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Quality Assessment and Yield of Baikal Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) Grown at Multiple Locations

Zheljazkov, V.D., Cantrell, C.L., Ebelhar, M.W., Coker, C., Evans, W.B.
HortScience 2007 v.42 no.5 pp. 1183
Scutellaria baicalensis, medicinal plants, crop yield, crop quality, geographical variation, flavonoids, medicinal properties, shoots, roots, field experimentation, traditional medicine, Mississippi
Baikal skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) is an important medicinal plant with proven bioactivity. Commercially available products in the United States containing extracts or derivatives from this plant species have been shown to lack consistency of chemical composition and bioactivity. In the United States, these issues could be solved through domestic production of skullcap. The hypothesis of this study was that Baikal skullcap grown in the Mississippi climate would accumulate sufficient bioactive flavonoids, baicalin, and baicalein in the roots to justify domestic production, and that shoots of these plants might also contain the flavonoids of interest. A replicated field experiment was conducted at four locations in Mississippi (Beaumont, Crystal Springs, Stoneville, and Verona) to test the hypothesis. The concentration of the main flavonoid, baicalin, in the roots ranged from 8.1% to 15.6%, whereas the concentration of baicalein varied from 0.2% to 1.2%. The flavonoid concentrations in the roots were similar to that of commercially available skullcap roots, and to concentrations reported in the literature. Chrysin was detected in the roots from one location. Furthermore, the flavonoids apigenin, baicalein, baicalin, chrysin, and scutellarein were detected and quantified in the skullcap shoots. Overall, yields of dry roots tended to increase from southern to northern locations. This is the first report on flavonoid accumulation in Baikal skullcap roots and shoots grown in the United States. The results from this study are promising and suggest that 1) Baikal skullcap grown in Mississippi accumulates similar amounts of baicalein and baicalin to skullcap grown in other regions and can provide up to 128 kg·ha -1 of baicalin and up to 2.32 kg·ha-1 of baicalein; 2) flavonoid concentration in Baikal skullcap roots and shoots, yields, and mineral concentration of roots might depend on climatic and growing conditions; and 3) Baikal skullcap could be developed as a high-value crop for Mississippi and possibly other regions of the United States. Further research is needed on skullcap production methods and economic feasibility.