Those techniques include spacing plants properly and using harvest aids to defoliate the plant when it matures.
Growers in the U.S. want to mechanically harvest castor, which is typically hand-picked in other parts of the world, the researchers said. Among other things, the UF/IFAS study evaluated whether the plant would grow too tall for mechanical harvesting machines.
Castor oil is used in paints, lubricants and deodorants, among other industrial products, said David Campbell, a former UF agronomy graduate student and lead author of the study. It has not been grown in the U.S. since 1972, because the federal government ceased giving price supports, the study says.
At UF research units in Citra and Jay, scientists tested Brigham and Hale, two types of castor that were bred in an arid part of west Texas near Lubbock in 1970 and 2003, respectively. These cultivars are shorter than castor found in the wild, said Diane Rowland, an associate professor of agronomy at UFfs Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and Campbellfs faculty adviser.
Scientists tried to control the growth of the plants even more by spraying them with a chemical, she said. Even though the crop didnft respond to the chemicals, it did not grow taller than expected. So it appears these types of castor can be harvested mechanically, she said.
While yields were lower than those reported in Texas research trials in 1993, results are promising for Florida.
"We were concerned that, in this environment, with all the moisture and the good growing conditions, that it would grow too tall. But it didn't," Rowland said. "So it shows that shorter genetic types will still work, without the chemical application. That way, you may save money by reducing crop inputs. If it's too tall - if it's higher than a corn stalk - it won't go through the harvesting machinery."
The study came about after a few growers in South Florida who wanted to plant castor asked IFAS administrators for technical advice, Rowland said.
Campbell conducted the research as part of his masterfs thesis, and the study is published in the February edition of the journal Industrial Crops and Products.
Since 1972, the U.S. has been forced to turn to producers in India, China and Brazil to supply the majority of its needs with India producing about 90 percent of the worldfs castor oil.
The toxin ricin comes from castor, but Rowland said UF researchers used a reduced-ricin cultivar as one of the types tested. Texas scientists are developing ricin-free cultivars, she said. In the near future, any industry that uses domestically grown commercial castor would likely be using ricin-free castor, Rowland said. And she noted that ricin can be broken down during the oil extraction and refining process if it involves high temperatures.
Despite the promise of historically high castor yields in the southwestern U.S., recent droughts have prompted growers to look elsewhere for land on which to grow the crop if a commercial castor industry is revived. The plant already grows along many of Floridafs highways. The UF researchers set out to see if castor can be cultivated and harvested on farms.
Because of its many uses, the economic growth potential of castor is immense, the study said.
Growers also still need to develop and start using a machine to crush the oil from the castor plant to make it a viable crop, Rowland said. She said some Florida growers are in the process of doing just that.
Brad Buck | Newswise
New study shows producers where and how to grow cellulosic biofuel crops
17.01.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Robotic weeders: to a farm near you?
10.01.2018 | American Society of Agronomy
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy