Effects of pruning on the concentration of secondary metabolites in Colophospermum mopane leaves
Colophospermum mopane, commonly known as mopane, produces secondary metabolites during the growing season. However, there is still insufficient knowledge on the quantity of secondary metabolites and the effect of browsers on the concentration of secondary metabolites. A pruning experiment was conducted in the Musina Nature Reserve, Limpopo province, South Africa, to simulate the effect of browsers on the concentration of secondary metabolites in mopane leaves. The twigs from 40 selected experimental mopane trees were pruned back 50 mm from their tips using a hand shear. The total amount of leaf and shoot biomass removed from branches of selected experimental trees was less than 10%. Three independent samples composed of seven mopane leaves per 40 mopane trees were randomly collected from the canopies of experimental and control trees per sampling event. The dried leaves from each three independent samples were then mixed separately and a pooled sample of 10 g per treatment per sample cycle (55 d) was used for determination of total phenols (TP), condensed tannins (CT) and protein-precipitating tannins (PPT). Results showed that <10% pruning does not have an effect on the amount of secondary metabolites in the mopane leaves. The concentration of TP, CT and PPT increased during leaf flush in October and then declined as the leaves matured and aged. It is concluded that the amount of secondary metabolites in mopane leaves is not dependent on <10% pruning, but appeared to be associated with leaf growth stages. The ability of mopane to produce secondary metabolites has implications on the seasonal diet composition and distribution of browsers in mopane woodland.
Keywords: browsers, mopane, phenols, pruning, tannins