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7th International ICABR Conference

Ravello, Italy, June 29, 30 - July 1, 2 and 3, 2003
Productivity, Public Goods and Public Policy: agricultural biotechnology Potentials
Raccuia S.A., Melilli M.G., Cavallaro V., Tringali S.
Istituto per i Sistemi Agricoli e Forestali del Mediterraneo, CNR, Via Valdisavoia, Catania, Italy.
Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus L.) is a perennial plant native of the Mediterranean countries. This crop carries out its main phonological stages in a period of high rainfall concentration (autumn - winter) in the Mediterranean area and mature grains in the summer period (July-August). Cardoon biomass may be used for energy or paper pulp production, with a theoretical caloric value ranged from 16500 to 17028 kJ kg-1 of dry matter. The oil may be easily extracted from cardoon grains by cold-pressing. Cardoon oil has similar composition to sunflower or saffron oils. Also cardoon may be used to produce of other interesting products as plant rennet -from cardoon flowers- and some pharmacological compounds such as silymarin, cinnamic derivatives and flavonoids.

In the last years the Sez. of Colture Erbacee Strategiche of ISAFoM - CNR carried out a series of research to evaluate the suitability of cardoon to be cultivated as a biomass crop under low input management in the Mediterranean environment. In this work, the results of cardoon biomass production in Sicilian environment under low input conditions are shown.

During the three-year period 1999-2001, at Catania plain (37°27’ N, 15°4’ E, 10 m a.s.l.), fourteen genotypes of C. cardunculus, five C. cardunculus L. var. altilis DC. (cultivated cardoon) and nine C. cardunculus L. var. sylvestris Lam. (wild cardoon) were evaluated for biomass production, grain and roots, for inulin yield. During the first two years only the aboveground biomass was harvested, whereas the third one all the total biomass (roots included) was collected. Every year, in the field for each part of plant the fresh weight was recorded. In laboratory the dry matter content for each sample were analysed. The fresh roots were characterised for glucose, fructose, sucrose and inulin, by HPAEC–PAD ‘Dionex AI-500’. The total sugar content was obtained by the sum of each compound.

The obtained results showed significative differences in biomass production, between the two taxa. Cultivated cardoon, on average of all studied factors, showed an aboveground biomass yield (grains included) of 24.7 t ha-1 DM, whereas the wild cardoon of 13.02 t ha-1 DM. The three years average distribution of the aboveground biomass (dry weight basis) resulted: 55.6% stems+leaves, 36.5% heads and 6.9% grains. The third year, the roots yield resulted 11.3 t ha-1 DM in cultivated cardoon and 15.4 t ha-1 DM in wild one, with an incidence on total biomass of 42.6 and 67.4 % respectively.

The total sugar content of roots was on average of all genotypes 338.6 g kg-1 DM. Inulin represented, about 80% and 85% of root total sugars in cultivated and wild cardoons respectively.

In conclusion, the results indicate that some genotypes seem to be particularly interesting for the productive characteristics and may be used in genetic breeding programs to develop cultivar for different crop utilisations. Moreover, for its autumnal-summer cycle and suitability to stressful conditions, these species may be cultivated even in less favourable pedoclimatic conditions like many inland hilly areas of the Mediterranean basin.

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