RESEARCH TO DEVELOP STRATEGIES AND TECHNOLOGIES FOR PRESERVING PLANT GENETIC DIVERSITY IN EX SITU GENEBANKS
Location: Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit
Title: Lesquerella: New crop development and commercialization in the U.S.
Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 20, 2010
Publication Date: January 20, 2011
Citation: Dierig, D.A., Wang, G., Mccloskey, W.B., Thorp, K.R., Isbell, T., Ray, D.T., Foster, M.A. 2011. Lesquerella: New crop development and commercialization in the U.S. Industrial Crops and Products. 34:1381-1385.
Interpretive Summary: U.S. agriculture is currently in transition to serve a bio-economy that will require important decisions on crops that will be sustainable and not detract from our food supplies. Crops with products that could create new markets or replace petroleum-based products are now very attractive, although, how they fit into a production system is critical. We examined the current status of lesquerella breeding, agronomics, and product utilization along with new data and propose that this crop is ready for expansion on growers’ fields. It’s potential as a green chemistry feedstock will improve agriculture and impact rural communities growing this crop.
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 genetic diversity allowing breeding improvements. Also, other species of Lesquerella have desirable traits that can be introgressed through interspecific hybridization. Lesquerella belongs to the Brassicaceae family and benefits from genetic information gained from the closely related model plant, Arabidopsis. There is great potential for mining genes discovered in Arabidopsis studies and Lesquerella is amenable to genetic transformation. This could include genes for herbicide tolerance or information on the biosynthetic pathways for oil production. The unique seed oil is predominately composed of a hydroxy fatty acid, lesquerolic acid (C20:1-OH), that is similar to ricinoleic acid (C18:1OH) found in castor oil. Uses include lubricants, greases, coatings, and most recently, additives to biodiesel fluid to improve lubricity. There is also value in the water-soluble gums located on the seed surface and in the seed meal. 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.