Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 February 2007
In China, medicinal plants enjoy an inherent and prominent role in the general health service. Due to excessive collection in the wild of rare and endangered plants, the natural resources of medicinal plants are depleting fast. In order to protect the medicinal plant resources, the Chinese government has implemented Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) programmes to cultivate the main popular medicinal plants in China. Thus far, around 800 GAP cultivation bases have been established nationwide and the total cultivation area of medicinal plants has reached 5000 km2. Besides GAP cultivation of medicinal plants, tissue cultural biotechnology has been applied to serve as an alternative for the supply of medicinal plant materials in China. Thus far, shoot production by tissue culture technology has been successful in medicinal plants such as Anoectochilus formosanus, Dalbergia odorifera, Dendrobium, Momordica grosvenorii, Pseudostellaria heterophylla and Taxus chinensis. In addition, the cell culture of Lithospermum erythrorhizon and Saussurea involucrata has been industrialized in 300–20,000-litre bioreactors. Besides the production of shoot and cell culture in bioreactors, tissue culture technology is also being practised for the conservation of rare medicinal plants.