic and medicinal plants; constructed wetlands; wastewater reuse in agriculture; turfgrass; green roofs; industrial crops

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Over the last twenty years, agriculture has witnessed significant changes in terms of energy requirements, advanced technologies, and practices. This is in response to the impacts of crop production on the climate and environment and increasing awareness of the importance of agricultural sustainability through organic farming. Agriculture encompasses complex production systems, and certain aspects of multifunctionality and sustainability have become fundamental for these systems. Agricultural activity can provide various functions in agro-ecosystems, such as producing food, managing natural resources, and conserving landscape and plant biodiversity, contributing to the cultural, historical and economic viability of rural areas. Agriculture must now adopt scientific innovations in order to produce food which takes into consideration not only human wellbeing and the environment but also the requirements of farmers. Aromatic and medicinal plants (MAPs), as open field crops, can play an important role in multifunctional and sustainable agriculture, due to low energy requirements for cultivation and their many uses, from the production of nutraceuticals, phytonutrients, and phytotherapy to land valorization. Various MAPs are used in the food sector to flavor foods or prolong shelf-life, while others are used in modern and traditional medicine in the production of phytocomplexes for human health and well-being. The cultivation of MAPs, when based on an integrated and sustainable approach, can contribute to the conservation and increase of biodiversity in agro-ecosystems, as well as to the recovery of degraded and marginal lands. This Special Issue of Agriculture on “Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in Agricultural Research when Considering Multifunctionality and Sustainability Criteria” aims to illustrate the role of MAPs in agriculture under low-impact farming practices and the benefits they can generate in terms of functional products. This Special Issue accepts contributions that cover all research aspects related to MAPs, and a number of scientific macro-areas can also be included, such as agronomy, chemistry and pharmacy, ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology, food and nutrition, and ecology.

Original research and review papers are welcome. Papers chosen for publication will be selected by a rigorous peer-review procedure with the aim of rapid dissemination of the research results.

Key topics in this Special Issue include but are not limited to the following:

  • Sustainable agricultural practices of MAPs;
  • Breeding and germplasm preservation of MAPs;
  • Biodiversity of MAPs;
  • Conservation of cultivated and wild MAPs;
  • Ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology;
  • Phytotherapy, phytochemistry, and phytopharmacology;
  • Essential oils and secondary metabolites;
  • Functional foods and MAPs;
  • MAPs and degraded and marginal land recovery;
  • Global marketing of MAPs;
  • Legislation of MAPs.

Dr. Mario Licata
Dr. Antonella Maria Maggio
Prof. Salvatore La Bella
Prof. Teresa Tuttolomondo
Guest Editors

 

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Agriculture is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Agricultural techniques
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation
  • Essential oils
  • Ethnobotany and ethopharmacology
  • Functional foods
  • Legislation and market
  • Natural products
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Phytochemicals
  • Phytotherapy
 

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Jump to: Review

Article
Pre-Germination Treatments, Temperature, and Light Conditions Improved Seed Germination of Passiflora incarnata L.
Agriculture 2021, 11(10), 937; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11100937 - 28 Sep 2021
Viewed by 407
Abstract
Perennial medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) may represent interesting, environmentally friendly crops for the Mediterranean environments. Among MAPs, Passiflora incarnata L. (maypop) represents a very promising crop for its wide adaptability to diverse climatic conditions, low input requirements, and high added-value due to [...] Read more.
Perennial medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) may represent interesting, environmentally friendly crops for the Mediterranean environments. Among MAPs, Passiflora incarnata L. (maypop) represents a very promising crop for its wide adaptability to diverse climatic conditions, low input requirements, and high added-value due to its unique medicinal properties. The main problem in P. incarnata large-scale cultivation is the poor seed quality with erratic and low seed germination, due to its apparent pronounced seed dormancy. Therefore, the aim of this work was to investigate different chemical and physical treatments for overpassing seed dormancy and enhancing seed germination rates of P. incarnata. The effects of (i) different pre-germination treatments (pre-chilling, gibberellic acid—GA3, leaching, scarification, non-treated control), (ii) light or darkness exposure, and (iii) temperature conditions (25, 30, and 35 °C constant and 20–30 °C alternating temperatures) have been examined in seed germination percentage and mean germination time of three P. incarnata accessions (F2016, FF2016, and A2016) grown in field conditions in Central Italy. Data showed that the pre-germination treatments generally stimulated faster germination compared to the control, with the best results obtained in the dark and with high temperatures. These findings are useful for the choice of the most suitable seed pre-germination treatment that can facilitate stable, high and agronomically acceptable germination rates in P. incarnata. Full article
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Article
Cultivating for the Industry: Cropping Experiences with Hypericum perforatum L. in a Mediterranean Environment
Agriculture 2021, 11(5), 446; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11050446 - 15 May 2021
Viewed by 613
Abstract
Hypericum perforatum is an intensively studied medicinal plant, and much experimental activity has been addressed to evaluate its bio-agronomical and phytochemical features as far. In most cases, plant material used for experimental purposes is obtained from wild populations or, alternatively, from individuals grown [...] Read more.
Hypericum perforatum is an intensively studied medicinal plant, and much experimental activity has been addressed to evaluate its bio-agronomical and phytochemical features as far. In most cases, plant material used for experimental purposes is obtained from wild populations or, alternatively, from individuals grown in vases and/or pots. When Hypericum is addressed to industrial purposes, the most convenient option for achieving satisfactory amounts of plant biomass is field cultivation. Pot cultivation and open field condition, however, are likely to induce different responses on plant’s metabolism, and the obtained yield and composition are not necessarily the same. To compare these management techniques, a 4-year cultivation trial (2013–2016) was performed, using three Hypericum biotypes obtained from different areas in Italy: PFR-TN, from Trento province, Trentino; PFR-SI, from Siena, Tuscany; PFR-AG, from Agrigento province, Sicily. Both managements gave scarce biomass and flower yields at the first year, whereas higher yields were measured at the second year (in open field), and at the third year (in pots). Plant ageing induced significant differences in phytochemical composition, and the total amount of phenolic substances was much higher in 2015 than in 2014. A different performance of genotypes was observed; the local genotype was generally more suitable for field cultivation, whereas the two non-native biotypes performed better in pots. Phytochemical profile of in-pots plants was not always reflecting the actual situation of open field. Consequently, when cultivation is intended for industrial purposes, accurate quality checks of the harvested material are advised. Full article
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Article
Four-Year Study on the Bio-Agronomic Response of Biotypes of Capparis spinosa L. on the Island of Linosa (Italy)
Agriculture 2021, 11(4), 327; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11040327 - 07 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 641
Abstract
The caper plant is widespread in Sicily (Italy) both wild in natural habitats and as specialized crops, showing considerable morphological variation. However, although contributing to a thriving market, innovation in caper cropping is low. The aim of the study was to evaluate agronomic [...] Read more.
The caper plant is widespread in Sicily (Italy) both wild in natural habitats and as specialized crops, showing considerable morphological variation. However, although contributing to a thriving market, innovation in caper cropping is low. The aim of the study was to evaluate agronomic and production behavior of some biotypes of Capparis spinosa L. subsp. rupestris, identified on the Island of Linosa (Italy) for growing purposes. Two years and seven biotypes of the species were tested in a randomized complete block design. The main morphological and production parameters were determined. Phenological stages were also observed. Analysis of variance showed high variability between the biotypes. Principal component analysis and cluster analysis highlighted a clear distinction between biotypes based on biometric and production characteristics. Production data collected in the two-year period 2007–2008 showed the greatest production levels in the third year following planting in 2005. In particular, biotype SCP1 had the highest average value (975.47 g) of flower bud consistency. Our results permitted the identification of biotypes of interest for the introduction into new caper fields. Further research is needed in order to characterize caper biotypes in terms of the chemical composition of the flower buds and fruits. Full article
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Article
Flavouring Extra-Virgin Olive Oil with Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Essential Oils Stabilizes Oleic Acid Composition during Photo-Oxidative Stress
Agriculture 2021, 11(3), 266; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11030266 - 20 Mar 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 813
Abstract
Essential oils (EOs) from medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) are well-known as natural antioxidants. Their addition to extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) can contribute to reducing fat oxidation. The main aim of this study was to improve both food shelf-life and aromatic flavour of [...] Read more.
Essential oils (EOs) from medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) are well-known as natural antioxidants. Their addition to extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) can contribute to reducing fat oxidation. The main aim of this study was to improve both food shelf-life and aromatic flavour of EVOO, adding different EOs of Sicilian accessions of common sage, oregano, rosemary and thyme. The morphological and production characteristics of 40 accessions of MAPs were preliminarily assessed. EOs from the most promising accessions of MAPs were analysed by gas-chromatography and mass spectrometry. Photo-oxidative studies of the EOs were carried out and the determination of the EVOO fatty acids obtained from 4 Italian olive varieties was also made. EO content was on average 1.45% (v/w) for common sage, 3.97% for oregano, 1.42% for rosemary and 5.90% for thyme accessions. The highest average EO yield was found in thyme (172.70 kg ha−1) whilst the lowest (9.30 kg ha−1) in rosemary accessions. The chemical composition of EOs was very different in the four MAPs in the study. No significant change of oleic acid percentage was detected in the mixture of EVOO with EO samples. The results seem to highlight the presence of an antioxidant effect of EOs on EVOO. Full article
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Article
Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) as a Multifunctional and Sustainable Crop for the Mediterranean Climate
Agriculture 2021, 11(2), 123; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11020123 - 04 Feb 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1065
Abstract
Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) is a promising medicinal and aromatic plant for Mediterranean agroecosystems given its positive agronomic attributes and interesting quality features. It has both food and pharmaceutical applications, since its leaves contain sweet-tasting steviol glycosides (SVglys) and bioactive compounds, such as phenolics, [...] Read more.
Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) is a promising medicinal and aromatic plant for Mediterranean agroecosystems given its positive agronomic attributes and interesting quality features. It has both food and pharmaceutical applications, since its leaves contain sweet-tasting steviol glycosides (SVglys) and bioactive compounds, such as phenolics, flavonoids, and vitamins. We evaluated the agronomic and qualitative performances of nine stevia genotypes cultivated, in open field conditions, for two consecutive years under the Mediterranean climate of central Italy. Growth, biomass production, and accumulation of bioactive compounds (SVglys, polyphenols, and their related antioxidant activities) were evaluated, considering the effect of harvest time and crop age (first and second year of cultivation). The results showed high variability among genotypes in terms of both morpho-productive and phytochemical characteristics. In general, greater leaf dry yields, polyphenol accumulation, and antioxidant activities were found in the second year of cultivation, harvesting the plants in full vegetative growth. On the other hand, total SVglys leaf content reached the highest values in the first year when plants were at the beginning of the reproductive phase. On the other hand, although the SVglys profile (Rubusoside, Dulcoside A, Stevioside, Rebaudioside A, C, D, E, and M) remained stable over harvest times, it differed significantly depending on the crop age and genotype. Our findings provide useful information on the influence of crop age and harvest time in defining quanti-qualitative traits in stevia, with PL, SL, BR5, and SW30 being the best performing genotypes and thus suitable for breeding programs. Our study highlighted that stevia, in the tested environment, represents a promising semi-perennial crop which offers new solutions in terms of cropping system diversification and marketing opportunities. Full article
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Article
Antiarthritic Potential of Calotropis procera Leaf Fractions in FCA-Induced Arthritic Rats: Involvement of Cellular Inflammatory Mediators and Other Biomarkers
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 68; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11010068 - 15 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 731
Abstract
Calotropis procera (commonly known as Swallow wort) is described in the Ayurvedic literature for the treatment of inflammation and arthritic disorders. Therefore, in the present work, the antiarthritic activity of potential fractions of Swallow wort leaf was evaluated and compared with standards (indomethacin [...] Read more.
Calotropis procera (commonly known as Swallow wort) is described in the Ayurvedic literature for the treatment of inflammation and arthritic disorders. Therefore, in the present work, the antiarthritic activity of potential fractions of Swallow wort leaf was evaluated and compared with standards (indomethacin and ibuprofen). This study was designed in Wistar rats for the investigation of antiarthritic activity and acute toxicity of Swallow wort. Arthritis was induced in Wistar rats by injecting 0.1 mL of Freund’s complete adjuvant (FCA) on the 1st and 7th days subcutaneously into the subplantar region of the left hind paw. Evaluation of our experimental findings suggested that antiarthritic activity of methanol fraction of Swallow wort (MFCP) was greater than ethyl acetate fraction of Swallow wort (EAFCP), equal to standard ibuprofen, and slightly lower than standard indomethacin. MFCP significantly reduced paw edema on the 17th, 21st, 24th, and 28th days. It also showed significant effect (p < 0.01) on arthritic score, paw withdrawal latency, and body weight. The inhibition of serum lysosomal enzymes and proinflammatory cytokines along with improvement of radiographic features of hind legs was also recorded with MFCP. Finally, it was concluded that MFCP can be a feasible therapeutic candidate for the treatment of inflammatory arthritis. Full article
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Article
Effects of Irrigation, Peat-Alternative Substrate and Plant Habitus on the Morphological and Production Characteristics of Sicilian Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) Biotypes Grown in Pot
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 13; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11010013 - 28 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 808
Abstract
Irrigation and growing substrate are considered as essential cultivation practices in order to obtain good productive and qualitative performance of potted rosemary plants. In pot growing, the chemical, physical and biological characteristics of the substrate must be stable over time in order to [...] Read more.
Irrigation and growing substrate are considered as essential cultivation practices in order to obtain good productive and qualitative performance of potted rosemary plants. In pot growing, the chemical, physical and biological characteristics of the substrate must be stable over time in order to allow regular plant growth. However, the effects of cultivation techniques on the characteristics of potted rosemary are little known. Peat is traditionally used as the organic growing medium; however, despite numerous advantages, its use has determined a degradation of peatlands in the northern hemisphere and an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The aim of the present study was to assess the effects of irrigation and peat-alternative substrates on the morphological, aesthetic and production characteristics of potted Sicilian rosemary biotypes with different habitus types. Two years, two different irrigation levels, three peat-alternative substrates and three types of rosemary plant habitus were tested in a split-split-split-plot design for a four-factor experiment. The results highlight that irrigation and substrate determined significant differences for all tested parameters. Rosemary plants demonstrated the best performances when irrigation was more frequent; vice versa, the greatest percent content in essential oil was obtained when irrigation events were less frequent. The chemical–physical characteristics of peat-alternative substrates changed with decreases in the peat content and increases in the compost content. The erect habitus biotype showed the best adaptation capacity to the various treatments. Our results suggest that irrigation and peat-alternative substrates significantly affect the growth of rosemary plants and should, therefore, be taken into consideration in order to improve the cultivation of this species in pots for ornamental purposes. Full article
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Article
Environmental Effects on Yield and Composition of Essential Oil in Wild Populations of Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia Medik.)
Agriculture 2020, 10(12), 626; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture10120626 - 12 Dec 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1134
Abstract
Spike lavender, Lavandula latifolia Medik., is a species of economic importance for its essential oil (EO). The purpose of this study was to estimate the effect of the variable climate and fixed factors such as soil and geographic location on EO yield and [...] Read more.
Spike lavender, Lavandula latifolia Medik., is a species of economic importance for its essential oil (EO). The purpose of this study was to estimate the effect of the variable climate and fixed factors such as soil and geographic location on EO yield and quality. The study material was collected in 34 populations from four different Spanish bioregions for three years. The EO extraction from spike lavender leaves and flowers was done with simple hydrodistillation, in Clevenger. Soil samples were also collected. Climate data were provided by the State Meteorological Agency. The EO average yield was obtained for the bioregion mean and in each bioregion. The higher EO yield is related clearly to the climate condition. A greater amount of annual rainfall produced a higher EO yield in the four bioregions and of better quality. Soils richer in organic matter and minerals produced higher EO yield but with less quality. The altitude had little effect on EO yield. Higher altitude favored obtaining higher EO quality. At lower latitude, further south, the populations obtained a higher EO yield. The evaluation of the environmental effect on the EO yield and quality could allow better natural conservation and more accurate selection of the best populations for breeding and spike lavender cultivation protocols. Full article
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Article
Design and Implementation of a Smart System to Control Aromatic Herb Dehydration Process
Agriculture 2020, 10(8), 332; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture10080332 - 05 Aug 2020
Viewed by 796
Abstract
Drying is a process aimed at reducing the water content in plant materials below a limit where the activity of microbes and decomposing enzymes deteriorate the quality of medicinal and aromatic plants. Today, the interest of consumers towards medicinal and aromatic herbs has [...] Read more.
Drying is a process aimed at reducing the water content in plant materials below a limit where the activity of microbes and decomposing enzymes deteriorate the quality of medicinal and aromatic plants. Today, the interest of consumers towards medicinal and aromatic herbs has registered a growing trend. This study aims at designing a low-cost real-time monitoring and control system for the drying process of aromatic herbs and evaluating drying efficacy on the microbial community associated with the studied herbs. Hot-air drying tests of sage and laurel leaves were carried out in a dryer desiccator cabinet at 40 °C and 25% relative humidity using three biomass densities (3, 4 and 5 kg/m2). The prototype of the smart system is based on an Arduino Mega 2560 board, to which nine Siemens 7MH5102-1PD00 load cells and a DHT22 temperature and humidity sensor were added. The data acquired by the sensors were transmitted through Wi-Fi to a ThingSpeak account in order to monitor the drying process in real time. The variation in the moisture content of the product and the drying rate were obtained. The system provided a valid support decision during the drying process, allowing for the precise monitoring of the evolution of the biomass moisture loss and drying rate for laurel and sage. The three different biomass densities employed did not provide significant differences in the drying process for sage. Statistically significant differences among the three tests were found for laurel in the final part of the process. The microbial loads of the aromatic herbs after drying were influenced by the different leaf structures of the species; in particular, with laurel leaves, microbial survival increased with increasing biomass density. Finally, with the drying method adopted, the two species under consideration showed a different microbial stability and, consequently, had a different shelf life, longer for sage than laurel, as also confirmed by water activity (aw) values. Full article
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Review

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Review
Hops (Humulus lupulus L.) as a Novel Multipurpose Crop for the Mediterranean Region of Europe: Challenges and Opportunities of Their Cultivation
Agriculture 2021, 11(6), 484; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11060484 - 24 May 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1135
Abstract
The common hop (Humulus lupulus L.) is a dioecious perennial climbing plant, mainly known for the use of its female inflorescences (cones or, simply, “hops”) in the brewing industry. However, the very first interest towards hops was due to its medicinal properties. [...] Read more.
The common hop (Humulus lupulus L.) is a dioecious perennial climbing plant, mainly known for the use of its female inflorescences (cones or, simply, “hops”) in the brewing industry. However, the very first interest towards hops was due to its medicinal properties. Actually, the variety of compounds present in almost all plant parts were (and still are) used to treat or prevent several ailments and metabolic disorders, from insomnia to menopausal symptoms as well as obesity and even cancer. Although hops are predominantly grown for hopping beer, the increasing interest in natural medicine is widening new interesting perspectives for this crop. Moreover, the recent success of the craft beer sector all over the world, made the cultivated hop come out from its traditional growing areas. Particularly, in Europe this resulted in a movement towards southern countries such as Italy, which added itself to the already existing hop industry in Portugal and Spain. In these relatively new environments, a complete knowledge and expertise of hop growing practices is lacking. Overall, while many studies were conducted globally on phytochemistry, bioactivity, and the genetics of hops, results from public research activity on basic hop agronomy are very few and discontinuous as well. The objective of this article is to provide an overview of possible uses, phenology, and agronomic aspects of hops, with specific reference to the difficulties and opportunities this crop is experiencing in the new growing areas, under both conventional and organic farming. The present review aims to fill a void still existing for this topic in the literature and to give directions for farmers that want to face the cultivation of such a challenging crop. Full article
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Hop (Humulus Lupulus L.) as a Novel Multipurpose Crop for the Mediterranean Region of Europe: Challenges and Opportunities of its Cultivation

Abstract: The common hop (Humulus lupulus L.) is a dioecious perennial climbing plant, mainly known for the use of its female inflorescences (cones or, simply, “hops”) in the brewing industry. However, the very first interest towards hops was due to its medicinal properties. Actually, the variety of compounds present in almost all plant parts were (and still are) used to treat or prevent several ailments and metabolic disorders, from insomnia to menopausal symptoms as well as obesity and even cancer. Although hop is predominantly grown for hopping beer, the increasing interest in natural medicine is widening new interesting perspectives for this crop. Moreover, the recent success of craft beer sector all over the world, made the cultivated hop coming out from its traditional growing areas. Particularly, in Europe this resulted in a movement towards southern countries such as Italy, which added itself to the already existing hop industry in Portugal and Spain. In these relatively new environments, a complete knowledge and expertise of hop growing practices is lacking. Overall, while many studies were conducted globally on phytochemistry, bioactivity and genetics of hop, results from public research activity on basic hop agronomy are very few and discontinuous as well. The objective of this article is to provide an overview of possible uses, phenology and agronomic aspects of hop, with specific reference to the difficulties and opportunities this crop is experiencing in the new growing areas, both under conventional and organic farming. The review aims to fill a void still existing for this topic in the literature and to give directions for farmers that want to face the cultivation of such a challenging crop.

Pre-germination Treatments, Temperature and Light Conditions Improved Seed Germination of Passiflora Incarnata L.

Abstract: Among the conservation agriculture practices, the introduction of perennials in crop rotation systems has been proposed as a viable opportunity to improve their long-term sustainability and productivity. In this context, perennial medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) may represent interesting environmentally friendly crops for the Mediterranean environments. Among MAPs, Passiflora incarnata L. (maypop) represents a very promising crop for its wide adaptability to diverse climatic conditions, low input requirements and high value and demand due to its unique medicinal properties. In Italy, P. incarnata is grown mostly in the central regions, where it behaves as perennial spring-summer crop with a stand duration of 5-7 years. The main problem in maypop large-scale cultivation is the poor seed quality with erratic and low seed germination, due to its apparent pronounced seed dormancy. Therefore, the aim of this work was to investigate different chemical and physical treatments for overpassing seed dormancy and enhancing seed germination rates of P. incarnata. The experiments were carried out at the Seed Research and Testing Laboratory of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the University of Pisa. The responses of the seed lots of three P. incarnata accessions grown in 2016 in Central Italy (F2016, FF2016, and A2016) to different treatments (pre-chilling, GA3, leaching, scarification, non-treated control), different light (L) or darkness (D) exposure and temperature conditions (25, 30, 35°C constant temperatures and 20-30°C alternating temperatures) have been examined. Data showed significant interaction between complete light/dark exposition and temperatures, underlying that the light exposition had an inhibitory effect on the germination of P. incarnata seeds. The time required for germination decreased progressively with increasing temperatures, but only under dark conditions. Among the pre-treatments tested, pre-chilling, GA3 and leaching enhanced germination, while under scarification, the dead seeds percentage considerably increased in all accessions, due to embryo damaging. A significant interaction between pre-chilling and temperatures has been observed with significantly higher germination values and lower mean germination times (MGTs) than control. In conclusion, this study underlined that dark and suitable thermal conditions are necessary for high and rapid germination of P. incarnata seeds. These findings are useful for the choice of the most suitable seed pre-treatments to improve P. incarnata seed germination, in order to reach stable, high and agronomically acceptable germination rates.

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