Aspects of honeybush tea (Cyclopia species) propagation
Mbangcolo, Mongezi Morrison
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Honeybush (Cyclopia spp. Fabaceae) is indigenous to the fynbos botanical biome of the Eastern and Western Cape of South Africa. The increase in the international demand for honeybush tea for health benefits, concern over exploitation of wild populations and the lack of published agronomic information necessitated this study to evaluate different aspects of honeybush propagation. The main objectives of this study were to evaluate the effect of species and cutting position on rooting of cuttings of Cyclopia species using different rooting hormones, to evaluate the effect of an organic plant fertilizer and cutting position on growth and establishment of rooted cuttings and to study the influence of different seed pre-treatments on germination of Cyclopia species. Terminal and sub-terminal cuttings of C. intermedia and C. genistoides treated with different rooting hormones were rooted under day/night temperature controlled glasshouse conditions. Intermittent mist was used as means of moisture supply to the cuttings for 45-60 seconds daily every 30 minutes. C. genistoides rooted significantly better compared to C. intermedia as measured by rooting percentage, number of roots per cutting, length of longest root and mean root length during the summer season. The cutting position had a significant effect on rooting of the cuttings in summer compared to winter and spring season. The interactive effect of species, treatment and cutting position resulted into 86% of rooting in summer from the terminal cuttings of C. genistoides, while only 4% was recorded as the highest rooting percentage in both winter and spring seasons. The highest number of roots and the greatest root length per cutting were obtained with 2 and 4 g L-1 IBA from terminal cuttings of C. genistoides and these hormone concentrations were not significantly different to each other. To evaluate the effect of an organic plant fertilizer and cutting position on plant growth and establishment, rooted cuttings of two Cyclopia species (C. intermedia and C. genistoides) from two cutting positions (terminal and sub-terminal) were transferred to pots (576 cm3) and treated with Nitrosol fertilizer at application rates of 3.33 ml.L-1, 1.67 ml.L-1 and 0 ml.L-1 (control). Cyclopia plantlets were uniformly inoculated once with a symbiotic Rhizobium bacteria to improve the formation of nodules. Nitrosol® at 3.33 ml.L-1 significantly affected fresh and dry plant weight, fresh and dry root weight, number of shoots and nodules per plant compared to either 1.67 ml.L-1 or the control. Relative to species, C. genistoides performed better in terms of fresh and dry plant weight, fresh and dry root weight, and number of shoots and nodules per plant compared to C. intermedia. The origin of the cutting position did not significantly affect the above mentioned parameters. Plant mineral analysis revealed that most of the essential elements increased with increasing Nitrosol® application rates, with C. genistoides having higher levels of mineral elements than C. intermedia. This could be an indication of the differences between the two species in terms of nutrient uptake, utilization and distribution within the plant tissues. In the germination studies, seeds obtained from different seed sources of Cyclopia species were subjected to different pre-sowing treatments. Seed treatments were sulphuric acid (95%), hot water (100°C), water with smoke paper disk, and demineralised water (control). The study revealed that all the treatments had a significant effect on germination with the exception of eight year old seeds obtained from C. subternata (seed source two). Although hot water treatment improved germination compared to smoked paper disk and the control, seeds treated with hot water degenerated rapidly. The highest overall germination (77.33%) was found with one year old seeds compared to other seed sources older than one year. Although smoked paper disks generally did not improve germination compared to the control, in one year old seeds from seed source one, this treatment greatly influenced germination, suggesting that seed age might have influenced germination of these seeds. In terms of germination rate, germination generally started after four days in most treatments.