Plant Explorers Seek Wild Lesquerella
April 28, 1999
A hunt for Mexicos wild
lesquerella, a mustard family plant with oils that might be used for industrial
products, will begin this spring for Agricultural Research Service scientists
and university colleagues.
A series of expeditions will take the scientists 5,000 miles through ten
Mexican states. They will comb hillsides and gullies for wild relatives of
Lesquerella fendleri, a yellow-flowered plant native to the
Lesquerella seed compounds called hydroxy fatty acids may be alternatives to
those now obtained from imported castor oil to make resins, waxes, lubricating
greases, cosmetics and other products, according to ARS lesquerella breeder
David A. Dierig at Phoenix, Ariz. America imports castor oil from India,
Brazil, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Indonesia.
Natural thickeners, made from chemicals on the seed coat, might be used in
food processing. The protein-rich meal, left over after oil is removed, may
supplement cattle feed.
Breeding Americas L. fendleri with wild relatives may yield
offspring that bear bigger seeds with more oil and a higher amount of hydroxy
fatty acids. This might boost lesquerella's potential as a profitable new crop
for growers in the Southwest.
Dierig, along with Andrew M. Salywon of Arizona State University, Tempe, will join
colleagues from Mexicos Antonio Narro Agricultural
University, Coahuila, on the expeditions to the states of Chihuahua,
Coahuila, Durango, Hidalgo, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis
Potosí, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas.
Some seed will be planted at test plots in Arizona. Later, a selection of
seed harvested from the Arizona plots will be given to a plant gene bank in the
U.S. National Plant Germplasm System. The scientists are the first to collect
lesquerella from Mexico for the Germplasm System.
The lesquerella quest is funded in part by ARS'
Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Md. ARS is the
U.S. Department of Agricultures chief
Scientific contact: David A. Dierig, ARS
Laboratory, Phoenix, Ariz, phone (602) 379-4356, fax (602) 379-4355,