Information on nutrient requirements and fertilization of Echinacea species is very limited. In the early cultivation handbooks, the fertilization instructions are quite general. German writers have proposed mixing fertilizers in 100 to 200 kg/ha at ratios of N:P:K = 12:12:20 (Ebert, 1982) with additional compost between the rows every spring (Heeger, 1956).
In 1986, Bomme published the first growing instructions on E. purpurea and E. pallida with the following fertilization recommendation: nitrogen, 150 to 180 kg/ha; phosphorus, 70 to 100 kg/ha; and potassium, 220 to 250 kg/ha. This recommendation was followed by other cultivation handbooks in Europe. In Hungary, Praszna (1993) proposed the same doses with additional 30 tons/ha of manure in the previous autumn. In Poland, the first growing instructions proposed nitrogen, 60 to 80 kg/ha; phosphorus, 40 to 60 kg/ha; and potassium, 80 to 100 kg/ha (Mordalski et al., 1994).
According to Dachler and Pelzmann (1999), in soil with good conditions, phosphorus and potassium seem to be suitable in doses 70 and 150 kg/ha, respectively. The total quantity of nitrogen is 120 kg/ha, which is applied after sowing or transplanting, and after the first cut if a second cut is expected.
Detailed studies on the fertilization of Echinacea started during the 1980s. The first fertilization data were published in northern Italy, where a fertilization trial was carried out using E. pallida in 1984-1985. The experimental area was in a mountain environment with acidic (pH = 4.95) and nonirrigated soil (Bezzi and Tessari, 1989). The applied nitrogen quantities were 0, 100, and 200 kg/ha and the phosphorus and potassium doses were 0 and 100 kg/ha, respectively. Bezzi and
Tessari (1989) found a positive effect of potassium on root production. The average root yields ranged between 1.1 to 1.3 tons/ha, while with higher doses of potassium, the root yields ranged between 1.5 to 1.9 tons/ha. The content of echinacoside — varying between 0.296% and 0.951% — was positively affected by the nitrogen and phosphorus.
The detailed nutrition requirements of the three Echinacea species were determined by German researchers (Bomme and Nast, 1998; Bomme and Wurzinger, 1990). According to their results, 1,000 kg of fresh Echinacea plant biomass contain 3 to 9 kg of nitrogen, 1 to 2 kg of phosphorus, and 4 to 8 kg of potassium. The quantities of these main elements vary with the species and plant parts (Table 4.8). The highest quantities of the main elements were extracted from E. purpurea, followed by E. pallida, and the lowest was from E. angustifolia (Table 4.9). In calculating the applied fertilization level, these figures have to be corrected for by the actual nutrient level of the soil, demonstrated by soil analyses. The calculated, appropriate phosphorus and potassium quantities for fertilization must be added in autumn and the appropriate nitrogen doses should be added separately in spring before transplanting, after the start of growth of young plants and after the first herb harvest.
In Poland, in a detailed experiment, the highest yield was obtained with N = 100, P205 = 60, and K2O = 100 kg/ha (Kordana et al., 1998). The effects of the fertilization on the dried root yield were evident during the second and third growing years (1.94 and 1.99 tons/ha, respectively), but decreased in the fourth year (1.35 tons/ha). The effect of the lack of nitrogen was more significant in the dry herb yields, which decreased linearly, that is, 8.38, 3.72 and 2.38 tons/ha, respectively. The total contents of the polyphenolic compounds ranged, in the herbs between 3.7% and 5.0% and in the roots from 1.6% to 3.5%, but the various fertilization levels had no effect on the contents of the polyphenolic compounds.
In another Polish experiment, the effect of two soil types on the yield was compared in pot conditions. The biomass yield depended on soil type and level of fertilization. The total biomass was higher on loamy soil by 64% to 71% in the first and second experimental years, but the contents of phenolic acids (chlorogenic, caffeic, and ferulic acids) were higher in sandy soil (Berbec et al., 1998).
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