Medicinal Plants [Part 4]

July 13, 2012
By Krishiworld

OPIUM POPPY (papaver somniferum Linn). Poppy is a native of the western Mediterranean region,introduced into India in the early sixteenth century. India produces about 70 per cent of the world’s production and 90 per cent of it is exported annually. The crop can be grown under a licence issued by the Excise Department and, as such, its cultivation is restricted to about 24,000 hectares in the districts of Neemuch,Mandsaur and Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh; in Faizabad, Bara Banki, Bareilly and Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, and in Chittoor, Jhalawar and Kota in Rajasthan.

Poppy is an annual erect plant, 60-120 cm in height, rarely branching,with ovate-oblong leaves;it bears large showy flowers and nearly globose to spherical capsules, containing small white or black kidney-shaped seeds.It is a rabi crop,and remains for about 150-160 days in the fields .It is mainly(90%)self-pollinated ,since the dehiscence of anthers takes place before the opening of the flower. A large number of the forms of variety album DC. are cultivated inIndia; it has ovate globose capsules devoid of apertures.

The crop is grown on well-drained, fertile, clayey loam to rich sandy-loam soils. It prefers moderately cool weather and open sunny locations;severely cold spells, frost dull cloudy weather, high winds,and heavy rainfall during the lancing period adversely affect the yield.

Land is prepared to a fine tilth up to a depth of 20-25 cm during September and the fields are laid out into beds of convenient size. Twenty-five to thirty-seven cartloads of farmyard manure is mixed with the soil during the preparation of the land,penning of sheep or goats is preffered .Seed-rate is 2.5 to 3.5 kg per hectare.The seeds are minute weighing 0.25 to 3.5 kg per 100 .They are mixed with sand and sown thinly in rows 0.3m apart during mid-Octobor till early November(optimum temperature 9 -10 degree centigrade).The rows are covered with a thin layer of soil and are given a light irrigation,followed by another irrigation after 8-10 days when the seeds start germinating.Seed treatment with 1.0 %Agrosan protects it from seed-borne dieases.The crop is given about 15 irrigations in all,depending upon the texture of the soil and the variety sown;moisture defiency at the time of capsule formation affects the yield adversely.The crop needs a heavy nutrient supply and 50 kg N/ha is applied during the preparation of the land and another application of an equal quantity is given as top-dressing in two-split doses when the crop is one month old and at the time of the flag-leaf stage. The seedlings are thinned out to 20-25 cm apart when they grow 5-7 cm tall. The crop is weeded and hoed weekly till the plants are about 20 cm tall and thereafter ,weeding and hoeing are done once a month.The plants take 75-80 days (in Neemuch, Madhya Pradesh)and about 105 days(in Uttar Pradesh) to come into flower ,depending upon the variety sown. The petals fall in 3-4 days and the growing capsule is ready for lancing in the next 6 to 10 days. The green unripe capsules contain the maximum amount of morphine which diminishes with its ripening and yellowing; conversely, codeine and narcotine increases with age.

Lancing is done longitudinally in bright sunlight and the latex (crude opium)which oozes from the wounds dries during the following night and is scrapped with a sharp kitchen-knife in the early hours of the succeeding morning. Lancing is performed in the afternoon with a special knife, capable of making four incisions at a time ,each at about 1/12 cm apart. Each capsule is lanced for 4 to 6 times. A deep incision causes the collection of the latex inside the capsule and spoils the seeds. The crude opium is stored in earthen -pots and dried in the sun to obtain the raw opium of a uniform consistency.The dry produce should be stored in closed vessels. The entire produce goes to the Excise And Narcotics Department which pays according to its cosistency and purity.The average yield of raw opium varies from 13 to 33 kg per hectare,though much higher yields are recorded under good agronomic practices.The crop also yield 3 to 4 quintals of seeds per hectare.The seeds contain up to 50 per cent of a golden-yellow fatty oil which is devoid of narcotic properties.

There are 25 opium alkaloids identified in the raw opium.Of them,morphine, theabine,codeine,narcotine and papaverine are important; morphine is by far the most important.The Indian produce of raw opium contains,on an average,about 20% of the total alkaloids by weight.They,in turn,posses 9 to 14% of morphine,5-7% narcotine, 1.25 -3.75% codeine,0.4-1% papverine and 0.2-0.5% theabine. The produce obtained in Turkey and the Balkan countries is collected from one incision only and is therefore rich (10-21%) in morphine;conversely,the Indian opium is richer in codeine and narcotine.

The crop is attacked by the leaf-miner(phyllocnistis sp.), which can be kept under control by spraying with 0.2% Metasystox or Rogor. Sometimes ,cutworms {Agrotis suffura Hubn.)cause damage to the young plants;the flooding of the fields makes these worms float on the water and they are ultimately pickedby birds. Downy mildew(Peronospora arborescens(Berk)de Bary)sometimes causes serious damage to the crops at the time of capsule formation. It is controlled by the application of 0.2% Diathane Z-78. Root-rot due to Rhizoctonia is also reported on the crop.

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