Optimizing Production of Castor and Winter Safflower on the Texas High Plains
Oswalt, Joe S.
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Energy and water are the two most important commodities that keep our economy operating at optimum performance and efficiency. As world supplies for petroleum are being depleted and demand for oil is increasing, a renewed interest in establishing agronomic crops that produce an economical, reliable alternative source of oil has been established with vigor. Demand for oil is eminent, and biodiesel is an energy alternative that can be produced from vegetable oil. At the same time, water use efficiency of these crops must be advanced. To effectively grow crops for oil, water must be consumed at lower rates than conventional crops. Therefore, a crop that is water use efficient is imperative, especially if it could be grown during winter months to reduce demand on the Ogallala aquifer during peak summer months. This research resulted in production guidelines for safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) exhibiting winter hardiness and water use efficiency as a new winter crop for the Texas High Plains and Desert Southwest. Guidelines were also established for castor ( Ricinus communis L.), which has tremendous potential as an oilseed crop to produce biofuels, industrial oils, and has the highest oil yield potential for the short season, semi-arid production areas of the High Plains and Trans-Pecos Regions of Texas. However, castor plants can reach heights of over twelve feet (three meters) in a single growing season limiting mechanical harvest. This research also evaluated the effect of plant growth regulator applications on mature castor plant height and seed yield of castor (cv. Hale) to enhance mechanical harvest efficiency. The results of this research will allow farmers to incorporate the oilseed crops castor and winter hardy safflower into their crop rotation strategy in a manner that is profitable and easily adapted to current farming practices, saving water and contributing to greater energy independence for the U.S. v