About this Research Topic
Demand for plant-based health products, such as natural remedies and food supplements, has increased all over the world, attracting pharmaceutical interest in active principles derived from medicinal and aromatic plants. However, in addition to well-known species employed for industrial applications, several wild species with ethnobotanical interest that exhibit a wide range of bioactive properties remain uncharacterized.
Harvest of plant material from the wild, a main source of certain raw materials, can cause loss of biodiversity and ecosystem damage, alongside the risk of species misidentification. Moreover, such communities could be spoiled by foreign material such as weeds, soil pollutants and pathogens. Such disturbances may also interfere with post-harvest processing, and could have a detrimental effect on the quality, safety and identity/homogeneity of final products derived from such species.
Crop cultivation is a valid alternative to address both environmental and health concerns. However, field-grown crops are generally subject to year-to-year variability and cannot ensure highly standardized production to meet demand. In addition, some wild species are difficult to bring into cultivation, and specific growth protocols may still lack.
Since plant bioactive compounds are typically specialized (secondary) metabolites involved in adaptation to the environment in which they evolved, medicinal, aromatic and edible plants when cultivated commercially, may not completely retain the bioactive or aromatic profiles typical of plants grown in the native habitat. Soilless growing techniques, such as greenhouse cultivation on certain media, hydroponics and aeroponics, employ controlled environmental and nutrient conditions that promote plant uniformity. In addition, such production systems enable the manipulation of the nutrient solution that is provided to plants, which may assist to promote biosynthesis and accumulation of specialized metabolites of interest. Soilless culture could therefore be an effective means for producing root and shoot material to be extracted for specialized metabolites, such as echinacoside from Echinacea angustifolia, rosmarinic acid from Ocimum basilicum (basil), or essential oil from Achillea millefolium (yarrow). The subsequent conservation, storage and extraction of plant tissues should also be considered to ensure proper standardization and quality preservation.
This Research Topic invites submissions of Original Research, Reviews, and Methods manuscripts falling within one or more of the subjects below. Perspective and Commentary articles about existing research are also welcome.
• Soilless culture for the growth of medicinal and aromatic plants, including hydroponics, aeroponics, non-conventional growing systems under controlled greenhouse environments. Optimization of the growing conditions, through a change in the composition of the nutrient solution, fertigation doses, root microenvironment, for the development of suitable soilless growth protocols.
• Soilless growing of plant species with ethnobotanical interest that are as-yet largely uncharacterized, and evaluation of the phytochemical properties of their vegetative organs for pharmaceutical or nutraceutical applications.
• Post-harvest processing of vegetative plant tissues, including the use of innovative ‘health-friendly’ techniques (such as the use of essential oils as sanitization tools during storage) or extraction solvents (such as deep eutectic solvents), towards maintaining the desired phytochemical properties in the final products.
Please note that Original Research manuscripts with largely descriptive results are out of scope of Frontiers in Plant Science. Results that provide insights into physiological processes that address the above points are invited.
Keywords: hydroponics, nutrient solution, controlled environment, wild species, nutraceuticals, specialized metabolites
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.