Table of Contents
Labalette, F., A. Estragnat, and A. Messéan.
1996. Development of castor bean production in France. p. 340-342. In: J.
Janick (ed.), Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
Development of Castor Bean Production in France
Françoise Labalette, André Estragnat, and Antoine
- DEVELOPMENT OF DOMESTIC PRODUCTION
- First Phase (1986-1990)
- A Cooperative Research Program at the European Level
- Crop Establishment
- Crop Protection
- FUTURE PROSPECTS
- Table 1
- Fig. 1
Castor bean (Ricinus communis L., Euphorbiaceae) is a plant of tropical
origin which produces seeds containing up to 55% of a natural oil rich in
ricinoleic acid. Among all the vegetable oils, castor oil is distinctive
because of its high level of ricinoleic acid (over 85%), a fatty acid
consisting of 18 carbons, a double bond between the ninth and tenth position,
and a hydroxyl group attached to C12. Ricinoleic acid is responsible for
castor oil interest, the highest and most stable viscosity index among all the
vegetable oils combined with high lubricity, especially under low temperature
Castor oil has various applications in different industrial sectors: paintings
and coatings, polyurethane coating, plastics, transport, cosmetics, textiles,
and leathers. One of the major products derived from castor oil is the Rilsan
B, developed by Atochem (France). This 100% castor-based product has numerous
applications such as rotating glass car-wipers, ski boots fixatives, and for
use in air-brake systems on trucks. Many new uses, based on biodegradability
of castor oil derived products, are expected in the future.
World annual production of castor oil is about 460,000 t (1.1 million tonnes of
seeds); the main producers are India, Brazil, and China. The European Union
uses about 90,000 t of castor oil and imports oil as well as about 30,000 t of
seeds which is mainly crushed in Germany. Due to new outlets for castor oil
(such as anticorrosive products or odorant captivators), European demand should
increase over the next ten years.
In order to meet this demand, the French oilseed organization launched domestic
production in 1986. The project, extended to Europe, has the objective of
producing 100,000 t, which corresponds to about 100,000 ha.
After preliminary trials during the 1950s, and as a result of high oil prices
in the middle of the 1980s ONIDOL (Organisation Interprofessionnelle des
Oléagineux) launched local production. In order to adapt this perennial
plant to local conditions, three research thrusts were developed: breeding of
early and productive varieties (Protosemences), crop management under French
conditions (CETIOM), and design of a combine harvest (CEMAGREF).
As a result of encouraging results and evolution of European policy, a
demonstration project (1991-1995), partially funded by the European Union, was
initiated in 1991. Eight members from Germany, Italy, Portugal, Greece, and
France, joined a European Group of Economic Interest (EURORICIN), the main
objectives of this project included:
A 3-year research project was also initiated in 1995 under the European
Agro-industry Research framework. Specific objectives include: identification
of main pests and pathogens, physiological mechanisms, crop management,
genetics and breeding, and new chemical applications.
Castor bean is mainly produced on set-aside land and yields remain low. Under
dry conditions, yields are about 1.0 to 1.2 t/ha but reach 1.5 to 1.8 t under
irrigation. However, irrigation is not planned for set-aside land. The
discrepancy between experimental yields and actual field yields indicates that
progress can still be obtained through better crop management and optimal
harvesting conditions (Table 1).
Soil tillage is important for a spring crop which requires high water resources
from the soil. Ploughing is necessary. Fertilization requirements are similar
to those of sunflower (40 to 60 kg of N and 50 kg of PK /ha).
- Adaptation of a combine harvester including design of a specific header and
modification of the drum in order to harvest seeds without husks.
Breeding of adapted lines (cultivars Rica and Venda) and seed production.
Crop management (weed control, water management, establishment methods).
Development of field production with various cooperatives (about 400 ha were
cultivated every year between 1992 and 1994).
Development of new uses for castor oil (grease for mineral oil substitution,
use of fractions derived from Rilsan production such as C7 (anti-corrosive
agents) or C11 (anti-odor products) polyurethane.
Weed control is based on a pre-sowing application of trifluraline and a
pre-emergence application of linuron. Due to lack of selectivity, both
products are usually applied by farmers before sowing.
Sowing date must be as early as possible and generally is similar to the maize
establishment date. Emergence requires about three weeks and, thus, sowing
depth must be about 4 to 7 cm.
The seeding rate is about 50,000 seeds/ha. Row spacing depends on the combine
harvester used (80 cm in our conditions). The cycle duration for current
cultivars is about 130-150 days or 1200-1300 degree-days.
Fig. 1 compares Photosynthetic Area Index (PAI) and available light during the
crop cycle. Note that maximum light interception occurs when light is
decreasing. Earlier genetic material should thus be required in order to
Harrowing is generally carried out when plants have between 2 and 5 leaves in
order to improve chemical weed control. Irrigation is appropriate if water is
available. The optimal period for irrigation is after flowering in order to
maintain leaf surface and improve seed production.
Pests and diseases remained minor problems except bugs (Nezara viridula)
where high sensitivity occurs at the beginning of flowering. However, we
suspect that some insects (Lysus) and pathogens (such as Alternaria) induce
adverse effects on yield.
Defoliation speeds up maturity and makes the harvest easier. Diquat or
glyphosate can be used. Breeding of earlier cultivars will avoid this
application under some conditions.
Methods to renew the castor industry in United States has been reviewed by
Brigham (1993). In France yields need to be increased by improved harvesting
practices and improvement of earliness. The first hybrids show a reduction of
about 10-15 days of the crop cycle duration and no longer require defoliation.
A new system for dehusking the seeds during harvesting has been designed.
About 90% of the husks are removed by the combine harvester. Although such a
system avoids an additional cost of 400 FF/t ($ 80/t), the cost of the
harvester modification remains too high and harvesting capacity too low.
Improvement of the harvester is currently going on but an increase of the crop
area should be necessary to reduce costs.
At the present time, no profitable return is possible without subsidies in the
current European context. Furthermore, extra costs due to collecting, storage,
and transport must be reduced in order to allow a farmer return price of about
2000 FF/t ($ 400/t).
Brigham, R.D. 1993. Castor: Return of an old crop. p. 380-383. In: J. Janick
and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York.
Table 1. Yields of castors in France.
| ||Yields (t/ha)|
| ||Actual field |
|Year ||Trials ||Mean ||Minimum ||Maximum ||Oil content (%)|
|1991 ||2.4 ||1.0 ||0.5 ||2.2 ||51|
|1993 ||2.6 ||1.7 ||1.1 ||2.5 ||52|
|1994 ||2.4 ||1.2 ||0.6 ||2.2 ||51|
Fig. 1. Castor bean crop cycle.
Last update August 21, 1997