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United States Department of Agriculture

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Chemical engineer Ronald Holser examines refined lesquerella oil.

Lesquerella Scrutinized as Oil, Gum, Meal Source

By Marcia Wood
November 18, 1999

Researchers around the country have nudged lesquerella--a native wild plant in the mustard family--a few steps closer to becoming a profitable new source of oil, gum and meal for industrial, home and farm uses.

Scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Arizona bred Lesquerella fendleri plants that boast yellow-coated seeds. These seeds have less of the troublesome natural pigments that can give lesquerella's oil an unwanted red-to-brown color. Pigments pose a costly obstacle to commercialization, because they have to be removed for product uses like cosmetics.

David A. Dierig and Terry A. Coffelt of the agency's U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory in Phoenix made the yellow-coated seeds available to growers several years ago. More recently, they bred lesquerellas that are salt-tolerant or have more oil. Lesquerella oil is a promising alternative to castor oil, today imported for lubricants, coatings, plastics, paints, lipstick, shampoo and other products.

In Peoria, Ill., ARS researchers Thomas F. Abbott and Ronald A. Holser investigate new uses and markets for lesquerella's oil, gum and meal. The gum could improve the texture of frozen foods or serve as a thickener for paints or drilling fluids. Lesquerella meal may be an ideal "binder" to keep feed pellets from crumbling.

Lesquerella is native to Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Texas and Mexico. An article in the November Agricultural Research magazine tells more. View it online at:


Scientific contact: David A. Dierig, ARS U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory, Phoenix, Ariz., phone (602) 379-4356, ext. 265, fax (602) 379-4355,; Thomas F. Abbott, New Crops Research Unit, ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., phone (309) 681-6533, fax (309) 681-6524;

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