Lesquerella : New crop development and commercialization in the U.S.

Author: D.A. Dierig et al
 January 2011
Affiliation: Industrial Crops and Products
Abstract: While Lesquerella fendleri Gray (Wats.) is not yet a commercial crop, its history serves as a model for new crop development. The most important characteristic is the absence of any significant biological barriers to commercialization. Other potential crops may have valuable, high-demand products but possess traits difficult to overcome such as seed shattering or poor yield capacity. Lesquerella has a distinctive plant architecture that is conducive to seed productivity under a variety of conditions, and the trait could be further exploited. The plant also has high amounts of within-species and interspecific genetic diversity allowing breeding improvements in traits including oil quantity and quality. The unique seed oil is predominately composed of a hydroxy fatty acid, lesquerolic acid (C20:1OH), that is similar to ricinoleic acid (C18:1OH) found in castor oil. Improvements in agronomics will help increase seed yields, water use efficiency, while reducing crop production costs. New tools offered by remote sensing will help plant breeders and growers assess crop development. Defining herbicides and obtaining registrations for use in lesquerella appears to be the biggest obstacle for commercialization of this crop. The improvements in agronomics, breeding, genetics, and the expansion of new markets started in the 1980’s, and has made lesquerella a viable potential crop that could utilize thousands of hectares in arid climates of the world provided research continues.

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