OSU researchers release new meadowfoam variety

September 24, 2003

CORVALLIS – Oregon State University scientists working on development of alternative crops to bolster the state's agricultural economy recently released a new variety of meadowfoam, an oilseed crop that yields high grade oils sought by the cosmetics and precision machinery industries.

The new variety, named Ross, produces higher yields than current meadowfoam varieties in use.

"New varieties are an important step forward in our efforts to improve meadowfoam as a high quality crop worth top market prices," said Russ Karow, head of the OSU Department of Crop and Soil Science.

Oregon meadowfoam growers annually sell oil worth $2 million on the world market, Karow said, and there is a lot researchers can do to boost the crop's yield potential and to develop varieties with unique oil properties that may have even greater value in the market place.

The oil refined from meadowfoam seed is used as a base for many cosmetic products such as shampoo, soap and body lotions, and as a machinery lubricant. In addition, Karow noted there is growing interest from a number of federal agencies in the potential of meadowfoam oil as part of a biodegradable lubricant for ships and vehicles operating in environmentally sensitive areas.

Crop scientist Steve Knapp leads OSU's meadowfoam research effort through the OSU Department of Crop and Soil Science's Oilseeds Genetics and Breeding Program.

Federal funding has been essential to the progress researchers have achieved to date.

This year OSU's meadowfoam research program received a grant of $293,000 via the annual agriculture appropriations bill passed recently by the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Congresswoman Darlene Hooley provided key support in securing the grant.

"Development of new crops is a priority of land grant universities across the nation," said Karow. "This kind of funding for alternative crops research is a godsend because there aren't a lot of other organizations that can take the risk of supporting work on a new crop at this point in time.

"The federal investment in this research has allowed us to take a crop that was growing in the wild 50 years ago and turn it into an agricultural crop with a potential world-wide market," said Karow. "What we've been able to accomplish with meadowfoam is a success story in the development of new crops."

Author: Bob Rost
Source: Russ Karow