Mississippi State --
Plants with naturally occurring medicinal compounds growing today in Mississippi
could hold the keys to tomorrow's cures and become an important crop to state
Ganisher Abbasov, a Mississippi State University doctoral student in agronomy,
has a project involving the study of American mayapple, lemongrass and basil.
Abbasov is studying how nutrients, location and soil type affect plant productivity
and medicinal compounds in those plants.
A native of Uzbekistan, Abbasov spent the summer of 2006 cultivating and harvesting
plants across the state for his research project. His data should allow him
to develop steps for farmers or commercial producers to follow to get higher
quality and more product in a short period.
“I want a system so growers will know what to do to get particular medicinal
compounds from plants,” Abbasov said.
“We are studying the effects of nitrogen and sulfur on crop productivity, how
essential oils combine and build up in basil and lemongrass, and the anticancer
compound podohpyllotoxin in mayapple,” Abbasov said.
Valtcho Jeliazkov, a research professor at the North Mississippi Research and
Extension Center in Verona and Abbasov's advisor, said pharmaceutical companies
get most of their mayapple from India. MSU researchers and colleagues from
the University of Mississippi have demonstrated that American mayapple contains
the same bioactives as the Indian mayapple and could be developed as a new
“We're trying here to shift things so U.S. farmers can benefit from the use of
mayapple in pharmaceutical products,” Jeliazkov said. “We're trying to introduce
American mayapple as an alternative to Indian mayapple by providing a more consistent
Abbasov is researching what conditions are prime for increasing the concentration
of the natural anticancer compound in mayapple.
Abbasov is conducting experiments with basil and lemongrass at locations in Verona,
Stoneville and Poplarville. The plants and treatments at each site are identical.
It is the location and soil type that vary.
“We have a long way to go to take this wild plant and cultivate it,” Jeliazkov
Abbasov's project is part of Jeliazkov's larger project funded by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture to develop medicinal and aromatic plants as alternative crops
for Mississippi growers. Both scientists are studying how plants develop in
the Mississippi climate. They are also extracting secondary metabolites, such
as essential oils, alkaloids and phenolic compounds. When the plants are harvested,
their chemical profiles are analyzed and bioactivity evaluated.
“We want to see if medicinal and aromatic plants will grow and perform the same
as in other places in the world,” Jeliazkov said. “Yields, chemical composition
and bioactivity may be different based on location.”