Changes in Essential Oil Composition, Polyphenolic Compounds and Antioxidant Capacity of Ajowan (Trachyspermum ammi L.) Populations in Response to Water Deficit
Ajowan (Trachyspermum ammi L.) is considered a valuable spice plant with a high thymol content. Seed yield, essential oil constituents, polyphenolic composition, and antioxidant capacity of ajowan (Trachyspermum ammi L.) populations were evaluated in three (normal, moderate, and severe) water irrigation regimes. The highest essential oil content (5.55%) was obtained under normal condition in the Yazd population. However, both essential oil and seed yield showed significant reductions as a result of water stress. According to gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) analysis, thymol (61.44%), γ-terpinene (26.96%), and p-cymene (20.32%) were identified as the major components of the oil. The highest (89.01%) and the lowest (37.54%) thymol contents were in Farsmar and Hamadan populations in severe stress condition, respectively. Based on HPLC analysis, chlorogenic (3.75–47.35 mg/100 g), caffeic (13.2–40.10 mg/100 g), and ferulic acid (11.25–40.10 mg/100 g) were identified as the major phenolic acids, while rutin was determined as the major flavonoid (11.741–20.123 mg/100 g). Moreover, total phenolic and flavonoid contents were elevated under drought stress treatment, while antioxidants responded inconsistently to stress based on two model systems. Overall, the Yazd population exhibited a superior response to water stress, as evidenced by its less reduced thymol and oil yield content, while Arak and Khormo had the highest accumulation of polyphenolic compounds.