dept of sociology
michigan state university
MEADOWFOAM BLOOMS AS ALTERNATIVE CROP
March 7, 1997
USDA ARS News Service
Meadowfoam oil can fill consumer demands for more natural ingredients in
cosmetics and still promise smoother, younger-looking skin. Scientists with
USDA's Agricultural Research Service are finding more applications for the oil
in the cosmetics industry as well as a biodegradable industrial lubricant.
Grown mainly in Oregon, meadowfoam is a pretty flowering plant and a boon to
that state's grass seed farmers in two ways. In the past, farmers who wanted
to switch from one grass seed variety to another typically left the to that
state's grass seed farmers in two ways. In the past, farmers who
wanted to switch from one grass seed variety to another typically left the
fields fallow for a year, then burned the fields to eliminate any of the old
grass crop's seed.
Burning fields is now illegal in Oregon. Instead, farmers can plant meadowfoam
in the fallow years, combating unwanted grass seed sprouts with herbicides and
positioning themselves for a share of the $27.1 billion that U.S. consumers
spend annually on beauty products. ARS research is providing the information
needed to make meadowfoam an economically viable alternative crop.
ARS scientists gave the growing meadowfoam industry another boost when they
solved mysterious cloudiness in oil from the 1993 and 1994 crops that made it
undesirable for cosmetics manufacturers. The scientists pinpointed the
problem: a harmless wax that could be removed from the oil with a centrifuge.
That discovery saved meadowfoam processors some $2 million in potential lost
sales and taught processors to handle harvested meadowfoam carefully to avoid
crushing the seedcoat into the oil.
The February issue of Agricultural Research, the monthly publication of ARS,
contains a report on ARS work with this up-and-coming alternative crop.
Magazine articles are on the World Wide Web in .pdf (Portable Document Format)
files at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR