Centipeda

24.05.17

Centipeda cunninghamii币游注册 is a native Australian plant, found predominantly in south eastern Australia in moist but not flooded soils, near rivers and around wetlands and billabongs. Centipeda belongs to the daisy family and grows to about 20cm tall, with multi-branched stems. It has uniquely shaped leaves, which are aromatic when crushed. The flowers are small and rounded, pale yellow to green in colour, and bloom from spring to autumn.

Overview

Centipeda is commonly known as old man weed and is a traditional medicine plant of Indigenous Australians. There is documented medicinal use of the plant as an external treatment for skin conditions, for over 150 years. Extracts from dried Centipeda have been patented for use in a range of cosmetic applications, including skin care, deodorants, exfoliation, and as a general anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant in nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals. There is increasing national and international interest in high-quality C. cunninghamii extracts.

币游注册Before the mid 1990s, Centipeda was wild-harvested to supply a fledgling industry. There has been some selection of wild lines of Centipeda and cultivation of the plant, however, many aspects of its production have not been evaluated on a scientific and systematic basis; nor has there been rigorous analysis of the plant’s phytochemistry and bioactivity. A research project was conducted from 2010 to 2013, and much valuable information was gained providing industry participants with a greater understanding of production systems, the factors influencing product quality and greater confidence to gain and maintain markets, based on consistent product quality.

The information here is based on the findings of the research project and the experience of key project participants.

Facts and figures

  • Centipeda cunninghamii is a plant endemic to wetland environments, predominantly in inland south eastern Australia
  • Centipeda is a traditional medicinal plant used by Indigenous Australians, in tonics and skin treatments
  • There is increasing national and international interest in high-quality C. cunninghamii extracts for nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals products
  • Centipeda performs well as a commercial crop on well-drained but moist soils
  • Summer rainfall can be detrimental to yield and crop health, therefore irrigation is essential for commercial production

Production status

币游注册Centipeda production occurs on a very small scale compared with other horticultural crops, reflecting the demand for very small volumes of the extract, however returns on the crop are high — up to AU$20,000 per dry tonne as at 2013.

In 2014, industry experts estimated there would be less than five producers growing the crop in a commercial arrangement and the total production area would be less than ten hectares. A typical production area is 1–3 ha.

There may be a small number of growers or wild-harvesters using Centipeda or Centipeda extract to make ‘home-made’ products or supplying manufacturers of products containing Centipeda.

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Map of current and potential growing regions

Uses

Centipeda is a traditional medicinal plant of Indigenous Australians and there is documented use of the plant for over 150 years. It has long been used as an external treatment for skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, cuts and abrasions, and hair loss. It has also been used as a tea for gastro-intestinal disorders.

Since the 1990s, its extracts have been patented for use in a range of cosmetic applications, including skin care, deodorants, exfoliation, and as a general anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant in nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals.

Production Requirements

Growing regions

Currently, Centipeda is being grown under cultivation in east Gippsland and on the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria, but its natural occurrence币游注册 is much broader, suggesting the plant could be cultivated throughout several states.

Given that research on cultivation of the crop has been conducted at a limited number of locations, prospective growers would be advised to conduct trials to determine the suitability of the plant at their site before commencing commercial production. It is important that prospective growers actively collaborate with a processor, so they receive technical support for growing the plant, as well as feedback on the quality of the dried harvested raw material they produce.

Soil type

币游注册In its natural habitat, Centipeda grows on a wide range of soil types and textures, from pure sand to clay. While the plant grows near rivers and wetlands, it thrives in moist but not waterlogged soils.

Under cultivation, Centipeda has performed well in a soil pH(water)币游注册 range of 5.5–7.0. Despite growing naturally on some alkaline soils, Centipeda responded poorly to liming before planting.

Climate

Centipeda grows naturally throughout warm and cool temperate regions, and occurs with less frequency in arid and subtropical climate zones.

币游注册In a cool temperate climate, where trials were conducted, soil temperatures ranged from 15.0–17.5°C during transplanting (October) to over 25°C during mid-summer. So long as irrigation was available, the plants withstood air temperatures of 35°C and higher during summer. Frost should not be a problem for Centipeda as planting occurs in spring, after the greatest frost risk has passed.

币游注册The growing season for the plant is spring through to late summer. Under cultivation, winter dominant rainfall would seem most suitable. In trials, prolonged wet weather in summer, when the plants have developed maximum biomass and are flowering, caused plants to lodge and increased the incidence of a chrysanthemum white rust infestation.

Varieties

Before 1996, all Centipeda was wild-harvested. The quality of extracts from wild-harvested material could be variable, making it difficult to produce an extract of consistent quality. Industry pioneers identified particular strains that grew and yielded well, and contracted growers or nurseries to propagate planting stock.

币游注册A research project from 2010–2013, provided the opportunity to quantify agronomic and bioactive status of different strains of the plant. For cultivation in east Gippsland, there were two superior selections, with one phenotype appearing to be superior with regard to yield of dry matter and bioactive compounds. These two selections need to be evaluated at other locations.

Ongoing testing of plant strains is required.

Planting and crop management

币游注册Centipeda can be propagate vegetatively but all commercial production and field trials use seedlings. Productive lines of wild plants have been identified. It is likely that planting material will be sourced from superior selections under contracted arrangements between the processor and the growers in an integrated supply chain arrangement. These contractual arrangements are established to ensure that the selected plants consistently produce the desired chemistry.

Centipeda is grown and managed as an annual or short-term perennial crop. The seedlings are planted into raised beds at a density of 10 plants per square metre.

In trial work, the plant appeared not to have a high nutrient requirement, and moderate applications of nitrogen and organic matter may be adequate for good production, which was achieved with poultry manure in the trial. Unlike other native plants, it appeared to have some tolerance of phosphorus. Liming did not have a beneficial effect on plant production. More work is required to refine nutrient management programs for Centipeda.

Access to and supply of irrigation is critical throughout the life of the crop. The plant is shallow rooted but has a requirement for moist soils; therefore frequent irrigation of Centipeda will be required. Both pot trials and field observations indicated that Centipeda may require irrigation as frequently as twice weekly, to optimise its growth and production, and more frequently in hot weather. Reduced water availability at flowering significantly lowered yield of dry matter and bioactive compounds. Irrigation is best applied through drip tape (or similar), as fungal diseases occurred in plants that were irrigated using overhead sprinklers.

Weeds, pests, and diseases

Weed control is essential to ensure that other plant material does not contaminate the harvested Centipeda material and affect the quality of the end product. Weed control starts with site preparation by spraying any weeds present with glyphosate and cultivating the planting rows. Weed mat can been used to suppress further germination of weeds. Once the crop is planted, weeds in the inter-row can be cultivated and manually removed.

币游注册Throughout the research project, few significant pests or diseases were observed in either field or pot trials. The most widespread insects were plant hoppers but their presence was only a concern at one site (east Gippsland) in the third year of the project. Insecticide control was possible and successful, however further use of the product under trial should be conducted and permits for use would be required in states other than Victoria. Other integrated pest management products and techniques should also be investigated. Rutherglen bug was observed at one site in quite high numbers underneath the plant canopy but there was no evidence of the bug feeding on flower heads (their common host tissue), so it was suspected they were taking shelter rather than feeding.

币游注册A small outbreak of chrysanthemum white rust occurred during late November at one trial site following a prolonged period of cool, damp weather. It is unknown whether this was an isolated incident, or if this disease may become important in the future. This disease is of concern, because it can be transmitted by infected plants from nurseries and ornamental chrysanthemums in gardens, and it can reside in plant debris or volunteer plants between seasons.

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Industry Bodies

There is no industry association for Centipeda, however growers, researchers and processors wish to pursue the formation of an association in the short to medium term.

Image Gallery

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Centipeda under commercial production

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Centipeda flower

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Centipeda flowers

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Centipeda bush in flower