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Castagra signs agreement to test low-ricin castor with Texas AgriLife Research

LUBBOCK – Castagra, a bioproducts company, has entered into an agreement with Texas AgriLife Research, part of the Texas A&M University System, to test production of a new castor bean with less ricin.

The West Texas project will investigate production potential and sustainable production practices that do not conflict with other commodities grown in the state, according to officials.

Castagra specializes in the use of vegetable plastic for construction, oil and gas services industries, where its plastic is used for moldings, concrete and tank protection.

Castor oil and gypsum are the two main ingredients in the vegetable plastic and castor beans were farmed in Texas back in the 1970s, officials said. Approximately three acres of low-ricin Brigham castor will be seeded at the AgriLife Research Station in Pecos. The produced seed will be used for crushing and processing trials to determine yield and quality with the remainder dedicated to potential 2012 castor production as planting seed.

AgriLife Research and its partner agency, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, will evaluate improved best management practices to assure sustainable agronomic yields and production can be compatible with other commodity crops, according to agency officials.

Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension program leader and associate department head for soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University, said castor previously had a bad reputation because of its potential to contaminate grain crops.

“However, new low-ricin varieties and improved agronomic practices prevent volunteer stands and escapes, and isolated production areas,” he said. “Vertically integrated, production/processing systems can make castor an acceptable alternative crop for producers in certain areas of Texas.”

“We are pleased to be continuing Castagra’s work with the Texas A&M System,” said Castagra’s Canadian CEO Peter Roosen. “By using castor grown domestically for our veggie-plastic products used in the construction and coatings industries, we are creating jobs and bringing jobs to America that moved offshore several years ago when castor production was discontinued in Texas in the 1970s. AgriLife (Research) has done excellent work recently in improving oil yields while greatly reducing the amount of ricin toxin found in castor beans by as much as 90 percent.”

Dr. David Baltensperger, head of the department of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M, said new castor varieties have increased salt tolerance and are more drought resistant, “so lands in the Pecos area may once again become productive.”

“Additionally, castor can now be fully mechanized unlike in other castor-producing countries, such that we can now effectively compete against countries like India that export millions of tons of castor oil each year to other countries, including the U.S.”

Drs. Calvin Trostle and Dick Auld, scientists based at the AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Lubbock, will supervise the project.

About Castagra: Castagra’s award-winning vegetable oil based plastic technology has the potential to recycle close to 100 percent of relatively clean waste drywall/plasterboard into new construction and industrial products such as moldings and protective coatings.

About Texas AgriLife Research: Texas AgriLife Research is a science and technology agency within The Texas A&M University System, conducting basic and applied research in agriculture, the life sciences and natural resources. The agency has 13 research centers across Texas, 1,700 employees, 375 of which are doctoral-level scientists and nationally recognized experts in their fields. Website: http://agriliferesearch.tamu.edu/

Contacts: Blair Fannin, b-fannin@tamu.edu
Peter Roosen, info@castagra.com