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Cuphea oil is an alternative to imported tropical oils such as palm and coconut oil. Cuphea is being grown now on a small scale for cosmetics companies, including Aveda. The potential market for cuphea oil is very large, Gesch says, but commercial production will require improved varieties. Current varieties tend to shatter.
The plant: Annual oilseed with purple flowers, about 36 in. tall; tiny, disc-shaped seeds contain up to 30% oil.
Equipment: Plant with a drill; straight combine with a soybean head, or swath.
Production: Seed into a well-groomed seedbed in early May; harvest mid-September to October.
Yield: In Midwest, about 900 lbs./acre, but seed shattering in the field can approach 30%.
In a corn-soybean rotation: Cuphea in rotation with wheat and corn boosts wheat yields and protein and suppresses corn rootworm.