Sunday, June 15, 2008

Moringa Oleifera--Edible Weed Produces Oilseed

Considered one of the world’s most useful trees, as almost every part of the Moringa tree can be used for food, or has some other beneficial property. In the tropics it is used as foliage for livestock. Wikipedia

Almost every part of the Moringa Oleifera plant is useful, yet it grows like a weed, without intensive cultivation. Only recently has Moringa been considered as an oilseed biofuel source.
“It has not been optimized as an oilseed crop, and there is no really easy harvest technique right now,” Tyson says. Presently, the leaves and pods are harvested by hand like jatropha. Mechanical seed harvesting equipment needs to be developed to commercially produce Moringa as an oilseed feedstock. Also, there’s not a lot of good seed yield data on Moringa, although Tyson says her literature search indicates yields of about 3 tons of seed per hectare (1.37 tons per acre), a bit less than what is currently reported as potential jatropha yields. The seeds contain 30 percent to 40 percent oil that is high in oleic acid. The meal yields about 61 percent protein. “The data on the oil quality is excellent,” she says. “It’s better than sunflower oil.” Meier adds that preliminary analysis shows biodiesel made from Moringa has better oxidative stability than biodiesel made with most other feedstocks, although the cloud point is similar to tallow and thus rather high. On the plus side, the seeds are relatively easy to crush using nonsolvent-based crushing techniques, he says.

“[Moringa is] certainly of interest and we’re trying to promote interest and research,” Meier says. “We’re looking for a collaborator on additional research.” He and Tyson speculate how it might be introduced into the United States. “It is rather complicated to develop a new crop in the United States,” Tyson says. However, she thinks it could be introduced much like soybeans were, being grown first in milder climates and moving northward as new varieties are developed to tolerate the colder climate. __Biodiesel
Moringa, like Jatropoha and Pangomia, is being groomed as an oilseed crop for biodiesel production. All three have similar oil yields. But they are distinctly different from each other, and should not be seen as interchangeable.

The incredibly nutritious nature of the various parts of the moringa plant suggest a possible role for moringa in space colonies where multi-functional organisms will be valued.

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