American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a rare but important plant species that is renowned for its medical uses. Collection from the wild, however, has placed the species at risk throughout its native range. Therefore, research that improves the quality of cultivated ginseng plants has value, both for the commercial product and for conservation of the rare species.
Yet, the most commercially valuable ginseng plants are those that have grown long enough to accumulate a significant quantity of bioactive ginsenosides in the roots, leading to difficulty in agricultural production and ongoing overharvest of wild plants. That is why Karissa Keen, undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, was interested in studying the influence of light levels on the production of ginsenosides.
Fortunately, the University of North Carolina at Asheville received a LEEF grant for the LI-6400XT Portable Photosynthesis System. The LI-6400XT made it possible for Karissa to explore how different populations of ginseng plants respond to different light levels, and to relate this and other variables to ginsenoside content and composition. Her research could make agricultural production of ginseng more viable, thereby easing pressures on wild populations of ginseng.
“My classmates and I are privileged to be able to work with such exceptional equipment,” she says. Not only did the LI-6400XT provide a powerful research instrument, it also was an excellent teaching tool. Karissa adds, “Due to my work with LI-COR equipment, I have an increased understanding of plant physiology.”
If you teach at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI) in the US or Canada, we encourage you to take advantage of the LEEF program to provide your students with state-of-the-art instruments, at a very reasonable cost.