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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics

Research Project: Cuphea as a Potential Source of Lauric Acid for Personal Care Products

Location: Soil Management Research

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Successfully produce Cuphea wrightii as a source of C12:0 (lauric acid) seed oil.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
The intern will study effects of seeding depth on the establishment of Cuphea wrightii, whose seed is a rich source of lauric acid, a valued plant oil for cosmetic and personal care product manufacturing. Additionally, the intern will develop and study different methods of harvesting C. wrightii and determine most optimum approach. The intern will also be responsible for establishing and maintaining research plots.


3.Progress Report:

Our research team is partnering with a collaborator to expand our research on the new oilseed crop, cuphea. Our collaborator specializes in the development and manufacturing of cosmetics and personal care products using only raw materials from plants and is interested in using cuphea oil as a feedstock replacement to imported tropical plant oils. The overall goal of the project is to develop cuphea as a commercially-viable source of seed oil for manufacturing cosmetic and personal care products.

The primary objectives are to i) develop an efficient method to harvest Cuphea wrightii (a wild species that sheds its seed profusely) that optimizes its seed yield, and to ii) further our knowledge of harvest management of PSR23 cuphea, a cultivar that currently has the greatest agronomic potential. With regard to the first objective, we previously performed experiments to mutagenize Cuphea wrightii seeds with ethylmethane sulfonate and grew these seeds out in the field and identifying mutant plants exhibiting potentially improved agronomic traits such as erect, compact (less branching) plant structure and profuse flower and seed production. Seeds were collected from these plants (M2 generation) and recently grown out in a greenhouse facility. Most of the plants from the M2 generation appeared to retain the trait we initially identified and seeds were collected from these plants to grow out in the future. Progress towards the second objective includes conducting a farm-scale comparison of swathing and desiccating cuphea at physiological maturity prior to harvesting. Results compared well between the two treatments. Both treatments helped reduce the drying cost of cuphea and thus, improve harvest management. Desiccating and harvesting cuphea tended to require less time and may be a more efficient method for most farmers in the Midwest. However, more research may be required to modify large-scale equipment for combining. In cooperation with our collaborator, we expanded field testing to an on-farm site in Pulaski, WS. We were also able to supply our collaborator with enough cuphea seed from our field testing to allow them to continue research and development of a new line of personal care products from the oil extracted from the seed.


Last Modified: 9/2/2014
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