The part played by fertilizersin increasing opium poppy yields

Abstract

Since 1932, the All-Union Institute for Scientific Research on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants and some of its regional experimental stations have been devoting attention to the question of how to apply fertilizers to the opium poppy grown in the Soviet Union. The bulk of the work has been done by the Przhevalsk Regional Experimental Station in the Kirghiz SSR, where the opium poppy is generally grown on irrigated plots.

Details

Author: V.V. Sheberstov
Pages: 42 to 47
Creation Date: 1956/01/01

The part played by fertilizersin increasing opium poppy yields

V.V. Sheberstov
All-Union Institute for Scientific Research on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (VILAR)

Since 1932, the All-Union Institute for Scientific Research on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants and some of its regional experimental stations have been devoting attention to the question of how to apply fertilizers to the opium poppy grown in the Soviet Union. The bulk of the work has been done by the Przhevalsk Regional Experimental Station in the Kirghiz SSR, where the opium poppy is generally grown on irrigated plots.

The opium poppy is grown in Kirghizia, in rotation in succession to winter wheat, after fallow or half fallow (sainfoin). Sowings are made in early spring using tractors, seed drills and sowing in well-spaced rows with 60 to 70 cm. between them. Irrigation is carried out before the land is ploughed (pre-ploughing moisture-charging) and once or twice during the growing period. Final irrigation has to be done not later than the budding stage. Late irrigation when the poppy is in flower has an adverse effect on the yield of raw opium and its alkaloid content. The poppy capsules are repeatedly lanced until the latex stops flowing.

On irrigated plots the Tian-Shan variety is grown, and on those which are not artificially irrigated the Tarbagatai sub-variety. The poppy seed is gathered in by means of combine harvesters.

Table 1

EFFECT OF VARIOUS DOSES OF MANURE ON OPIUM YIELD-1932

     

Yield of absolutely dry opium

No.

Test variants

kg/ha

percentage of control

Percentage of morphine content of absolutely dry weight

1.
Control, no fertilizer applied
11.2 100 10.80
2.
Manure, 10 tons/ha
16.1 144 11.58
3.
Manure 20 tons/ha
20.8 186 11.93
4.
Manure 30 tons/ha
20.8 186 11.53

It should be noted that apart from the effect of agricultural methods on the yield and quality of the opium, climatic conditions also play a large part, the result being that yields in different areas may vary considerably although the cultivation methods are the same.

Table 2

EFFECT OF MANURE, WITH BASIC APPLICATIONS-1942

     

Yield of absolutely dry opium

No.

Variants

kg/ha

percentage of control

percentage of morphine

1.
Control, no fertilizer applied
7.85 100 12.31
2.
Manure 20 tons/ha
9.63 123 10.94
3.
Manure, 30 tons/ha
12.9 164 13.36

The question of the application of fertilizer to the opium poppy has now been fairly well worked out, thanks to the investigations made.

Both organic and artificial fertilizers have been used, and the experiments lasted from 1932 to 1955.

The results of the experiments to determine the action of organic fertilizers are set out in Tables 1 and 2, and show that the use of manure during ploughing considerably increases the opium yield.

Table 3

EFFECTIVENESS OF MANURE IN THE SECOND YEAR AFTER APPLICATION-1936

   

Yield of absolutely dry opium

No.

Variants

kg/ha

percentage of control

1.
Control, no fertilizer
8.8 100
2.
Manure, 15 tons/ha
13.5 156
3.
Manure, 30 tons/ha
16.9 192

Table 4

EFFECT OF FERTILIZERS ON OPIUM YIELD AND MORPHINE CONTENT-1937

   

Yield of air-dried opium

 

Morphine yield

No.

Variants

kg/ha

%

Percentage morphine content of absolutely dry weight

kg/ha

%

1.
No fertilizer
10.08 ± 0.32
100 10.1 1.018 100
2.
N 60 kg/ha
10.75 ± 0.4
106 9.37 1.007 98
3.
P 60 kg/ha
14.68 ± 0.38
145 10.17 1.483 145
4.
K 60 kg/ha
8.89 ± 0.30
88 9.68 0.860 84
5.
(N P) 60 kg/ha
13.37 ± 0.50
132 10.51 1.405 138
6.
(N K) 60kg/ha
8.20 ± 0.27
81 9.18 0.753 74
7.
PK 60 kg/ha
13.37 ± 0.49
131 10.1 1.340 131
8.
(NP,k) 60 kg/ha
12.45 ± 0.29
123 9.69 1.206 118

Table 5

EFFECT OF VARIOUS DOSES OF SUPERPHOSPHATE ON OPIUM YIELD AND MORPHINE CONTENT

   

Yield of absolutely dry opium

 

Morphine yield

No.

Variants

kg/ha

%

Percentage of morphine content of absolutely dry weight

kg/ha

%

1.
No fertilizer
11.4 ± 0.2
100 11.40 1.300 100
2.
Pc45 during ploughing
14.08 ± 0.7
123.5 12.54 1.765 136
3.
Pc60 during ploughing
14.47 ± 0.5
127 12.48 1.805 139
4.
Pc75 during ploughing
14.82 ± 0.4
130 12.51 1.854 142
5.
Pc90 during ploughing
13.90 ± 0.8
122 12.32 1.712 132
6.
Pc60 during cultivation
16.07 ± 0.3
141 12.57 2.020 155

With 20-30 tons of manure applied per hectare, the opium yield increased by 22-86%. The poppy comes as the second crop after the application of fresh manure, as the presence of weeds following direct application of manure considerably hampers the poppy sowing. The effectiveness of the manure still remains fairly high during the second year after application.

Experiments to determine the effect on yield of artificial fertilizers have shown that the greatest increase occurs with the use of phosphate fertilizers (Table 4).

Potash fertilizers used both alone or with other fertilizers reduce the opium yield and amount of morphine produced. The use of nitrogenous fertilizers by themselves reduces the morphine content of the opium by 0.73%, but the morphine content increases by 0.4% when they are used with superphosphates.

The reason for this effect of nitrogenous and potash fertilizers is that they were applied during cultivation and their high solubility resulted in a high concentration of salts on the surface of the soil, with an adverse effect on the development of the extraordinarily sensitive poppy shoots.

The correctness of this assumption was confirmed by sub sequent tests.

It is first necessary, however, to refer to the tests made to determine the dosage and methods of applying phosphate fertilizers, the results of which are set out in Tables 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

Table 6

EFFECT ON OPIUM YIELD OF METHODS OF APPLYING SUPERPHOSPHATE-1937

   

Yield of absolutely dry opium

No.

Variants

kg/ha

%

1.
Control, no fertilizer
14.2 100
2.
Pc 50 kg/ha during cultivation
25.4 179
3.
Pc 50 kg/ha during harrowing
27.6 194

With superphosphate, the opium yield increases from 23 to 94%-in other words, it is almost doubled in some cases. The greatest effect of doses introduced at ploughing time was with 45-60 kg of P 2O 5 per hectare. An increase to 90 kg/ha of P 2O 5 has little effect on the yield.

The morphine content for all the variants of the experiment (Table 5) was practically uniform and worked out at 0.92- 1.17 above the control figure. A further point is that the effectiveness of the superphosphate increases where the fertilizer is covered by a shallower layer of soil (see Table 5, Variant 6, and Table 6, Variants 2 and 3).

Similar results were obtained in a second experiment (Table 7).

Table 7

EFFECT ON OPIUM YIELD AND MORPHINE CONTENT OF SUPERPHOSPHATE APPLIED BEFORE SOWING-1940

   

Yield of absolutely dry opium

 

Morphine yield

No.

Variants

kg/ha

%

Percentage of morphine content of absolutely dry weight

kg/ha

%

1.
No fertilizer
4.23 ± 0.11
100 7.15 0.302 100
2.
Pc60 during ploughing
6.53 ± 0.25
154 7.80 0.509 168
3.
Pc90 during ploughing
6.85 ± 0.20
161 7.83 0.536 177
4.
Pc60 during ploughing + Pc30 during cultivation
7.84 ± 0.17
185 7.90 0.629 208

Table 8

EFFECT OF BASIC SLAG ON OPIUM POPPY YIELD-1938

   

Yield of absolutely dry opium

 

Morphine yield

No.

Variants

kg/ha

%

Percentage of morphine content of absolutely dry weight

kg/ha

%

1.
Control, no fertilizer
6.65 100 12.90 216 100
2.
Basic slag, 30 kg/ha P 2O 5
15.42 231.8 12.78 645 298
3.
Basic slag., 60 kg/ha P 2O 5
21.43 322.3 12.45 838 388
4.
Basic slag, 90 kg/ha P 2O 5
22.15 333.1 11.58 853 395

Table 9

EFFECT OF VARIOUS DOSES OF SUPERPHOSPHATE ON FORMATION OF CAPSULES AND OPIUM YIELD-1937

     

Yield of absolutely dry opium in g per count

No.

Variants

Number of capsules cut per 100 plants

Per 100 plants

Per 100 capsules

1.
No fertilizer
121 14.25 11.77
2.
Pc45 during ploughing
143 17.60 12.30
3.
Pc60 during ploughing
145 18.08 12.47
4.
Pc75 during ploughing
132 18.52 14.03
5.
Pc90 during ploughing
130 17.35 13.34
6.
Pc60 during cultivation
146 20.08 13.75

The results of this experiment show that the application of 90 kg of P 2O 5 per hectare in two doses-60 kg/ha during ploughing and 30 kg/ha during cultivation (Variant 4) are much more effective than the full dose at ploughing time (Variant 3).

Other types of phosphate fertilizers were tried out, including basic slag, which was also highly effective (Table 8).

The most effective dose of this fertilizer was found to be 60 kg of P 2O 5 per hectare. Concurrently with the sharp rise in opium yield, there was a considerable increase in seed yield. It should be noted that its effect was to reduce the morphine content of the opium, especially where the dose was 90 kg per hectare. However, there is no reason to attribute this decrease to the action of the phosphorus, as the other elements in the fertilizer may have been responsible in this case.

The increased yield consequent on the use of phosphate fertilizers is due to the better development of the plant and the formation of a larger number of capsules and also, as shown by the figures in Table 9, to the increased flow of latex produced by them.

The last-mentioned fact seems to be connected with the effect of the superphosphate on the number of lactic vessels in the capsules and the fact that they are better filled.

The results of the experiments described above prove that the use of superphosphate and other phosphate fertilizers has an extremely favourable effect on opium yield. The results also prove that the effectiveness of phosphate fertilizers increases when they are allowed to come into direct contact with the seed.

PHOTOGRAPH 1

1. No fertilizer 2. (PK) 100 N20 3. K 100 (NP) 20 4. K 100 N20

(2 g of each of the active substances = 100)

Full size image: 4 kB, PHOTOGRAPH 1

This last-mentioned fact provided grounds for a further study of this question. Experiments conducted during growth (Photograph 1) show quite clearly that the opium poppy demands a high level of phosphate feed after its initial period of development. Accordingly, the further study of the effectiveness of phosphate fertilizers was directed towards fully covering the initial stage of the poppy's development by means of phosphate feeding.

Experiments were therefore carried out to test the effect of successive applications of fertilizer, the superphosphate being applied in the form of small granules in the drills together with the seed. The experiments showed the application of granular superphosphate in the drills along with the seed at sowing time to be very effective (see Tables 10 and 11).

Table 10 shows that the use of 3 kg of P 2O 5 per hectare increased the opium yield by 36%, while the use of a double dose increased it by 55%. A further increase of the dose to 10 kg per hectare brought practically no increase in yield.

Table 10

EFFECT ON THE PRODUCTIVITY OF THE OPIUM POPPY OF DOSES OF GRANULAR SUPERPHOSPHATE APPLIED IN THE DRILLS-1946

   

Yield of absolutely dry opium

Seed yield

No.

Variants

kg/ha

%

quintals/ha

%

1.
No fertilizer
16.6 100 5.9 100
2.
P 2O 5, 3kg/ha in drills
22.6 136 7.1 120
3.
P 2O 5, 6 kg/ha in drills
25.7 155 7.2 122
4.
P 2O 5, 10 kg/ha in drills
26.4 158 7.6 129

Table 11

EFFECT ON THE OPIUM POPPY YIELD OF APPLICATIONS OF GRANULAR SUPERPHOSPHATE IN THE DRILLS

   

Yield of absolutely dry opium

 

Seed yield

Year

Variants

kg/ha

%

Percentage morphine content of absolutely dry weight

quintals/ha

%

1945
No fertilizer
18.9 100 7.84 7.9 100
 
P 20 5, 6 kg/ha in drills
22.3 118 8.39 9.6 121
 
P 2O 5, 30 kg/ha scattered
22.8 120 9.64 10.6 134
1946
No fertilizer
18.5 100
morphine content
5.6 100
 
P 2O 5, 6 kg/ha in drills
23.2 125
not determined
8.7 155
 
P 20 5, 60 kg/ha scattered
24.3 131
 
10.1 180

Table 12

EFFECT OF MANURE AND SUPERPHOSPHATE ON OPIUM AND SEED YIELD

   

Yield of air-dry opium

Seed yield

No.

Variant.

kg/ha

%

quintals/ha

%

1.
Control, no fertilizer
21.7 100 6.2 100
2.
Pc90
39.4 181 13.0 209
3.
Manure, 15 tons
33.9 156 11.2 180
4.
Manure, 30 tons
31.8 146 11.5 185
5.
Pc90 + 15 tons manure
42.0 193 13.2 213
6.
Pc90 + 30 tons manure
43.1 198 13.3 214

The greater effectiveness of granular superphosphate applied in the drills at sowing time as compared with powdered superphosphate scattered at random was observed in all sub sequent experiments. Thus it can be seen from Table 11 that the opium yield in 18-25% higher in the former case. The same effect is observed when applying 30 kg of P 2O 5 per hectare of ordinary superphosphate, but here the amount of fertilizer used is five times greater.

The results of all these experiments prove that phosphate fertilizers are no less effective than manure.

This is confirmed by the results of yet another experiment (Table 12).

As can be seen from the table, the effect on the opium yield of superphosphate applied in doses of 60 kg of P 2O 5 per hectare exceeds that of manure applied at the rate of 15 tons as well as 30 tons per hectare. Simultaneous application of manure and superphosphate does not significantly increase the opium yield as compared with the application of superphosphate by itself. A similar effect is observed also on seed productivity.

The next step is to examine the results of the experiments on the effect of nitrogenous and potash fertilizers on the opium yield.

Table 13

EFFECT OF NITROGENOUS AND POTASH FERTILIZERS ON OPIUM YIELD

Average for 4 years

No fertilizer

N

P

NP

Air-dried opium kg/ha
14.3 15.1 20.0 20.9
Air-dried opium %
100 105 139 146

PHOTOGRAPH 2

(1) Full dose of mineral fertilizers. (2) Full dose, but nitrogenous fertilizers applied in ? doses. (3) Full dose, but nitrogenous fertilizers applied in 1/5 doses. (4) Full dose, nitrogenous and potash fertilizers applied in 1/5 doses. Full dose consists of 2 g of active substances (P 2 0 5 , K 2 O, N) per container.

Full size image: 4 kB, PHOTOGRAPH 2

As shown above (Table 4), the application of nitrogenous fertilizers was found to be ineffective whereas that of potash fertilizers reduced the opium yield and morphine content. Even with irrigation the effect of nitrogen fertilizers applied before sowing was very limited (Table 13).

As already noted, the reason why these fertilizers had this effect was because of the formation in the top layer of soil of a high concentration of nitrogenous fertilizers to which young poppy shoots are very sensitive.

To determine the most effective use of nitrogenous and potash fertilizers, experiments were conducted during growing time which showed that the poppy in fact requires less nitrogen and potash feed during the initial period of development (Photograph 2).

However, the opium poppy, to provide a big yield, needs a considerable increase in the amount of nitrogenous feed during the rosette and budding stages, as is confirmed by the experimental results given in Tables 14 and 15.

Table 14

OPIUM POPPY YIELD DEPENDING ON VARYING APPLICATIONS OF FERTILIZER (EXPERIMENT ON GROWING)-1939

 

Time of application

Yield of air-dried above-ground mass

Yield of air-dried opium

 

No.

When filling Containers

Rosette Stage

Budding Stage

Flowering stage

g/container

Percentage (PK 100)

mg/container

Percentage (PK 100)

Percentage of morphine content of absolutely dry substance

1.
No fertilizer
-
-
-
19.0 ± 0.31
61 210 60 10.85
2.
(NPK) 100
-
-
-
31.11 ± 0.95
100 350 100 11.33
3.
(PK) 100N 10
N 20
N 40
N 30
47.22 ± 1.31
151 560 160 12.57
4.
P 100K 50N 10
N 20K 50
N 40
N 30
49.95 ± 1.24
160 470 134 12.30
5.
P 50K 100N 10
N 20
N 40P 50
N 30
38.01 ± 0.65
l22
417 119 12.10
6.
(NPK) 25
(NPK) 25
(NPK) 25
(NPK) 25
35.87 ± 1.21
115 455 130 12.10

Table 15

EFFECT OF NITROGEN FEED ON OPIUM YIELD AND MORPHINE CONTENT-1948

Variants

Yield of air-dried above-ground mass

Yield of air-dried opium

 

On filling Containers

Rosette stage

Budding stage

g/container

%

mg/container

%

Percentage of morphine content of absolutely dry weight of opium

(PK) 100N 20
-
-
40.1 ± 1.4
100.6 156.4 100 9.35
(PK) 100N 20
N 30
N 50
53.5 ± 1.9
133.0 296.0 189 12.50

In addition, the application of nitrogenous fertilizers during the growing period increases not only the opium yield but also morphine content-a most important fact. Potash fertilizers applied at two periods-half a dose when filling the containers and another half at the rosette stage (Table 14)-had a beneficial effect on vegetation but reduced the opium yield. The application of phosphate fertilizers in two doses (Variant 5, )-half a dose when filling the containers and another half at the budding stage-reduced the yield of above-ground mass as well as opium yield and morphine content.

Thus phosphate and potash fertilizers used during experiments on growing produced a more beneficial effect on opium yield and morphine content when applied before sowing.

The use of a complete fertilizer (NPK) in equal portions at all stages increased the opium yield by 30% and the morphine content by 37% compared with the results obtained by applying a full dose when filling the containers (Variant 6). On the other hand, the yield with this variant was considerably less than that obtained with Variant 3, in which the full dose of phosphate and potash fertilizers as well as a small amount of nitrogen was given when the containers were filled; the rest of the nitrogen was given during the growing period.

Judging from the plant's development and the yield obtained, the application of fertilizer in this manner went a long way towards satisfying the opium poppy's demand for nutritious matter.

In the field experiments carried out, data was obtained which tally completely with the results of the growing period experiments (Tables 16, 17).

Table 16

EFFECT OF NITROGENOUS AND POTASH FERTILIZERS ON OPIUM YIELD AND MORPHINE-1940

 

Time of applying fertilizer

Yield of absolutely dry opium

 

Morphine yield

No.

During Ploughing

During cultivation

For feeding purposes

kg/ha

%

Percentage morphine content of absolutely dry weight

kg/ha

%

1.
No fertilizer
 
 
9.66 ± 0.25
100 10.22 0.985 100
2.
Pc 60
-
-
11.84 ± 0.20
123 10.65 1.260 127
3.
Pc 60
N 60
-
11.70 ± 0.75
121 10.56 1.233 125
4.
Pc 60
N 30
N 30
13.53± 0.31
140 11.21 1.516 154
5.
Pc 60
(NK) 3
N 30K 15
12.82 ± 0.25
133 9.82 1.259 128
6.
Pc 60K 45
-
-
11.70 ± 0.11
121 10.10 1.181 120
7.
Pc 60K 45
N 60
-
10.76 ± 0.45
111 10.37 1.115 113
8.
Pc 60K 45
N 30
N 30
12.27 ± 0..32
127 10.87 1.334 135
9.
N 60Pc 60
-
-
13.01 ± 0.20
135 10.96 1.426 145
10.
(NPc) 60K 45
-
-
11.32 + 0.34
117 10.77 1.219 124

The data in Table 16 show that the most effective method of using nitrogenous fertilizers, where not applied at ploughing time, is to apply them in two stages: 30 kg of nitrogen per hectare during cultivation and 30 kg/ha during the growing period in order to feed up the plants. Applying the fertilizer in this way, a larger opium yield was obtained with a greater morphine content. With an application of nitrogenous fertilizers in doses of 60 kg of nitrogen per hectare during cultivation (Variant 3), the effect on opium yield was nil, and a background of P 60K 45 was negative in its result (Variant 7).

It should be noted that the application of nitrogenous fertilizers at depth during ploughing was also effective.

Potash fertilizers applied in the field experiments had a negative effect in all cases on opium yield and morphine content. A specially sharp fall in morphine content was observed when using potash fertilizers at two stages. In this case, the morphine content dropped by 1.39%.

Experiments over many years have shown (Table 17) that nitrogenous fertilizers applied at the rosette stage in doses of 60 kg of nitrogen per hectare, accompanied by adequate phosphate feeding, produces a substantial increase in opium yield. The morphine content, as a result of the application of nitrogenous fertilizers rose by 0.65% on average. These experiments provided a demonstration of how to use nitrogenous fertilizers effectively.

It may be taken as established, on the basis of the above considerations, that the opium poppy's need for fertilizers at the development stage is not uniform. During the initial period of development, it needs heavy phosphate feeding but very little nitrogen, and an abundance of nitrogenous fertilizers has an adverse effect on the opium yield. During the next period, beginning with the rosette stage when the plant grows rapidly, the need for nitrogen sharply increases. The amount of potash fertilizers required is insignificant, and an excess of potash in the soil lowers the opium yield and morphine content.

Table 17

EFFECT OF NITROGEN FEED ON OPIUM AND MORPHINE YIELDS (AVERAGE FOR SIX YEARS)

   

Yield of absolutely dry opium

 

Morphine content

No.

Test variants

hg/ha

%

Morphine content

kg/ha

%

1.
No fertilizer
17.3
100 12.13 2.1 100
2.
90 kg/ha P 2O 5 at ploughing time
22.5
130 13.75 3.1 147
3.
N60 for feed-up purposes at the rosette stage
26.3 152 14.40 3.78 176

From the experiments carried out, it can be concluded that the system of feeding the poppy calls for the use of fertilizers at the main cultivation stage, at the time of sowing, and later, for feeding.

It is usual in practice to apply 60-90 kg P 20 5 per hectare at the ploughing stage, and another 6 kg/ha in the form of granulated superphosphate at sowing time along with the seed.

At the rosette stage the plants are fed with nitrogenous fertilizers at the rate of 40-60 kg of nitrogen per hectare.