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Management perspectives aimed at maximizing the production of secondary metabolites from medicinal plants in agroforestry systems


Cultivation in agroforestry system represents an alternative for agroecological production for plants with economic potential, such as medicinal plants. The productive efficiency of this system requires adequate and efficient management strategies for the different intercropped species. The present study aimed to evaluate shoot biomass and production of secondary metabolites (essential oil and flavonoids) in different harvest periods (6, 12 and 18 months) from three medicinal species of economic interest, Mikania laevigata, Varronia curassavica, and Fridericia chica, organically fertilized (organic compost and vermicompost) and grown in agroforestry system with different plant density (spacing). The association of medicinal species with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi was also evaluated and the chemical soil properties were analyzed before and after fertilization. The experiment was conducted according to the randomized block design, with four blocks and plots subdivided over time, considering the three harvest periods (6, 12 and 18 months). The cultivation of M. laevigata, V. curassavica and F. chica intercropped with Hevea brasiliensis and Theobroma cacao produced enough leaf biomass for the productive viability of medicinal plants in agroforestry systems. Fertilization with vermicompost is the most indicated for dry shoot biomass production, while for higher content of essential oil and flavonoids in the leaves of medicinal plants, the use of organic compost is more indicated. Regarding the harvest period, Varronia curassavica showed the highest dry shoot biomass and essential oil yield at 18 months, while for Mikania laevigata and Fridericia chica, highest production occurred at 12 months. The agroforestry system with lower density of cocoa trees enabled greater dry biomass production from the three medicinal plants and higher yield of essential oil from M. laevigata and V. curassavica. In order to obtain higher contents of flavonoids in F. chica, cultivation in agroforestry system with higher density of cocoa trees is recommended. The cultivation of these three medicinal plants in AFS is a viable alternative for the production of secondary metabolites of pharmaceutical interest.

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The authors would like to thank the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes)—Financing Code 001 for the granting of scholarships, the Graduate Program in Plant Production, to the Executive Committee of the Cocoa Crop Plan (CEPLAC) for the institutional support and facilities in carrying out this work and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for financing the research project.

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Correspondence to Viviane Maria Barazetti.

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Appendix A

Schematic drawing of the experimental area with medicinal species grown in agroforestry system, fertilized with organic compost (CP) and vermicompost (VR) and non-fertilized plants (CC), Ilhéus-BA, 2018. B1, B2, B3 and B4 represent the blocks (replicates).

figure a

Appendix B

Chemical soil characteristics before experiment implantation.

Block pH c P K Ca2+ Mg2+ Al3+ H + Al SOB* CEC V P-Rem OM Cu Mn Fe Zn
  (H2O)   mg dm−3 cmolcdm−3 % mg L−1 % mg dm−3
1 5.89   8.6 32 8.2 4.38 0 4.5 12,71 17.21 73.9 13.2 4.39 1.2 146.7 33.9 3.53
2 5.27   9.4 56 5.32 4.03 0 5.8 9,49 15.29 62.1 13.5 3.77 2.78 320.3 42.7 8.58
3 5.53   8.2 40 7.99 4.05 0 4.7 12,14 16.84 72.1 18.2 3.77 1.8 202.7 23.2 9.43
4 5.17   15.7 72 8.21 5.7 0 5.5 14,09 19.59 71.9 14.9 4.08 3.01 170.3 35 4
  1. *SOB = sum of exchangeable bases; CEC = cation exchange capacity; V = base saturation.

Appendix C

Principal components (PCs) obtained and their respective percentages of explained variances. Components above the red line have eigenvalue greater than one.

figure b

Appendix D

Weighting coefficient for each variable: a. First principal component (PC1); B. Second principal component (PC2); C. Third principal component (PC3); D. Fourth principal component (PC4). Variables above the red line have eigenvalue > 0.7.

figure c

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Barazetti, V.M., Lima, T.M., Sodré, G.A. et al. Management perspectives aimed at maximizing the production of secondary metabolites from medicinal plants in agroforestry systems. Agroforest Syst 96, 681–695 (2022).

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  • Mikania laevigata
  • Varronia curassavica
  • Fridericia chica
  • Flavonoids
  • Essential oil content
  • Bioeconomy
  • Spacing
  • Organic fertilization