RESEARCH TO DEVELOP STRATEGIES AND TECHNOLOGIES FOR PRESERVING PLANT GENETIC DIVERSITY IN EX SITU GENEBANKS
Location: Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit
Title: Lesquerella, A Possible Model For New Crop Development And Commercialization
Submitted to: Proceedings Assoc for Advancement of Industrial Crops (AAIC) Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: August 10, 2009
Publication Date: November 14, 2009
Citation: Dierig, D.A., Ray, D., Wang, G., Mccloskey, W., Crafts-Brandner, S., Forster, M., Isbell, T. 2009. Lesquerella, A Possible Model For New Crop Development And Commercialization. Proceedings Assoc for Advancement of Industrial Crops Termas de Chillán, Chillán, Chile, November 14-19th, 2009 pp. 4 Meeting Abstract.
Lesquerella fendleri was first discovered and published as a potential industrial oilseed plant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1960. 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, as an additive 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.
While lesquerella 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 biological barriers to commercialization. Other potential crops may have valuable, high-demand products but possess difficult traits 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 can 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.
Considering these crop traits may help in the decision management of other new crop programs. Often in the past only the end products and markets have been the focus without consideration of the biological traits, genetic diversity, yield potential and trait development.