Study shows promise for castor crop in Florida
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 Florida’s 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.
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