Contact: Dr SO AmooTel: +27 (0)12 808 8000E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Medicinal Plant Research focuses on the propagation, cultivation and processing of South African medicinal plants, especially those species that are highly utilised. Many of these medicinal plants including the endemic species are often harvested unsustainably from their natural population. As a result, some species are becoming rare or threatened with extinction. The development of optimised propagation and cultivation technologies for medicinal plants is an intervention that can ensure a sustainable supply of good quality plant material for the growing medicinal plant-based industries, contribute towards the conservation of our natural resources and create job opportunities. In order to ensure that the optimised technologies on propagation, cultivation and processing of medicinal plants do not negatively affect medicinal properties, several other research areas are explored. These include analytical studies of bio-active components and the evaluation of different biological activities of medicinal plants. In addition, we actively engage in innovative value-adding research related to the processing of medicinal plants for product development.
Medicinal plant propagation
Regeneration or propagation of medicinal plants is crucial to their survival. Research and development on medicinal plants require a sustainable supply of quality medicinal plant material. Medicinal plants can be propagated from seeds, cuttings or bulbs. Seed propagation of many medicinal plants is however, hampered by various factors such as seed parasitism, low seed viability, low germination rate, etc. The availability of corms and bulbs as propagules in some species is increasingly becoming limited due to their over-harvesting, which is linked to a continuous demand for these plant parts in traditional medicine. Thus, in addition to studies on seed biology, our focus is on optimising different propagation methods (including in vitro multiplication) to rapidly multiply medicinal plants in quantities enough to supply research and commercial markets.
Medicinal plant cultivation
Medicinal plants can be cultivated to sustainably supply the market with medicinal plant materials. Yet, there is a dearth of available information about the cost of production of these plants.
Different cultivation practices such as fertilisation, irrigation, harvesting methods, planting date, etc need to be optimised for improved growth and yield. At the same time, the medicinal activity of cultivated plants must be monitored to ensure that the activity is not compromised by such cultivation practices. Thus, changes in medicinal properties due to cultivation practices are carefully evaluated and managed in order to obtain a plant with optimum use for its medicinal properties.
Agro-processing of medicinal plants
Agro-processing of medicinal plants involves the set of techno-economic activities carried out for conservation and handling of medicinal plants to make it usable as herbal medicine, food supplement or industrial raw material. The scope of the agro-processing of medicinal plants encompasses all operations from the stages of cultivation, harvesting and processing until the material reaches the end users in the desired quality and at an affordable price. Rural agro-processing of medicinal plants has large potential for growth and socio-economic impact, specifically in relation to job creation and income generation. Developing agro-processing of medicinal plants in South Africa will certainly have a significant impact on the supply and marketing of a wide range of processed medicinal plant products. Moreover, the introduction of suitable less-complex industrial equipment to medicinal plant agro-processors will increase production volumes, enhance skills development and contribute to the mainstream economy.
The research focus is to guide the medicinal plant sector in South Africa towards the optimization of all the practices and processes involved. This is done through the on-going R&D besides implementing the national and international guidelines on quality assurance such as: Good Agricultural Practice (GAP), Good Collection Practice (GCP), Good Hygiene Practice (GHP), Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). Thus, the agro-processing of medicinal plants helps in building technical capacity for medicinal plant products, improved market access and competitiveness.
Analytical studies, biological activity and safety of medicinal plants
Our medicinal plant laboratory in collaboration with some universities and research institutions undertakes different tests on the effects of all the trials (propagation, cultivation, processing and storage) on medicinal plants. These include phytochemical analysis (active ingredients, nutritional and mineral content), biological activities (antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, etc) and safety evaluation (cytotoxicity and genotoxicity). Studies investigating the effect of using plant extracts for treating plant diseases caused by bacterial and fungal pathogens are also conducted.
Medicinal plant genebank
As medicinal plants are researched, many of these species are collected and maintained in a genebank. Collection of medicinal plants from different areas is important since natural variation influences research on medicinal plants. Record keeping of all these collections is very crucial for reference purpose and to direct research in future. The plants in the genebank are characterised and evaluated to investigate natural diversity in terms of medicinal compounds, propagation and characteristics important for breeding.
Dr SO Amoo (Senior Researcher & Team Leader) | Dr HA Abdelgadir (Researcher) | Dr H Araya (Researcher) | Dr RB Mulaudzi (Researcher)
Dr AR Ndhlala (Researcher) | Ms R Sathekge (Junior Researcher) | Mr FLJ Kruger (Senior Research Technician) | Mr M Mofokeng (Senior Research Technician)
Ms P Maphothoma (Research Technician) | Ms R Mulaudzi (Research Technician) | Ms L Phala (Research Technician) | Mr B Raselabe (Research Technician)
Ms C Makubila (Laboratory Assistant) | Mr B Mabotja (Research Assistant) | Mr J Lebese (Research Assistant) | Mr K Maboka (Research Assistant)
Mr TJ Maheso (Research Assistant) | Mr KA Mbedzi (Research Assistant) | Mr PA Mpofu (Research Assistant) | Mr DT Nkadimeng (Research Assistant)
Mr KA Thaoge (Research Assistant)
Mofokeng MM, Visser D, Kleynhans R, Du Plooy CP, Prinsloo G and Soundy P. 2013. Estimation of Pelargonium sidoides root damage by Meloidogyne spp. Journal of Entomology and Nematology, 5(4): 38-41.
Mofokeng M, Prinsloo G and Kritzinger Q. 2012. Germination response of four South African medicinal plants to a range of temperatures and treatments. Seed Science and Technology, 40:123-128.
Abdelgadir HA, Du Plooy CP, Prinsloo G, Kleynhans R, Viljoen J, Sathekge R and Mulaudzi R. 2014. Effects of cultivation and drying methods on the phytochemical content and biological activity of the cancer bush Sutherlandia frutescens L. 29th International Horticultural Conference (IHC), 17-22 August, Brisbane, Australia.
Araya H, Du Plooy CP, Phala L and Sathekge R. 2014. Artemisinin content and biological activity of Artemisia annua subjective to growth stage of the plant. 29th International Horticultural Conference (IHC), 17-22 August, Brisbane, Australia.
Araya H, Mofokeng M, Kleynhans R and Du Plooy CP. 2013. Effect of NPK fertilizers on Meloidogyne spp. and Alternaria leaf blight of Pelargonium sidoides. The 15th Annual Indigenous Plant Use Forum (IPUF), 1-4 July, Nelspruit.
Kafua L, Araya H, Kleynhans R and Du Plooy CP. 2013. Antimicrobial activity of Lobostemon fruticosus leaf extracts against selected human pathogens. The 15th Annual Indigenous Plant Use Forum (IPUF), 1-4 July, Nelspruit.
Kruger FJL, Araya H and Du Plooy CP. 2013. Ceratonia siliqua L. seed germination as influenced by seed treatment. The 31st Annual Congress of the South African Society for Agricultural Technologists (SASAT), 17-20 September, Rustenburg.
Maphothoma PH, Araya H, Du Plooy CP, Prinsloo G and Kleynhans R. 2013. Influence of nitrogen application and rhizome size on growth and yield of Siphonochilus aethiopicus (Schweinf.) B. L. Burtt. The 31st Annual Congress of the South African Society for Agricultural Technologists (SASAT), 17-20 September, Rustenburg.
Mulaudzi R, Abdelgadir H, Du Plooy CP and Kleynhans R. 2013. Agro-processing of medicinal plants in South Africa: the need, approaches and the way forward. The 31st Annual Congress of the South African Society for Agricultural Technologists (SASAT), 17-20 September, Rustenburg.
Viljoen J, Abdelgadir H, Kleynhans R and Du Plooy CP. 2013. Effect of pruning and spacing on the yield of cancer bush Sutherlandia frutescens. The 15th Annual Indigenous Plant Use Forum (IPUF), 1-4 July, Nelspruit.
Viljoen, J.C., Mathabatha, M., Abdelgadir, H., Du Plooy, C.P., & Kleynhans, R. 2013. The role of the ARC-VOPI in rural community development: Case study – Sedikong Moringa Community Project, Tooseng, Limpopo Province. The 31st Annual Congress of the South African Society for Agricultural Technologists (SASAT), 17-20 Sep, Rustenburg.
>>> Back to Crop Science