Indigenous and foreign poppy varieties characterized by the morphine content of their dry capsules




Author: Pavel POPOV, Yordan DIMITROV, Stanko GEORGIEV, Lyubomir S. ILIEV
Pages: 51 to 56
Creation Date: 1973/01/01

Indigenous and foreign poppy varieties characterized by the morphine content of their dry capsules *

Pavel POPOV ("K. Malkov" Agricultural Experimental Station, Sadovo, Plovdiv Region)
Yordan DIMITROV ("K. Malkov" Agricultural Experimental Station, Sadovo, Plovdiv Region)
Stanko GEORGIEV ("K. Malkov" Agricultural Experimental Station, Sadovo, Plovdiv Region)
Lyubomir S. ILIEV (Chair of Pharmaceutical and Organic Chemistry, Academy of Medical Sciences, Sofia)

The cultivation of poppy as an autumn crop in a rather limited area of the Balkan peninsula, in which Bulgaria is included owing to its rather dry climate and uneven distribution of precipitation during the growing period, imposes some special requirements as to the varieties and techniques used. The varieties used in this geographical area must, in particular, be frost resistant and have a short growing period; that is to say they must be winter-hardy and complete their growth by mid-June, before the onset of hot weather (22°-23°C).

Research by Popov [ 6] , ** Avramova [ 1] , and Popov and Dimitrov [ 4] [ 5] has shown that the poppy grown in Bulgaria, in the past for the production of raw opium by incision of the capsules, is only grown in limited areas in the Balkan peninsula. From the taxonomic point of view, it is highly uniform, consisting solely of ssp. turcicumN. Basil.

Ssp. turcicumincludes forms and strains belonging to the opium group. It is characterized by winter-hardiness, a well-developed vascular system in the seed-vessel, the abundant secretion of milky latex in the phase of technical ripeness and a high morphine content in the opium - over 16 per cent. The seed-vessels are oval or spherical in shape with a smooth surface, so that the capsules can be easily incised and the opium collected. We have found a wide variation, of 10 to 19 per cent, in the morphine content of the raw opium obtained from the local poppy strains. By means of selection we have derived from these stocks and put into production the new poppy strains S-188, S-230 and P-360. These strains, which are noteworthy for the high morphine content of their raw opium, are at present the only ones widely cultivated in the country. In the climatic conditions prevailing in Bulgaria they give a high yield in dry capsules and seed - 400-500 and 700-800 kg/ha respectively and in the rosette stage withstand temperatures as low as - 17°C. Owing to their excellent winter-hardiness they can be sown in the autumn. The strains S-188 and P-360 of the "K. Malkov" Agricultural Experimental Station in Sadovo were tested in Hungary by Unk [ 8] . He established that these strains are the most winter-resistant and recommends them for production and selection.

The sub-variety eurasiaticumM. Vessel includes the strains widely disseminated in Europe, belonging to the oil-producing group. These are characterized by relatively low morphine content of the raw opium, a less developed vascular system and less abundant exudation of milky latex. Their capsules vary considerably in size and shape, with pronounced segmentation and a rough, bumpy surface which makes incision and collection of the opium more difficult. These are grown mainly for seed. With the new techniques for obtaining morphine chemically by extraction from the dry capsules a number of strains of this variety have proved to be suitable not only for seed but also for the production of morphine.

* The article, originally in Bulgarian, is reprinted by permission of Plant Science, volume VIII, No. 7, Sofia, 1971.

** Figures between parentheses refer to bibliographical references placed at the end of the article.

Chubarova [ 9] , in her research on a collection of 800 specimens of oil poppy plants notes the great variation in morphine content in the dry capsules. While the average content is 0.6 per cent, the range is from 0.1 to 1.0 per cent and greater.

Gryzlov, Bulgakov and Kuteynikov [ 3] give the following data by region: for the Novinka 198 variety: 0.30-0.46 per cent in the Bashkir Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, 0.30-0.60 per cent in the Kuybishev region, 0.40-0.55 per cent in the Voronezh region, 0.32-0.69 per cent in the Poltava region, 0.31-0.66 per cent in the Kharkov region, 0.25-0.43 per cent in the Khmelnitz region and 0.45-0.70 per cent in the Dnepropetrovsk region; for the Tatarstan variety: 0.28-0.44 per cent in the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, and for the Voronezh 1042 variety: 0.36-0.40 per cent in the Voronezh region.

Unk [ 8] reports for the Hungarian varieties Hatvani: 0.4-0.6 per cent, for SB and SD morphine poppy: 0.45-0.65 per cent and the SC morphine poppy: 0.4-0.7 per cent.

In the climatic conditions prevailing in central southern Bulgaria (Sadovo), Popov and Dimitrov [ 4] show that these varieties do not withstand low temperatures, freezing at a temperature of - 7°or - 8°C in autumn sowing, whereas in spring sowing they gave a much lower yield of straw and seed than the indigenous strains S-188, S-230 and P-360 grown as autumn crops.

On the other hand, in many of our experiments on the various steps in the production technology of poppy growing [ 5] autumn sowing has been found to be clearly more advantageous, as the yield in seed and dry capsules is from 3 to 8 times that of crops sown in the early and late spring. For this reason the spring varieties have found no application in Bulgaria.

The change in industrial techniques, whereby morphine is obtained not from the raw opium but by extraction from the dry poppy capsules, called for a new orientation in scientific research work on the poppy in Bulgaria. What was needed in particular, was an evaluation of the Bulgarian strains S-188, S-230 and P-360 belonging to the opium group, with regard to their morphine content, not in the raw opium but in the dry capsules. Likewise some of the better known foreign varieties were introduced and tested, such as Novinka 198 (USSR), the Morphine and Hatvani varieties (Hungary) and the Purpureae variety (Poland). The goal was to develop varieties with a high capsule yield and a high morphine content in the capsules (0.9-1.0 and greater), resistant to low temperatures and disease and suitable for autumn sowing and mechanized harvesting.

As can be seen from table 1, the varieties of the opium group ssp. turcicumand of the oil group ssp. eurasiaticum,grown at the Agricultural Experimental Station at Sadovo, do not differ essentially in morphine content of the dry capsules, and the variation of the two sub-varieties in this respect is within the same limits. The S-188 variety has a higher morphine content of the dry capsules-0.62 per cent. Next comes the S-230 with 0.56 per cent, the Hatvani with 0.53 per cent, the Morphine with 0.52 per cent and the Novinka 198 with 0.50 per cent. The P-360 and Purpureae varieties (table 1) have the lowest morphine content of the dry capsules (0.49 per cent). The data given in the table show that in the climatic conditions prevailing in Bulgaria the foreign varieties Novinka 198, Hatvani, Morphine and Purpureae of the ssp. eurasiaticumgroup do not surpass the indigenous varieties S-188 and S-230 in morphine content of the dry capsules. At present S-188 and P-360 are the only varieties extensively grown in Bulgaria, from which poppy straw is obtained for the industrial extraction of morphine and the pharmaceutical manufacturing plant adds our variety to the imported poppy in order to increase the percentage of morphine extracted.


Morphine content in dry capsules of Bulgarian and foreign varieties of poppy tested in the experimental plots of the Agricultural Experimental Station at Sadovo, 1970


No. of samples analysed

Average morphine content of dry capsules, %

S-188 = 100

Range of variation

1. S-188
30 0.62 100.0
2. S-230
17 0.56 90.6
3. P-360
76 0.49 79.0
4. Novinka 198
9 0.50 80.6
5. Hatvan
7 0.53 85.5
6. Morphin
7 0.52 83.8
7. Purpureae
0.49 79.0
- -

The production technique for obtaining morphine has not yet been perfected; up to the present only 40-43 per cent of this valuable alkaloid is extracted from the dry capsules.

Parallel with the research on Bulgarian and foreign varieties to develop strains with a high morphine content in the dry capsule, in 1967 hybrids were developed between the varieties of the Sadovo experimental station established in Bulgaria, of ssp. turcicumS-188, S-230 and P-360 and foreign varieties of ssp. eurasiaticum - Novinka198 (USSR), Hatvani and Morphine (Hungary) and Purpureae (Poland). Strains within ssp. turcicumwere also crossed. Three groups of hybrid combinations were bred:

In ssp. turcicum
1. S-188 x P-360
2. S-188 x S-230
3. S-230 x S-188
(f.) ssp. turcicum
4. S-188 x Novinka 198
(m.) ssp. eurasiaticum
5. S-188 x Hatvani
6. S-188 x Purpureae
7. S-230 x Morphine
8. S-230 x Purpureae
(f.) ssp. eurasiaticum
9. Morphine x S-188
(m.) ssp. turcicum
10. Hatvani x S-188
11. Hatvani x P-360

(f.) = female

(m.) = male

In F 2 and F 3 selection was made according to a set of indices: productivity of the capsule, the most appropriate zero habitus, or arrangement of the capsules in a single plane, in branched forms, to facilitate mechanized harvesting, and resistance to low temperatures and to disease. More than 260 lines were selected which met these desiderata. After preparation these together with the parent varieties were analysed in the laboratory for the morphine content in the dry capsules.


Morphine content in the dry capsules of the most promising lines produced by crossing varieties of ssp. turcicum

Line and parent varieties

Morphine content in dry capsules, per cent

Comparison with parent stock, in per cent

(f.) S-188
0.62 88.4
Line No. 1/1-3
(m.) P-360
0.48 112.7
(f.) S-188
0.62 100.3
Line No. 2/4-1
(m.) S-230
0.56 111.4
(f.) S-230
0.56 108.9
Line No. 3/9-1
(m.) S-188
0.62 98.1

(f.) = female

(m.) = male

The morphine content of the dry capsules was determined colorimetrically by the method of the Kharkov Chemical Pharmaceutical Research Institute (HNIHFI) in the laboratory of the faculty of pharmaceutical chemistry at the Academy of Medical Sciences in Sofia.

The results of the analyses are given in tables 2 and 3.

The data in table 2 show that in the crossing between varieties of ssp. turcicumS-188, S-230 and P-360 the most promising lines in F 3 do not surpass the parent form with regard to morphine content of the dry capsules, i.e. the inheritance is intermediate.

Table 3 shows that with the crossing of varieties of ssp. turcicumand ssp. eurasiaticum,where varieties of ssp. turcicumare used as the female parent the promising lines of F 3 exceed both parental forms in morphine content of the capsules 15.1 (S-188 X Purpureae) to 72.5 per cent (S-188 x Hatvani). The dry capsules of line No. 5/8-3 have a morphine content of 0.91 per cent-46.1 per cent of that of S-188 and 72.5 per cent of that of Hatvani.

With reciprocal crossing ([?] (weibl.) ssp. eurasiaticum? [?] (m?nnl.) ssp. turcicum)the lines with the highest morphine content in the dry capsules also surpass the two parent forms 8.8 (Morphine x S-188) to 51.2 per cent (Hatvani x P-360). The highest morphine content in the dry capsules (0.78 per cent) was found in line No. 10/6.2, which surpasses the parent form, Hatvani, by 48.4 per cent and S-188 by 25.3 per cent.

The role of the maternal strain is significant in the heredity with respect to the percentage of morphine in the dry capsules. This can be seen from a comparison of the direct and reciprocal crossing of S-188 x Hatvani and Hatvani x S-188. When the variety of the ssp. turcicumgroup is the female parent the highest morphine content in the progeny is 0.91 per cent (line No. 5/8-3), which surpasses the parents S-188 and Hatvani by 46.1 and 72.5 per cent. With the opposite crossing (Hatvani x S-188) the highest morphine content is 0.78 per cent, observed in line No. 10/6-2, which surpasses the parents by 48.4 and 25.3 per cent respectively. Consequently, the combining capacity is found to be stronger when ssp. turcicumis used as the female parent.

The data also show that there is a greater capacity of combination between strains of the two sub-varieties than between strains of the same sub-variety, in this case ssp. turcicum.


Morphine contend in dry capsules of some lines produced by crossing strains of ss. turcicum and ssp. eurasiaticum

Line and parent strains

Morphine content in dry capsules, per cent

By comparison with parents, in per cent

(f.) ssp. t urcicum
(m.) eurasiaticum
(f.) S-188
0.62 122.8
Line No. 4/7-1
(m.) Novinka 198
0.50 151.3
(f.) S-188
0.62 146.1
Line No. 5/8-3
(m.) Hatvani
0.53 172.5
(f.) S-188
0.62 115.1
Line No. 6/4-2
(m.) Purpureae
0.49 144.6
(f.) S-230
0.56 115.5
Line No. 7/8-1
(m.) Morphine
0.52 123.5
(f.) S-230
0.56 116.1
Line No. 8/9-2
(m.) Purpureae
0.49 131.3
(f.) ssp. e urasiaticum
(m.) turcicum
(f.) Morphine
0.52 129.2
Line No. 9/6-1
(m.) S-188
0.62 108.8
(f.) Hatvani
0.53 148.4
Line No. 10/6-2
(m.) S-188
0.62 125.3
(f.) Hatvani
0.53 140.0
Line No. 11/10-1
(m.) P-360
0.49 151.2

(f.) = female

(m.) = male


  1. In the climatic conditions prevailing in Bulgaria foreign poppy strains of ssp. e urasiaticum - Novinka198 (Soviet), Hatvani and Morphine (Hungarian) and Purpureae (Poland) - do not surpass the indigenous strains of ssp. turcicumS-188 and S-230 in morphine content of the dry capsules. The strain S-188 has the highest morphine content in the dry capsules (0.62 per cent), followed by S-230 with 0.56 per cent, Hatvani with 0.53 per cent, Morphine with 0.52 per cent, Novinka 198 with 0.50 per cent, and in last place, P-360 and Purpureae with 0.49 per cent.

    In addition, S-188 and S-230 are more winter-resistant than all the other domestic and foreign strains which we tested, and they are suitable for autumn sowing, giving high yields of dry capsules and hence of morphine.

  2. Crosses between strains within the ssp. turcicumvariety give progeny with a morphine content in the dry capsules at an intermediate level.

  3. In all crosses between strains of ssp. turcicum and ssp. eurasiaticum the most promising lines surpass the parent strains in morphine by 8.8 to 72.5 per cent.

The prospective lines attain the highest morphine content in the dry capsules (0.91 per cent) when strains of ssp. turcicum are used as the female parent.



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