During the last century the medicinal and aromatic plant sector has became a successful part of the Hungarian Agriculture. Some of the national products have been accepted as a special Hungarian ones ("Hungaricum"), evaluated on the world market, respectfully. By the estimates the cultivation area of medicinal and aromatic plants increased up t...o 37,000-42,000 hectares and considerable amount — about 10, 000-15, 000 tonnes of dry biomass — are produced by utilisation of Hungarian indigenous flora, year by year.
In the present work ecological requirements of 97 collected and 55 cultivated medicinal and aromatic plants are characterised. Based on the analysis of -Ts (temperature regime values) about 63 per cent of cultivated species came from Submediterranean and Mediterranean type of habitat, originally, while the majority of collected plants (61.8 per cent of them) prefer the deciduous forest conditions. The differences between collected and cultivated species are appreciable too, if the distributions of their characteristic water regime ('W' values) are compared. The majority of cultivated species require dry (moderate dry) and fresh (moderate fresh) habitats, while the amplitude of water requirement of collected species is much more wide-ranging.
The regional specialisation of Hungary according to production of medicinal and aromatic plants is known from the beginnings of the 20th century. As a result of spontaneous process seven well-defined production areas were developed. The relationship between regions, their climatic conditions and spectrum of species produced there are analysed.
The utilisation of medicinal and aromatic plants is growing continuously, which is motivated by both psychological and rational factors. Species belonging to this special group of plants were produced in the territory of Hungary many centuries back. However, the intensification of the production started in the first years of 20 th century, only..., and in spite of many political and economical contradictions the medicinal and aromatic plant sector became a successful part of Hungarian Agriculture. Some of the national products had been accepted as a special Hungarian product ("Hungaricum") evaluated as most respectful in the world market. To stabilise, even to develop the production of medicinal and aromatic plants in Hungary the understanding of the actual world situation, especially the forthcoming EU conditions, became essential. Based on the analysis of the situation market and economy of medicinal plant production, a new strategy had to be developed. The medicinal and aromatic plant sector requires a special development program, which should be supported by Hungarian authorities, focusing on the subjects, which are as follows:
- development of "quasi" EU compatible Hungarian regions specialised for medicinal plant production,
- development of biological background, technology as well as the quality assurance system of the production,
- EU compatible regulation and subvention system of the sector, including processing, production and marketing of raw and phytomed ici nes,
- development of new marketing strategy in both national and international relations.
As it well known the decrease of biodiversity is a large problem all over the world. In case of medicinal plants, where the huge majority of drugs are collected from natural ecosystems, the sustainable, utilization of the populations and reservation of their gene-pools has an increased interest.
In Hungary, the major background of 'in s...itu' reservation of medicinal plant species, their natural plant associations and ecosystems is the official protection by law. Successful examples are known for the controlled utilization of medicinal and aromatic plant species grown in protected areas. Assuring the naturally occuring high degree of biological and chemical diversity of species is a special task in this field: only maintenance of valuable intraspecific races can form the real genetic basis of natural biologically active compounds.
Maintenance of chemotaxonomical gardens and gene bank collections (seed banks, tissue banks) as 'ex situ' methods of reservation is carried out on an extended range in Hungary. As the required information on storage and maintenance of many medicinal and aromatic plant species is yet missing, exhaustive research is carried out at both genebanks in Hungary, which are specialized for medicinal plant reservation (RIMAP- Budakalász, SZIU- Budapest).
Beside the static conservation methods, 'quasi-production systems' are intended to assure an up-to-date and economically possible way of dynamic reservation with sustainable utilization.
Since the isolation of morphine by Sertümer in 1805 more than 40 alkaloids have been isolated from the poppy (Papaver somniferum L.). Some of them have high biological-pharmacological activity and economical importance, while others have none, or restricted ones. The increasing demand for poppy alkaloids is the consequence of the wide...ning of the medical application of morphine and its related compounds: the quantity of morphine used for the treatment of pain reached a record level of 17.9 tonnes in 1997, compared with an annual average of 2.2 tonnes used during the period 1978-1983. However, the production of raw material (either opium, or dried capsule is produced) has to be re-evaluated taking into consideration the UN Convention signed in 1988 against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The countries were forced by the Convention to introduce new arrangements in poppy production including selection and introduction of new cultivars.
In the present work up to date results of poppy selection are reviewed explaining the biosynthetic and eco-physiological background of their alkaloid accumulation. The effectiveness and the possibilities of traditional selection methods as well as the probability of the application of biotransformation for producing cultivars accumulating low or high alkaloid content or plant material with special alkaloid spectrum (codeine, thebaine, narcotine) are discussed. The examples of Hungarian cultivars 'Monaco', 'Kék Gemona' and 'Tebona' are given in more detail.
Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris L.), known as a remedy traditionally used as Chinese medicine, was neglected in modern pharmacy until the 20th century. Although in the Middle Ages it was respected for its wound-healing effect, the usage of this medicinal plant was confined just to the conventional pharmacy. Nowadays, because of the great...dislike of synthetic materials, however, self-heal has become one of the most important target plants again. Owing to its valuable active constituents, besides its wound-healing effect, the plant can also be used as hepato-protective, antioxidant, anti-HIV, anti-cancer remedy, and it is effective against Herpes virus, as well. Its taste — and odourless extracts are applied by the food industry as natural food preservatives. Taking into account the importance of self-heal our aim was to introduce this plant species more detailed with regard to its active agents, effects and cultivation methods.
The flowering dynamics of Ocimum basilicum L., (a common population maintained at the UHFI) was studied with the aim to create an exact and practically applicable method for definition of phenological phases.
According to our observation the development of individual flowers of the basil can be characterized by 8 distinguishabl...e phases, which must be considered for description of the actual phenological stage of a spike.
An accurate model was created for the unambiguous description of flowering process of different flowers within the spike and for the individual plant as a whole. The new flowering index formula is calculated from the number of flowers weighed by their phenological phases.
The time dependence of flowering is presented by functions fitted to values of the flowering index. The results reflected different patterns of the main inflorescence, the inflorescences formed on the side shoots in the first or in the second half of the flowering period. However, for description of the flowering process of the whole plant, a sigmoid function proved to be the appropriate model.
The accumulation process of the essential oil could be characterized by the flowering index values. They showed close correlation (r=0.964) at high probability.
The new method assures an exact definition of phenological phases in basil. Its application seems to be optimal during breeding procedures, seed production and even in production of high quality drugs, according to the requirements of the Good Agricultural Practice (Guidelines for GAP, 1998).
Matricaria recutita L. is a traditional medicinal plant in Hungary and its drug is known as „Hungaricum", world-wide. Plant samples and seeds were collected from 12 different habitats of three significant geographical regions of Hungary in 2001. Morphological, production biological and chemical properties of samples were examined. In... relation to the morphological characteristics, a negative correlation (r= -0.75) could be observed between the average height of the plants (height of flowering shoots) and the pH value of the soil. According to the composition of the essential oil, the populations accumulating typically chamasulene (10-20%), a-bisabolol (30-50%) or bisabolol-oxid (30-50%) could be completely distinguished. Concerning the flavonoid composition the quantity of apigenin-7-glucoside was outstanding in the populations originating from the Great Hungarian Plain, it has reached the concentration of 1.8-2.8 mg/g, while the samples collected in Transdanubia could be characterised by much lower level of apigenin-7-glucoside (around 1.5 mg/g).
Investigating seven Hungarian standard cultivars (i.e. 'A1’, 'Kék Gemona', '13C-2`,'Kék Duna', `Kompolti M’, `Gödi N',
'Kozmosz) it was proved that for the reliable distinction between cultivars a complex analysis is necessitated. Because of the large morphophenological and production-biological plasticity of the species qualit...ative and quantitative features as well as alkaloid accumulation characters have to be evaluated simultaneously applying discriminant analysis.
It was proved by the investigations that some of the qualitative and quantitative characters included into the DUS evaluation procedure have slight importance for reliable distinction. As an example the majority of cultivars show high inhomogentity in such characters like the shape of stigmatic disc, the number of stigmatic lobes etc. Furthermore these characters never had been chosen for the goal of any practical selection and are modified by the weather conditions as well.
In the evaluation process the alkaloid accumulation characteristics (both qualitative and quantitative ones) have to be evaluated on a higher rank. For instance the high accumulation level of morphine in cv. 'A1' (10.5 %o), exceptionally high narcotine accumulation in 'Kék Gemona' (7.8 %o), or the low morphine accumulation level in cv. 'Kozmosz' (1.1 %o) proved to be proper characters for their distinction, alone. However, at the same time the weather conditions existing at the time of experiment have to be taken into consideration. From practical point of view, the years rich in precipitation and poor in sunshine are less suitable for distinction of cultivars selected for higher alkaloid accumulation, especially for production of codeine and thebaine characterized by a higher methylation level. Based on the example of 'Kék Gemona', the accumulation level of morphine decreases from 7.4 %o to 4.1 %o under such conditions, while thebaine and codeine disappear, practically.
As a part of the research project to establish natural sources of plant pigments, possibilities of introduction of Alkanna tinctoria (alkanet) into cultivation were studied.
As a result of the germination experiment, the relevance of 21 days' duration of germination procedure was proved. To get high germination rate alkanet fru...its are proposed to pretreat by gibberellinic acid (GA3) in the concentration of 400 ppm, overnight before sowing. This method results approximately 50 % germination rate.
The morphological and production properties of alkanet roots are characterized during ontogenesis. Transplanted populations can be characterized by numerous, thick and heavy roots comparing to the spontaneous ones. Thus, seed sowing and transplantation proved to be an effective method for cultivation of the species.
According to our results it can be concluded that in cultivation the optimal harvesting time of roots is at the end of the second vegetation cycle, when the dry root mass of the individuals is about 10-20 g with 3,0-3,5 % accumulation level of active substances.
Considerable seasonal variability have been found influencing not only the root masses, but also the accumulation levels of alkannin derivatives. In a more humid vegetation cycle the root size and mass as well as the content of active substances are much higher.
Differences were demonstrated in esterasei coenzyme pattern of some essential oil producing plants belonging to the Apiaceae family — fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.), angelica (Angelica archangelica L.), lovage (Levisticum officinale Koch.), dill (Anethum graveolens L.), coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.), anise (Pimpinella anisum L.), caraw...ay (Carum carvi L.) — as well as differences between two varieties of fennel seed by using isoelectric focusing. That method provides quality control in essential oil plants and is suitable to describe isoenzyme pattern characteristic for taxons.
Based on our findings, isoelectric focusing seems to be suitable for identification and differentiation of different plant samples, providing an easy tool for further processing as well as for breeding.
Our further aim is to apply that method to differentiate among samples belonging to the same species according to their value of inner content.