E. A. Oelke1, E. S. Oplinger2, C. V. Hanson1, K.
1Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, and Center for Alternative
Plant and Animal Products, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108.
2Department of Agronomy and Soil Science, College of Agricultural and
Life Sciences and Cooperative Extension Service, University of Wisconsin-Madison,
Meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba Benth.) is a low growing herbaceous winter annual
that is adapted to poorly drained soils. Limnanthes means marshflower and
the common name "Meadowfoam" arose due to the appearance, at full bloom,
of its solid canopy of creamy white flowers. Meadowfoam is native to northern California,
southern Oregon, and Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The oil from meadowfoam
seed has unique chemical properties that make it one of the most stable vegetable
Research and development of meadowfoam began in the late 1950s as the result of
a USDA search for plants that might provide a renewable source of raw materials
for industry. Commercial development began in 1980 on an experimental 35 acre farm
scale operation in Oregon. However, the lack of consistent funding has slowed the
development of both the agronomic and the oil utilization aspects of this unique
renewable oil resource.
Meadowfoam seeds (nutlets) contain 20 to 30% oil. Meadowfoam oil contains three
previously unknown long chain fatty acids. The oil is over 90% C20 to
C22 fatty acids and is most similar to high euric acid rapeseed oil.
Rapeseed oil is slightly more saturated than meadowfoam oil. Meadowfoam oil can
be chemically transformed into a liquid wax ester that is a substitute for sperm
whale oil and jojoba oil. Meadowfoam oil can also be converted to a light colored
premium grade solid wax, a sulfur polymer factice potentially valuable to the rubber
industry, or used as a lubricant, detergent or plasticizer. Potential industrial
applications for meadowfoam oil are currently being researched by USDA-ARS at the
New Crops Research Center in Peoria, Illinois.
After the oil is removed by crushing the seed and utilizing a solvent extraction
process, the remaining meal may be used as a feed source. Meadowfoam meal fed to
beef cattle at levels up to 25% of total intake had no negative impact on weight
gain. Use of the meal for other livestock may require steam cooking or using a lower
percentage of meal in the total feed supply. Further research in this area is necessary.
III. Growth Habit:
Meadowfoam is an erect annual herb with one or more branches arising from the base
and grows to a height of 10 to 18 in. It has a shallow fibrous root system that
allows for easy transplanting at any stage of growth. Leaves are pinnately dissected,
flowers are regular, perfect, and usually conspicuous on axillary peduncles.
Meadowfoam requires insect pollination to set seed. Cool, wet, or windy weather
during flowering limits the activity of pollinators and therefore reduces the number
of fertilized flowers. Meadowfoam is not self pollinating because the male reproductive
organs mature before the female organs are mature (pollen is released from the anthers
before the stigma of the flower is receptive). This plant adaptation is common for
enhancing cross pollination. Two or three colonies of bees per acre of meadowfoam
are needed for adequate pollination (note: other flowering plants in the vicinity
may be preferred by pollinators). The development of self pollinating varieties
should increase yield potential.
IV. Environmental Requirements:
Meadowfoam has a very low tolerance to water stress and therefore is well adapted
to the cool wet Mediterranean climate of the Pacific Northwest. Many areas in the
U.S. may be able to produce meadowfoam if, in the future, market demands make oil
production profitable. Under conditions of below average precipitation in the Willamette
Valley, irrigation during flowering and seed development was found to significantly
Meadowfoam grows well on most soil types, however sandy soils with low water holding
capacity are less favorable under dry conditions.
C. Seed Preparation and Germination:
Secondary dormancy of the seed occurs at temperatures over 60oF when
the seed is imbibing water. It also appears that light may be a factor in initiating
dormancy. Seed sown on the soil surface shows a higher level of secondary dormancy
than seed that is covered with soil.
V. Cultural Practices:
A. Seedbed Preparation:
The seedbed should be moderately fine to allow for uniform seed placement.
B. Seeding Date:
Meadowfoam is normally grown as a winter annual in the Pacific Northwest. Planting
in October after soil temperatures in the seed zone are below 60oF aids
in germination. Warmer soil temperatures promote seed dormancy which can lead to
poor germination and poor stand establishment. Meadowfoam has been grown as a spring
planted annual in areas where winter temperatures are too cold to allow fall planting.
C. Method and Rate of Seeding:
Plant densities of 3 to 4 plants/square ft have resulted in the highest yields.
Different conditions at planting time and soil type will affect the seeding rate
necessary to achieve this plant density. Seeding rates of 15 to 40 lb/acre have
been successful. Good seed-soil contact is required for uniform germination. Drilling
seed 3 to 3/4 in. deep in 3 to 7 in. rows, is recommended over broadcast seeding
followed by incorporation, although both methods have produced successful yields.
D. Fertility and Lime Requirements:
Although no fertility research has been conducted on Meadowfoam in Minnesota or
Wisconsin, some work from the Pacific NW has shown that nitrogen fertilization increases
yield, however it may result in delayed flowering and a decrease in the percent
oil content of the seed. Soil pH should range between 5.5 and 6.0, with fertilizer
requirements of 40 to 60 lb N/acre, 20 lb P205/acre at soil
tests of 10 to 20 ppm P, and 20 to 30 lb K2O/acre at soil tests of 80
to 100 ppm K. Excess fertilization which promotes lush vegetative growth may create
conditions favorable for diseases.
E. Variety Selection:
Variety selection began with selected individuals within the species L. alba.
The first, `Foamore' selected for its upright habit, was named by Oregon State University
in 1975. It is 10 to 12 in. tall and yields 800 to 1300 lb/acre. `Mermaid' released
in 1985 by Oregon State University is 12 to 14 in. tall, upright, and has good seed
retention. Seed stock is controlled by the Oregon Meadowfoam Growers Association
(OMGA). Varieties from the cross of L. floccosa x L. alba shows increased
seed size, increased oil content, and reduced lodging. Continued development of
new higher yielding varieties is expected.
F. Weed Control:
Competition from weeds can severely reduce the yield of meadowfoam. Two herbicides;
propachlor at 4 lb/acre (broad spectrum) and diclofop at 1 lb/acre (post-emergent,
grass control) have been shown to be effective for weed control in meadowfoam fields
but, are NOT registered for use at this time.
Begin with a weed free seedbed and avoid fields known to have a wild mustard problem.
No herbicides have been approved for use at this time.
G. Diseases and their Control:
Botrytis cinerea affects stems, leaves, and flowers and results in shriveled
seed and reduced yields. Botrytis destroyed commercial meadowfoam fields
in 1983 and in 1984 in the Pacific Northwest. Fungicide applied at 40 to 50% bloom
has been shown to be effective, however no fungicides are currently approved for
H. Insects and Other Predators and their Control:
Insect pests have not been a problem in meadowfoam fields. However insects collected
in association with meadowfoam plants include the spotted cucumber beetle, nitidulid
beetle, seed bug, and seed-feeding Carabidae beetle.
Meadowfoam can be harvested with the same equipment used in grass seed production.
The crop is cut when 90% of the seeds are mature and the stems are greenish-yellow.
Windrowing early in the morning with a dew present helps to prevent shattering.
Meadowfoam is allowed to dry in the swath for 7 to 10 days or to a seed moisture
content of 12 to 16%. Threshing is more efficient when the moisture content of the
seed and other plant material is low. Combine efficiency is increased by slow ground
speed, high cylinder speed, close cylinder clearance, open sieves, and high wind
speed. Post harvest, meadowfoam fields have little plant residue remaining.
J. Drying and Storage:
Meadowfoam oil is very stable in storage. Production of meadowfoam oil has been
stockpiled for sale to foreign and domestic buyers mostly in the cosmetic and personal
care products industries.
VI. Yield Potential and Performance Results:
Research plots have produced over 2000 lb/acre of seed. Unfortunately commercial
fields have generally yielded less than 750 lb/acre largely due to disease and pollination
problems. Future development of new varieties should lead to consistently higher
VII. Economics of Production and Markets:
Meadowfoam oil is in direct competition with rapeseed oil for the high volume industrial
oilseed market. Penetration into this market requires that the price of meadowfoam
oil be competitive and the supply dependable. The price of meadowfoam oil was as
high as $4.00/lb in 1986 but has been declining and is expected to reach $2.00/lb
due to increased efficiency of large scale production and the value of using higher
Product development that takes advantage of the unique long chain fatty acids found
in meadowfoam oil would tend to lead to a high value, low volume market that would
certainly accelerate the development of full scale production.
VIII. Information Sources:
Meadowfoam: pretty flowers, pretty possibilities. 1989. M. Bosisio. Agric. Res.
USDA Res. Serv. 37(2):10-11.
Meadowfoam Domestication in Oregon: A Chronological History in Strategies for Alternative
Crop Development. 1989. G.D. Jolliff. Case Histories sponsored by The Crop Science
Society of America and The Center for Alternative Plant and Animal Products of the
University of Minnesota.
Development of a self-pollinated meadowfoam from interspecific hybridization (Limnanthes).
1984. G.D. Jolliff, W. Calhoun and M. Crane.
Meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba): Its research and development as a potential
new oilseed crop for the Willamette Valley of Oregon. 1981. G.D. Jolliff, I.J. Tinsley,
W. Calhoun, and J.M. Crane. Agricultural Experiment Station Oregon State University,
Corvallis. Station Bulletin 648.
Growing Meadowfoam in the Willamette Valley. 1986. R.S. Karow, G.D. Jolliff, and
M. Stoltz. Oregon State University Extension Service, Corvallis. Extension Circular
Meadowfoam: Growing Industrial Materials. 1986. United States Department of Agriculture,
Office of Critical Materials.
Evaluation of meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba) meal as a feedstuff for beef cattle.
1986. R. Miller, and P.R. Cheeke. Canadian J. Anim. Sci. 66(2):567-568.
Induction of secondary dormancy in seeds of meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba Benth.).
1987. S. Nyunt, and D.F. Grabe. J. Seed Technol. 11(2):103-110.
Irrigation effects on agronomic characters of meadowfoam. 1986. C.H. Pearson, and
G.D. Jolliff. Agron. J. 78(2):301-304.
Meadowfoam: new source of long-chain fatty acids. 1987. R.H. Purdy, and C.D. Craig.
J. American Oil Chem. Soc. 64(11):1493-1494, 1496-1497.
References to pesticide products in this publication are for your convenience and
are not an endorsement of one product over other similar products. You are responsible
for using pesticides according to the manufacturer's current label directions. Follow
directions exactly to protect the environment and people from pesticide exposure.
Failure to do so violates the law.