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Keywords:

  • secondary metabolites;
  • essential oils;
  • plant volatiles;
  • chemotaxonomy;
  • production factors

Abstract

The presence, yield and composition of secondary metabolites in plants, viz. the volatile components and those occurring in essential oils, can be affected in a number of ways, from their formation in the plant to their final isolation. Several of the factors of influence have been studied, in particular for commercially important crops, to optimize the cultivation conditions and time of harvest and to obtain higher yields of high-quality essential oils that fit market requirements. In addition to the commercial importance of the variability in yield and composition, the possible changes are also important when the essential oils and volatiles are used as chemotaxonomic tools. Knowledge of the factors that determine the chemical variability and yield for each species are thus very important. These include: (a) physiological variations; (b) environmental conditions; (c) geographic variations; (d) genetic factors and evolution; (e) political/social conditions; and also (f) amount of plant material/space and manual labour needs. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.