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Evaluating water stress tolerant basil cultivars

Drought is one of the major yield constraints of crop productivity for many crops. In addition, nowadays, climate change creates new challenges for crop adaptation in stress conditions. Scientists at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) have investigated the effect of water stress on five cultivars of basil and whether water use efficiency (WUE) can be increased by using the appropriate cultivar.

Among twenty basil cultivars, five different basil cultivars were used differing in earliness and essential oil content. The cultivars were Cinnamon (early vigorous plant with distinctive cinnamon scent), Mrs Burns Lemon (early, vigorous plant with distinctive lemon scent), Sweet (medium maturity, new hybrid of Genovese type cultivar, more pointed leaf, vigorous with good uniformity, slow to flower, and has broad-spectrum tolerance to Fusarium wilt.), Thai (late, mild anise or liquorice flavour, with attractive purple stems and dark green leaves tinged purple), and Red Rubin (late, a good red for cut leaf or pot production).

"We have assessed the effect of water stress on five different basil cultivars, and we have found that water affects the fresh and dry weight and also the partitioning of dry matter to leaves, flowers, and stems. Basil does not seem very sensitive to water stress, and a reduction of water by 60% compared with the full irrigation was not great for significantly affecting the dry weight as it was lower by 34% compared with the full irrigation - the scientists say.

"Furthermore, some cultivars, like Mrs Burns, were not affected by the limited amount of water and continued to show high dry weight accumulation and also high essential oil yield. These cultivars can be used in water stressed environments and help to conserve our water resources, and also can be used by the farmers for higher yield under water limited environments. Ultimately, a significant increase in WUE can be achieved by the selection of appropriate cultivars and water management systems and can be used to conserve water resources."

Source: Iakovos Kalamartzis, Christos Dordas, Pantazis Georgiou, George Menexes, 'The Use of Appropriate Cultivar of Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Can Increase Water Use Efficiency under Water Stress', 2020, Agronomy, Vol. 10(1), 70.

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