- Hemp inflorescences represent added-value co-products after seed harvest.
- Site (S) and harvest time (H) affected inflorescence yield; SxH influenced seed production.
- The essential oil (EO) composition changed more with harvest time, rather than with the site.
- EOs were rich in sesquiterpenes, but monoterpene hydrocarbons were also relevant.
- Cannabinoids (mainly cannabidiol) were higher in the lowland early harvest EO.
L. is a multipurpose crop, whose industrial varieties, complying with the 0.2% Δ
-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) threshold set by the EU legislation, can be cultivated without restrictions by farmers. Other than its traditional use as a source of bast fibres from the stems, the fixed oil extracted from its seeds represents a valuable nutritional product. Its inflorescence is also a further exploitable threshing residue originating from seed harvest, as they can be used for the extraction of the essential oil (EO), a high-value added product.
This study aims at contributing to the re-evaluation of industrial hemp cultivation as an agro-environmentally sustainable crop for the diversification of Mediterranean cropping systems, by exploring the possibility of recovering the EO from the inflorescence after seed harvest.
The influence of the cultivation site (lowland and upland of Pisa province, Tuscany, central Italy) and the harvest time (August and September) have been investigated on the ‘Fedora 17’ monoecious hemp cultivar: the main agronomic traits in term of stem, seed and inflorescence production, as well as essential oil yield and composition have been evaluated.
The crops harvested in September exhibited higher total dry yield as well as higher inflorescence and stem yields, while neither the site nor the harvesting period influenced the seed production, which was significantly influenced by harvest time x cultivation site interaction. Both seed fixed oil and crude protein content were affected by the cultivation site only, but in the opposite sense: the highest seed oil content was reached in the upland area, while the plants grown in the plain area exhibited the largest seed protein content. All the extracted EOs were rich in sesquiterpenes (mostly β-caryophyllene and its oxidized derivatives, and α-humulene), but monoterpene hydrocarbons were significantly represented as well (mainly α- and β-pinene, and myrcene). The EOs extraction yields were slightly higher in the earlier harvest for both sites.