- Author: Alison L Kent
On April 1, a group of 5th graders from Borrego, CA, along with high school seniors who tutor them, paid a visit to the Desert Research and Extension Center (DREC) and the FARM SMART program. Activities included making a bead bracelet (where each bead represents something a plant needs to grow), learning about soil and water conservation, and also about the differences between fruits and vegetables and where seeds come from. The students then made a salad that they were able to try during the “My Agrilicious Food Pyramid” portion. The students were invited outside to harvest some of the Desert winter crops such as daikon radishes, beets and carrots.
DREC director Sam Wang then spoke to the group about his research on Lesquerella (Lesquerella fendleri) as a potential biofuel. This mustard relative grows naturally in arid and semi-arid landscapes and is native to areas in the southwest United States and Mexico. It is very drought tolerant and because of its unique hydroxy fatty acids it has greater lubricity than many other oils, and unlike castor oil it is not toxic (castor has ricin). Lesquerella also has molecules that allow it to flow more easily at cold temperatures than petroleum. Seed oil is used in a wide array of products, including lithium greases, polymers in paints and coatings, base stocks as lubricants, and applications in the personal care industry.