Variability of alkaloid content in <em>Papaver somniferum</em> L.


  • A. Dittbrenner
  • H.-P. Mock
  • A. Börner
  • U. Lohwasser


A total of 300 accessions of opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L., Papaveraceae) of the IPK genebank collection from nearly all over the world were cultivated under field conditions in Gatersleben for morphological and phytochemical characterisation. Altogether 35 morphological and agronomic characters were collected for all accessions. Determination of chromosome numbers with flow cytometry showed that the accessions of subspecies setigerum are tetraploid whereas all accessions of the other subspecies are diploid. Composition and content of the five main alkaloids (morphine, codeine, thebaine, papaverine and noscapine) were analysed by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Total alkaloid content varied between 683.32 and 25,034.84 μg/g dry matter (first year) and 1,799.49 and 25,338.55 μg/g dry matter in the second year of cultivation. There is a highly significant correlation between total content of alkaloids and morphine in both years (r=0.926/P=0.000; r=0.918/P=0.000). In contrast, the other four main alkaloids show less or no correlation with each other or the total alkaloid content. This analysis demonstrated that the amount and composition of the main alkaloids are highly variable. Additionally, there is no important correlation between morphological characters and alkaloid content. So it is not possible to use these characters as a prediction tool of alkaloid content during breeding process.