Submitted to: Dekker Encyclopedia of Plant and Crop Science
Publication Type: Book / chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/6/2002
Publication Date: 2/15/2004
Citation: Dierig, D.A., Foster, M.A., Isbell, T., Ray, D.T., Miller, M.E. 2004. Lesquerella potential for commercialization. Dekker Encyclopedia of Plant and Crop Science. pp. 656-658. Interpretive Summary: Four areas are lacking in developing lesquerella as a new industrial oilseed crop: (1) products unique to lesquerella need to be developed; (2) products must be tested and evaluated to demonstrate their superiority to petroleum-based, imported, or synthetic alternatives; (3) large amounts of seed must be provided to industry for product development; and (4) the crop's economics must be improved. A cooperative group of public and private researchers have joined together to address and solve these problems. New products are being developed such as formulating the unique structure of lesquerella oil into a biodegradable lubricant with technical characteristics superior to those based on mineral oil (petroleum). New crop varieties are being developed with higher seed contents of oil and hydroxy fatty acids, as well as improving crop management practices and increasing the planting acreage for seed. New agricultural, value-added, non-food products unique to lesquerella will enhance the U.S. balance of trade and promote economic opportunities in farming and rural communities.
Technical Abstract: Lesquerella produces a triglyceride oil that is two-thirds or more lesquerolic acid, a hydroxy fatty acid (HFA). Hydroxy fatty acids are now used in nylon-11, nylon-6,10, lithium greases, coatings, sulfated and sulfonated oil, sebacic acid, ethoxylated oil, food grade lubricants, polyurethanes and cosmetics. The current source of HFAs is ricinoleic acid from castor, which was formerly cultivated in the U.S. Approximately 41,000 MT are now imported at a value exceeding $100 million per year. Lesquerella is native to the U.S. and could be established as a domestic HFA source. Lesquerella has several novel properties apart from castor and other oilseeds. First is it's oil functionality; this includes difunctional hydroxy moities in contrast to trifunctional. Lesquerella contains natural estolides (secondary esters derived from the addition of a fatty acid moiety to the hydroxyl functionality of the hydroxy triglyceride) that improve performance in motor oils by improving pour points. Second, they also have been used as viscosity modifiers in lubricating oils. Estolides have been encountered in only a few other seed oils, and are not naturally found in castor oil. Second are the antioxidants, converted from the seed meal fractions that contain unique glucosinolates and have superior oxidative stability properties. The seed meal also has a binder application, unique for seed meals. Third, the seed coat of lesquerella contains a unique gum that has rheological properties equivalent to guar or xanthan that can be useful in coatings and food thickeners. Lesquerella could be established as a reliable domestic oilseed supply that would provide an alternative crop for farmers and increase local profits.