The second scientific session of the International Artichoke Symposium, held in the Spanish municipality of Orihuela, has served to show that the healthy properties of artichokes can be improved through irrigation, or the use of elicitors.
The symposium, which has brought together more than 120 researchers from 10 countries, is the world's most important scientific event on artichoke cultivation and is held every three years.
One of the research projects presented in this second day, carried out by the Post-Harvest group of the Miguel Hernández University, has determined that the use of traditional irrigation, known in the area of the Vega Baja as flood irrigation, leads to a 15% increase in the amount of bioactive compounds in artichokes, compared to plants that have undergone localized irrigation.
One of the people behind this study, Professor Pedro J. Zapata, has pointed out that this increase in properties is due to the fact that in crops where flood irrigation has been used, the plant has been subjected to different types of water stress (from asphyxia in the beginning to water deficit at the end), and these conditions have had a direct impact on the presence of phenols, compounds that stand out for their antioxidant properties and for having a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases.
Zapata says that of all the vegetables that are part of the Mediterranean Diet, "artichokes are among the ones with the greatest phenolic content, and it has been shown that the presence of this healthy component is even greater if the crop is irrigated with the traditional system."
Another of the studies presented in the framework of the International Artichoke Symposium is also related to health issues. It focuses on the work with elicitors and their antioxidant capacity.
With this project, it has been found that when elicitors (biostimulants of natural origin) are applied during the production process, there is an improvement in the plant's antioxidant systems, and this is eventually transferred to the edible part of the artichoke.
One of the elicitors applied is methyl salicylate, which is a derivative of salicylic acid (a compound that plants produce by themselves). The artichokes harvested after this process have more antioxidant compounds, which helps improve the plant's shelf life, slowing down the quality loss. It also increases the health properties that are directly related to the antioxidant content.
The study was launched in 2016 by the Post-Harvest group of fruits and vegetables of the UMH in a commercial farm of the company Olé. At present, it is in its last phase and very close to its technological transfer.