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Irradiated chitosan (ICH): an alternative tool to increase essential oil content in lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus)

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Irradiated chitosan boosts a myriad of physiological processes, including photosynthetic efficiencies, gas-exchange, N-metabolism, osmoprotection, antioxidant metabolism, and EO biosynthesis in lemongrass and thus could be an alternative for crop enhancement.


Chitosan is a poly-(d)-glucosamine that has multiple biomedical, horticultural, or agricultural applications. However, the modifications of its physicochemical properties such as size, density, or surface area by controlled irradiation have started to be explored by biotechnological companies as it seems to improve its beneficial properties and extend its applications. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus (Steud.) Wats) is an aromatic plant widely grown for its essential oil (EO). The present study had the goal to evaluate if the exogenous foliar application of irradiated chitosan (ICH) at different concentrations (0, 40, 80, 120, and 160 mg L−1) can exert beneficial effects in the 150-day-old lemongrass plants. The analyses of growth and photosynthetic parameters, leaf-nitrogen, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) metabolism, as well as the content of total EO including neral and citral, indicated that 120 mg L−1 ICH concentration was most efficient to trigger a general activation of lemongrass metabolism characterised by an increase in dry biomass (37%), enzymatic antioxidant system, e.g., catalase (22%), peroxidase (18%) and superoxide dismutase activities (19%), and content of EO (40%) including neral (72%) and citral (26%), over the control. A similar eliciting pattern was observed in the chlorophyll content (25%), net photosynthetic rate (41%), and stomatal conductance (39%) over the control, with the foliar application of 120 mg L−1 of ICH. Overall, the data indicate that ICH elicits lemongrass physiology and opens new possibilities for its biotechnological application on other plant species with agronomic potential.

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The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the present study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Authors are thankful to the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Lucknow, India, for providing plant material; Marine Hydrocolloids, Kerala, India for providing chitosan; Dr Hassan Jaleel (AMU, India) for SEM and EDX analyses; Advanced Instrumentation Research Facility, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India for GC-MS analysis of essential oils. MM is also thankful for Estación Experimental del Zaidín (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), Granada, Spain, for his stay during the preparation of this manuscript.


Research of MM and MMAK was supported by the Council of Science and Technology Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, India [Grant: Role of Radiation-Processed Chitosan and Silicon Nanoparticles in Regulation of Geraniol Dehydrogenase for Citral Production of Lemongrass]. The research of FJC is supported by European Regional Development Fund, co-financed grant from the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (PID2019-103924GB-I00), the Plan Andaluz de Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación (PAIDI 2020) (P18-FR-1359), and Junta de Andalucía (group BIO192), Spain.

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Correspondence to Mohammad Mukarram.

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Communicated by A. Krolicka.

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Mukarram, M., Khan, M.M.A., Uddin, M. et al. Irradiated chitosan (ICH): an alternative tool to increase essential oil content in lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus). Acta Physiol Plant 44, 2 (2022).

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