Environmental effects on morphine content in opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.)


Summary and conclusion


Pages: 69 to 74
Creation Date: 1978/01/01

Environmental effects on morphine content in opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.)

Division of Vegetable Crops and Floriculture, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi


Ten cultivars of opium poppy were tested for morphine content during the past five years at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi. Techniques employed to determine the adaptive potential (Finlay and Wilkinson, 1963; Eberhart and Russel, 1966), relative stability and environmental interaction showed the significant varietal differences when the cultivars' mean square was tested over pooled deviations as the error term. Significant V-X -E(linear) component suggests the existence of genetically conditional differences in the stability of cultivars. Highest morphine content was observed in cultivar H and least in R. Four cultivars exceeded the grand mean. Within the five-year study period three were observed to have given the highest morphine content.


Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.) is an important foreign exchange earner amongst the agricultural crops in India. It represents Rs.200 million annually in foreign exchange (Anonymous, 1976). It is mainly grown in three states of India, viz. Madhya Pradesh (22,034 ha), Rajasthan (16,792 ha) and Uttar Pradesh (15,534 ha), a total area of 54,360 ha in the 1975-1976 crop year, which produced 1,297 tons of crude opium, at 70°consistence. Thirty thousand tons of poppy straw were obtained, out of which 7,000 to 10,000 tons were exported. The average yield of opium was 29.67 kg/ha during 1974-1975. An opium yield as high as 67.8 kg/ha was reported from cultivar Telia in Jabalpur (Dabral and Patel, 1975). The seed of this cultivar was supplied by IARI. The varietal yield of opium at different fertilizer levels has been studied (Kaicker et al., 1975). The total world export of opium during 1974 was 934 tons, of which 912 tons were exported from India alone. The average price in the United States was $4,900 per ton, depending on the morphine content. The average morphine content is 10 per cent (Singh and Khanna, 1975). They also reported a poor percentage of heterosis for morphine content. The two major alkaloids of commercial importance are morphine and codeine. In addition to its domestic needs India is the largest single opium supplier to the rest of the world. Increased morphine content of capsules from 0.37 per cent to 0.60 per cent was reported after eight years of positive selection of isolated self-pollinating plants (Morasz, 1966). It was suggested that faulty irrigation adversely affects morphine content (Singh, 1969). The highest morphine content was observed in the capsules at medium nitrogen (N) dosage and limited supplementary potassium oxide (K 2O) and phosphoric acid (P 2O 5) (Schroder, 1966). Morphine content increased up to the highest N dosage, i.e. 140 kg/ha, whereas Mg-potassium produced a negative influence on morphine content (Schroder, 1966). Various locations became known for high, medium and low morphine content. Adequate rainfall before flowering, followed by dry, warm weather, increased the morphine content of capsules. High rainfall, particularly in August in Germany, was unfavourable. Moisture stress resulted in non-significant morphine content (Turkhede et al., 1976). Recently a study from the Soviet Union based on four different cultivars grown in three different climatic zones has shown the difference in the accumulation of morphine (Malenina and Ivanova, 1974).

The authors also grew opium poppy and collected crude opium samples, thereby studying the variations in morphine content. The following results, based on stability analysis (Finlay and Wilkinson, 1963; Eberhart and Russel, 1966), give genotype-X-environment interactions which are of great importance to a poppy breeder in order to determine the best available variety that will have stable genotype and perform well over a wide range of environmental conditions.


The present five-year study of ten cultivars, selected in 1972 to estimate crude opium yield, was conducted at IARI in New Delhi with the same cultivars, uniform fertilizer treatments of 100 N, 50 P 2O 5 and 30 K 2O kg/ha under environmental conditions which varied slightly from year to year. In Delhi, flowering starts in the middle of February, and by the first week of March (Kaicker et al., 1975) the capsules are fully grown and suitable for incising for the collection of opium. The lancing was done in the afternoon, during bright sunlight. The semi-solid brown opium was collected the following morning before sunrise. Each capsule was incised six times. The opium of each variety was collected separately and analysed for its morphine content at the Central Revenue Control Laboratory, IARI, New Delhi, using the British Pharmacopoeia method for morphine estimation on the basis of dry opium (Dymock, 1890; Thorpe, 1949). The concentrated opium aqueous solution was treated with calcium chloride (CaCl 2)to remove impurities; a cake containing morphine and codeine was obtained (Ramanathan, 1966).


The results presented in table 1 give morphine content in dry opium samples, expressed in percentages, of the ten different cultivars for the years 1973-1977. The mean, grand mean and standard error of the mean suggest wide varietal differences in the range of morphine content and the phenotypic stability of these cultivars. The differences were significant. It was observed that in 1973 cultivar H produced the highest morphine content (20.15 per cent); cultivar B the lowest (15.89 per cent). In 1974 cultivar B had the highest morphine content (15.02 per cent), while cultivar DCG was best in 1975 (16.89 per cent). During 1976/1977 the cultivars that produced the highest morphine content were B and KP, respectively. Thus the behaviour of each cultivar was generally different in each year. In contrast, however, cultivar D generally performed similarly in relation to the mean, having a squared deviation value of only 0.08. It also obtained third to fifth positions in the over-all performance. From table 1 it can be deduced that out of the ten cultivars, six were above grand mean (13.79). Cultivars H, KP, KD and KTD were statistically similar in behaviour (see figure).

Table 1

Morphine content of opium on dry basis, range of temperature and relative humidity, mean, regression, correlation, and squared deviation, for ten cultivars of opium poppy










Squared deviation

1. R
19.73 13.12 10.60 13.12 7.60 12.83 1.38 0.96 2.26
2. T
17.68 14.14 13.12 14.14 5.21 12.86 1.47 0.91 1.04
3. KTD
17.32 14.54 13.33 14.59 10.80 14.12 0.75 0.99 0.16
4. KD
17.11 14.59 14.54 14.59 10.00 14.17 0.82 0.98 0.19
5. KM
16.14 13.49 12.87 13.49 8.47 12.89 0.89 0.94 0.11
6. KP
18.80 14.08 14.90 14.08 11.22 14.62 0.84 0.93 0.89
7. D
17.85 14.54 13.30 14.54 9.14 13.87 0.01 0.96
8. H.
20.15 14.99 13.18 14.99 11.10 14.88 1.03 0.97 1.54
9. DCG
17.48 13.55 16.89 13.55 7.20 13.73 1.17 0.82 4.90
10. B 15.89 15.02 12.99 15.09 11.00 13.99 0.59 0.98 0.83
178.15 142.13 135.78 142.18 91.74  
C.D. (5%)
17.81 14.21 13.57 14.21 9.17  
C.D. (5%)
Grand mean
S.E. (b) 0.17
S.E. (mean)
Max. temp. °C
Min. temp. °C .
Rel. humidity(%)

Significant at 1 per cent level.




Full size image: 17 kB, FIGURE


An analysis of variance for stability parameters for morphine content is presented in table 2. The differences between cultivars and the environment differences as well as the linear component due to environment were significant; so also was the interaction of genotype with the environment. The differences between cultivars were observed to be significant when the mean square was tested over the pooled deviations. The significance of V-X-E (linear) component suggests the existence of genetically conditioned differences in the stability of cultivars. Comparatively high correlation values were observed in cultivars KTD, KD and B (table 1). D has given the least squared deviation (0.08), which suggests it to be the best adapted cultivar, having absolute genotypic stability.


Analysis of variance for stability parameters in respect of morphine quality in opium poppy



Degree of freedom

Sum of squares

Mean square

F. value

49 465.67 2.69 2.24a
9 24.28    
E + (V X E)
40 441.33    
E (linear)
1 379.13    
V X E (linear)
9 26.13 2.90 2.41a
Pooled deviation
30 36.12 1.20  

a Significant at 1 per cent level.

Table 3 shows the environment index, divided into two negative and three positive environmental years out of the five years studied. Environmental conditions were most favourable in 1973, followed by 1974 and 1976. In 1977 environmental conditions were poorest for the building up of morphine content. Table 1 also indicates that during positive environment, i.e. the years 1973, 1974 and 1976 the ranges for temperature (both maximum and minimum) and relative humidity were high compared with the poorest environmental year 1977. Positive environment gave better morphine content.


Environmental index Ij for 5 years

Positive environment

Negative environment





1973 4.01 1975
- 0.22
1974 0.41 1977
- 0.62
1976 0.41    


Investigation, using techniques for measuring adaptability (Finlay and Wilkinson's, 1963; Eberhart and Russel's 1966), demonstrates that there is reasonable consistence in the cultivar D, which amongst ten cultivars proved to be most stable in morphine content over a five-year period. The environmental index showed that 1973, 1974 and 1976 were good years for the building up of morphine content; 1977 was poor. The performance during the three good years may possibly be due to the higher ranges of temperature, both maximum and minimum, as well as the higher relative humidity, as shown in table 1. This observation is in line with that of another investigator (Schroder, 1966) who distinguished between locations for high, medium and low morphine content.

Temperature and relative humidity may perhaps affect enzymatic reasons responsible for the transformation of precursors during morphine biosynthesis. This lends support to the work of another researcher (Vagujfalvi, 1973), who also has observed marked daily variation in morphine content of three different poppy strains. A direct relationship has also been suggested between phenoloxidase activity and morphine content (Jindra et al., 1966).

Since the price index in the world market is dependent on the morphine production efficiency, these assumptions relating the variations in biosynthesis of morphine to the possible effect of environment need thorough investigation by plant scientists. It may also be mentioned that cultivar D was grown on agronomic trial at IARI, New Delhi. There were no significant differences in morphine content due to varying application of water. However, rates of application of N and P 2O 5 fertilizers did result in differences in the plant's morphine content (Turkhede et al., 1976).

Summary and conclusion

The adaptability of ten cultivars of opium poppy was investigated during the past five years at IARI, New Delhi, to select the best adapted variety for the northern plains of India. The results indicated the over-all superiority of the cultivar D. It was highly adapted in spite of low yielding negative environments such as 1977; on the basis of this study cultivar D is recommended to be grown in the northern plains of India.


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