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Lawrence, B.M. 1993. A planning scheme to evaluate new aromatic plants for the flavor and fragrance industries. p. 620-627. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York.

A Planning Scheme to Evaluate New Aromatic Plants for the Flavor and Fragrance Industries

Brian M. Lawrence

  8. Table 1
  9. Table 2
  10. Table 3
  11. Table 4
  12. Table 5
  13. Table 6
  14. Table 7

There are approximately 300 natural products used as raw materials in the flavor and fragrance industry. These raw materials can be found in the form of essential oils, extracts, oleoresins, concretes, absolutes, resinoids, and tinctures to name the major groups. Of these materials, about half are produced from cultivated plants while the remaining 50% are obtained either as by-products of a primary industry or are harvested from natural wild plants. Raw materials such as galbanum or opopanax are not distilled or extracted within close proximity where grown so these will not enter this discussion as they have little relevance as new crops.

The major portion of this discussion will be directed towards essential oil bearing plants. The 20 major oils in the world market are presented in Table 1. Accurate production figures are available for those oils produced in the United States (Simon 1990), but production statistics from third world countries and even some western countries are more obscure. Previous surveys of essential oils include those of Lawrence 1985 and the ITC (Anon 1986). The large volumes of oil produced suggest an economic potential for essential oil bearing plants as new crops.

The traditional view of essential oil production is that of simple farming or collection followed by oil distillation or extraction. Both intrinsic factors (genotype, state of maturity, part of plant harvested) and extrinsic factors (light, temperature, water, nutrients) will strongly influence the oil yield and composition (Bernath 1986; Lawrence 1986). Within a single clone, the intrinsic factors can be fixed whereas the extrinsic factors cannot.

In this paper, a crop development planning scheme is proposed which will be directed specifically towards the commercialization of essential oil species in the families Lamiaceae (Labiatae) (Table 2), Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) (Table 3), and Asteraceae (Compositae) (Table 4).


Prior to any market survey or crop selection, a knowledge is required of the micro-environment, the land, and water resources, natural flora and fauna, and local agricultural skills and problems. These include annual record of the maximum and minimum temperatures on a 24 hour basis, photoperiod, rainfall, soil type, pH, nutrient and humus content, and water holding capacity.

It is useful to know what irrigation methods are used locally, what are the local sources of water, and what is the normal frequency of irrigation and the quantity of water applied for specific crops for what periods of time. What is the normal field size? Is full mechanization feasible? What are the main local agricultural problems? What are the local pest disease and weed problems? What are the normal crops and cropping priorities. In the United States, much of this information along with some of the environmental data is readily available from the State Department of Agriculture or County Cooperative Extension Service.

An economic survey of oil production must be compiled. A crop development scheme for establishment and implementation of an essential oil crop development program using eastern North Carolina as an example of a site will be discussed. For essential oils a laboratory which possesses the capability of running labscale distillations, physico-chemical parameter measurements, and gas chromatographic analyses should be in place as well as a commercial scale steam distillation facility. It must be remembered that essential oils, which are natural mixtures of secondary plant products, are raw materials used in the flavor and fragrance industries. As a result, there are some economic questions that require accurate answers:

  1. Which oils are in short supply and which are in over supply?
  2. Are there any current use trends for individual oils?
  3. Which oils are subject to adulteration?
  4. What oils are subject to climatic or political problems?
To answer these questions with today's information, the main essential oils which I have found to be in short supply are patchouli, hyssop, lemon balm, sage (Lamiaceae), blue chamomile, tagetes, yarrow, (Asteraceae) and galbanum, lovage herb, parsley herb (Apiaceae), whereas the oils in oversupply are spike lavender (Lamiaceae) and fennel (Apiaceae). The only current use trend in the oils of the three families other than those noted above is a decrease in lavender oil. All oils that possess components for which synthetic counterparts are readily available are subject to adulteration even if the chirality of the synthetic adulterant does not match that of the natural compound. Essential oils are produced in a variety of temperate and tropical parts of the world. Any oils that can be produced in the Peoples Republic of China can have a substantial impact of their supply and demand because they may be sold on the world market or they may be stockpiled below production costs or to elevate market price. I have seen this over the last decade with cornmint and citronella oils. In the former Soviet Union, eastern Europe, and other countries desperate for international currency, essential oils are often bartered into the Western world. I believe that much of the coriander oil produced in the former Soviet Union found its way into western countries via the barter route.

Assuming the decision is made that the essential oil production facility can be built and in this case study will be located in eastern North Carolina and the appropriate information is available that will help make a selection of which plants to grow, a set of action steps to become a commercial essential oil producer is needed. Let me propose a 5-stage development plan as follows:

Stage 1: Screening plants in small plots
Stage 2: Evaluation of trial rows
Stage 3: Small scale experimental plantings
Stage 4: Mini-commercialization
Stage 5: Full-scale commercialization


The workload associated with this stage can be summarized as follows: prepare experimental garden, acquire seeds/plants, propagate seedlings/cuttings, plant garden, keep records, culture plants, study growth habits, maintain history on individual plants, harvest plants, steam distill plants, record yield, and conduct chemical analysis on promising oils. It is important to isolate plants for seed production that cross pollinate, eliminate any that show signs of disease, have insect pest problems, or that indicate mixed populations. Plants of little potential should be removed. A dossier must be maintained on all plants in the field.

At the same time as stage 1 screening is underway, economic dossiers on each promising species should be prepared. An example of a dossier for caraway can be seen in Table 5. Depending upon the species a plant may have to be grown in stage 1 for more than one year as all pertinent information may not be obtained. Assuming a species has potential, it is most likely that the best genotype has not been grown. A range of oil yields that were obtained from various cultivars of some selected species grown over a 2-year period is presented in Table 6. These results clearly demonstrate that selection of a specific strain or chemotype with the highest oil yield (assuming an acceptable chemical composition) is imperative to maximize an economic return.

Before proceeding from stage 1 to stage 2, positive answers to the following questions are needed.


The following questions need to be answered in this trial row stage:
The workload associated with this stage in the development plan can be summarized as follows: prepare the land, plan layout for trial rows, propagate plants, plant trial rows, determine alternate propagation methods, and keep records. For selected species, plant at various dates and spacings, determine good crop culture, monitor effect of stress on plants, and examine plants closely for problems. Finally, harvest plants at distinct stages of maturity and determine oil yield. Determine oil composition of oils obtained from plants harvested at various times. An example of the seasonal changes in chemical composition as the plant matures can be seen in Table 7. Finally, determine change in oil yield and composition of most promising species over a 24-hour period at optimum oil production time.

Before proceeding from stage 2 to stage 3, positive answers on another set of questions are necessary:

A considerable number of tasks require completion in order to adequately answer these questions. Assuming a positive answer, then the cultivar of the selected species can proceed to the next stage.


The following questions that need to be answered during this stage:
The workload associated with this stage is to treat the cultivar of the selected species as a small farm crop by performing all farming practices using commercial mechanical equipment. At this stage in the life of the crop, replicated experiments should be performed so that fertilizer, irrigation, herbicide, and pesticide regimes can be established. At harvest time, the plants should be distilled using commercial or pilot scale equipment rather than laboratory equipment so that accurate yields per unit area can be obtained. Once the oil has been produced (presumably in kilogram quantities), then it should be circulated to user companies so that trade acceptability can be assessed. Also during this stage, a more detailed report on the market of the oil should be prepared. Finally, based on the costs associated with the trial acreage, a detailed economic analysis of oil production should be performed.

Assuming everything looks promising through this stage, before proceeding to stage 4, the following questions must now be answered.

Once the cultivar of the selected species demonstrates potential as suggested by this planning scheme, the next step is mini-commercialization.


By this stage two major questions need to be answered:
The workload associated with this stage is often dependent upon the amount of seed, or propagates that are available to plant. It is recommended that a minimum of 2 ha (ca. 5 acres) be planted because an important factor to determine at this stage are the fixed costs associated with producing oil from the cultivar of the selected species at various hectarages (4, 20, 40, 400 ha). With this information in hand, an accurate picture of the economic viability of the crop can be obtained. With the yield information, it will be valuable to determine the area that it would take to plant and produce 1, 5, or 10.0% of the world market demands for this oil. This information will put the oil production statistics in perspective and may point out some potential vulnerability especially if the production facility becomes an essential oil monoculture.

Before proceeding from stage 4 to stage 5, a final set of questions need to be answered:

Assuming that all of the previously encountered questions can be answered favorably and the data collected was accurate, then the expansion to a large-scale production is the final stage in the development plan.


Once a crop is in full-scale commercial production, the area grown will be determined by the ease and ability to market the oil profitably. Although in this stage of the plan, the crop will move from the research phase into the maintenance and improvement stage, there are some tasks that should not be overlooked. This includes increase in oil yield, decrease in cost of oil production, increase processing efficiency to improve oil quality as the market demands, and maximize the market and profit position.

Based on the world market supply and demand and industry trends, the oils that could prove economically viable for production in North America include: sage, marjoram, hyssop and Melissa (Lamiaceae), blue chamomile, davana and tarragon (Asteraceae), lovage herb/root/seed, and parsley herb (Apiaceae).


Table 1. The world's 20 top essential oils.

Essential oilSpecies Volume (t) Value ($x106)
Orange Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck 26,000 58.5
Cornmint Mentha arvensis L. f. piperascens Malinv. ex Holmes 4,300 34.4
Eucalyptus cineole-type Eucalyptus globulus Labill., E. polybractea R.T. Baker and other Eucalyptus species 3,728 29.8
Citronella Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt and C. nardus (L.) Rendle 2,830 10.8
Peppermint Mentha xpiperita L. 2,367 28.4
Lemon Citrus limon (L.) N.L. Burm. 2,158 21.6
Eucalyptus citronellal-type Eucalyptus citriodora Hook. 2,092 7.3
Clove leaf Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. and L.M. Perry 1,915 7.7
Cedarwood (US) Juniperus virginiana L. and J. ashei Buchholz 1,640 9.8
Litsea cubeba Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Pers. 1,005 17.1
Sassafras (Brazil) Ocotea pretiosa (Nees) Benth. 1,000 4.0
Lime distilled (Brazil) Citrus aurantifolia (Christm. & Panz.) Swingle 973 7.3
Native spearmint Mentha spicata L. 851 17.0
Cedarwood (Chinese) Chamaecyparis funebris (Endl.) Franco 800 3.2
Lavandin Lavandula intermedia Emeric ex Loisel 768 6.1
Sassafras (Chinese) Cinnamomum micranthum (Hayata) Hayata 750 3.0
Camphor Cinnamomum camphora (L.) J. Presl. 725 3.6
Coriander Coriandrum sativum L. 710 49.7
Grapefruit Citrus paradisi Macfady 694 13.9
Patchouli Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth. 563 6.8

Table 2. Worldwide production of the major essential oils of the Lamiaceae.

Essential oil Species Volume Value
Major essential oils (t) ($x106)
Cornmint Mentha arvensis L. f. piperascens Malinv. ex Holmes 4,300 34.4
Peppermint Mentha xpiperita L. 2,367 28.4
Native spearmint Mentha spicata L. 851 17.0
Lavandin Lavandula intermedia Emeric ex Loisel 768 6.1
Patchouli Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth. 563 6.8
Scotch spearmint Mentha gracilis Sole 530 10.6
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Mill. 362 7.2
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis L. 295 3.5
Clary sage Salvia sclarea L. 70 5.6
Spike lavender Lavandula latifolia Medik. 64 1.0
Ocimum Ocimum gratissimum L. gratissimum 50 0.8
Basil Ocimum basilicum L. 43 2.8
Marjoram Origanum majorana L. 62 1.2
Sage Salvia officinalis L. 35 1.8
Thyme Thymus zygis L. and T. vulgaris L. 29 1.5
Minor essential oils (kg) ($x103)
Wild thyme Thymus pulegioides L. 2,000 100
Monarda (geraniol type) Monarda fistulosa var. menthaefolia (J. Graham) Fernald 2,000 40
Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis L. 1,800 32
Perilla Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton 1,500 1800
Savory Satureja montana L. 1,500 90
Monarda (thymol type) Monarda citriodora 100 5
Ocimum canum Ocimum canum Sims 100 5
Catnip Nepeta cataria L. 100 unknown
Melissa Melissa officinalis L. 100 4
Ninde Aeollanthus gamwelliae G. Taylor <50 unknown
American pennyroyal Hedeoma pulegioides (L.) Pers. <50 unknown

Table 3. Worldwide production of essential oils of the Asteraceae.

Essential oil Species Volume Value
Major essential oils (t) ($x106)
Armoise Artemisia herba-alba Asso 32 1.1
Tagetes Tagetes minuta L. 11.9 1.2
Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus L. 9.9 0.8
Roman chamomile Anthemis nobilis L. 6.0 3.6
Wormwood Artemisia absinthum L. 6.0 0.2
Blue chamomile Chamomilla recutita (L.) Rauschert 4.3 2.2
Wild chamomile Ormenis mixta Dumort. and O. multicaulis Braun-Blanq & Maire 2.0 <0.1
Muhuhu Brachylaena hutchinsii Hutch. 2.0 <0.1
Artemisis martima Artemisia maritima L. 1.0 <0.1
Davana Artemisia pallens Wall. ex DC 1.0 0.3
Minor essential oils (kg) ($x103)
Yarrow Achillea millefolium L. 800 88
Artemisia afra Artemisia afra Jacq. 750 51
Artemisia annua Artemisia annua L. 600 16
Helichrysum Helichrysum stoechas (L.) Monech and H. italicum (Roth) G. Don 300 81
Santolina Santolina chamaecyparissus L. 300 unknown
Balsamite Chrysanthemum balsamita L. 100 3.5
Elecampane Inula helenium L. 100 unknown
Ereocephalus Ereocephalus punctulatus DC 50 unknown
Pteronia Pteronia incana DC 50 unknown
Artemisia vestita Artemisia vestita Wallich 50 unknown
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare L. <50 unknown

Table 4. Worldwide production of essential oils of the Apiaceae.

Essential oil Species Volume Value
Major essential oils (t) ($x106)
Coriander Coriandrum sativum L. 710 49.5
Sweet fennel Foeniculum vulgare Mill. var. dulce 255 7.7
Dill weed Anethum graveolens L. 114 0.8
Celery seed Apium graveolens L. 30 1.5
Caraway Carum carvi L. 29 1.0
Bitter fennel Foeniculum vulgare Mill. var. vulgare 28 0.7
Anise Pimpinella anisum L. 26 0.7
Ajowan Trachyspermum copticum (L.) Link 25 0.3
Indian dill seed Anethum sowa Roxb. ex Flem. 25 0.1
European dill seed Anethum graveolens 23 0.2
Cumin Cuminum cyminum L. 15 0.9
Minor essential oils (kg) ($x103)
Carrot seed Daucus carota L. 8,800 1230
Parsley seed Petroselinum crispum (Mill.) Nym. ex A.W. Hill 8,300 1162
Angelica root Angelica archangelica 4,400 3080
Parsley herb Petroselinum crispum 4,000 560
Asafoetida Ferula assafoetida L. 3,000 1035
Lovage root Levisticum officinale L. 2,000 1600
Lovage herb Levisticum officinale L. 1,500 712
Lovage seed Levisticum officinale L. 900 unknown
Angelica seed Angelica archangelica 800 880
Celery herb Apium graveolens 800 60
Ammoniac gum Dorema ammoniacum D. Don 200 unknown

Table 5. A crop dossier for caraway (Carum carvi L.).

Where cultivated: Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Australia
Grows wild in: Europe and W. Asia
General plant information: Biennial, Umbelliferae Temperate, seed and oil market
Market size: 3,600 to 4,500 kg oil (USA), 303 t seed (USA)
Price: $33 to 35/kg oil (USA), $1.00 to 1.06/kg seed (USA)
Where used: Mostly in flavors, also as a source of d-carvone
Sensitivities: Seed yield, oil content in seed, shatterability, photoperiodic affect on oil composition, water requirements

Table 6. Essential oil yield ranges for various commercially important species.

Species Common name Oil yield range (%) No. samples
Foeniculum vulgare Sweet and bitter fennel 1.3-9.8 50
Daucus carota Carrot seed 0.05-7.15 84
Coriandrum sativum Coriander 0.10-1.40 101
Ocimum basilicum Basil 0.01-0.30 102
Salvia officinalis Sage 0.04-0.17 19
Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary 0.20-1.19 31
Hyssopus officinalis Hyssop 0.06-0.38 35
Tanacetum vulgare Tansy 0.02-0.29 12
Mentha pulegium Pennyroyal 0.10-0.38 12
Carum carvi Caraway 3.2-7.4 10

Table 7. Comparative chemical composition of Coriandrum sativum L. at various stages of maturity.

Stages of plant maturityz
Compound 1 2 3 4 5 6
Octanal 1.20 1.20 0.85 0.66 0.44 0.35
Nonanal 0.51 0.20 0.11 0.05 0.05 0.08
Decanal 30.0 18.09 11.91 6.30 6.24 1.61
Camphor .08 trace 0.52 1.26 2.18 2.44
(E)-2-Decenal 20.6 46.5 46.5 40.6 30.2 3.9
Dodecanal 3.30 1.67 0.96 0.64 0.52 0.41
(E)-2-Undecenal 2.56 2.17 1.39 --- --- ---
Tridecanal 3.07 1.87 2.02 0.92 1.08 0.46
(E)-2-Dodecanal 7.63 8.14 5.95 4.59 4.78 2.49
Tetradecanal 0.68 0.30 0.12 0.15 0.11 0.15
(E)-2-Tridecenal 0.49 0.21 0.14 0.09 0.09 0.13
(E)-2-Tetradecenal 4.45 2.57 1.73 1.53 1.59 1.73
Linalool 0.34 4.27 17.47 30.05 40.88 60.37
Geraniol 0.19 0.11 0.35 0.71 0.93 1.42
Geranyl acetate 4.17 0.78 0.76 0.69 0.69 0.66
zStages of maturity: 1 = floral initiation; 2 = nearly full flowering; 3 = full flowering, primary umbel young green fruit; 4 = past full flowering 50% flower, 50% fruit; 5 = full green fruit; 6 = brown fruit on lower umbels, green fruit on upper umbels; --- = not detected.

Last update May 7, 1997 aw