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More Vernonia Seeds = More Vernonia Oil

By Dennis Senft
March 14, 1997

Vernonia’s potential as an industrial oilseed crop is on the rise, thanks to scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. The secret: They’ve discovered how to breed varieties that will hold onto more of the seed until harvest.

Vernonia oil might find a home as an environmentally friendly drying agent in paints. The paint industry wants alternatives to the volatile organic compounds now used.

Vernonia’s commercial development has been crippled because available varieties shed too many seeds. Last fall, ARS scientists discovered that some vernonia plants possess a petal-like structure that holds the seeds upright. These plants retained more seeds.

The scientists will cross-breed these plants this summer. This will reinforce the seed-holding trait and is the next step to higher-yielding commercial varieties.

Vernonia seeds’ epoxy oil content can reach 40 percent, double that of most other oilseeds like soybean and linseed. Other possible uses for vernonia oil: more flexible plastics and resin-based products like varnish.

Scientific contact: David A. Dierig, USDA-ARS U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory, Phoenix, Ariz., phone (602) 379-4356, e-mail