PROJECT DETAIL: Castor oil
Following are the details of the project:
Castor is a commercially very important strategic plant because of the many industrial applications of the oil obtained from the seed and also the seed cake which is a source of fertilizer. As a result of its importance in Military applications, it is referred to as “strategic military oil” by the US government.
Castor oil also finds application in almost all the sectors of the manufacturing industries notably, the automobile industry where it is used in hydraulic brake fluid production, pharmaceutical where it is used to produce laxative, cosmetic in the formulation of various body and hair treatments and soap production. Castor oil has also found application in the aviation sector where it is used as aviation fuel. Other applications include paints, dyes, ink, etc.
In view of its economic importance, Council conducted research into the development of dehydro–castor oil which, has huge military and industrial applications. This resulted in the establishment of the first castor oil plant in Nigeria. However, a major challenge has been the development of a suitable castor shelling equipment and domestication of improved varieties of castor seeds, which would enable large scale processing of castor seeds. The Council addressed the challenge of castor seed sheller by reverse engineering an imported sheller, which resulted in the fabrication of an improved sheller. Council also provided a unit of castor seed sheller to the National Body of the Castors Growers, Processors and Marketer Association of Nigeria (CASGPMAN) to increase the volume of shelled castor seed in the country.
These efforts have catalyzed investment in the establishment of castor oil plants by private investors in the country. Two Castor oil processing plants have been installed by Agro Industries Ltd in Kuje, FCT with an installed capacity of 4MT/day and Tranquil Farms Ltd, Ilorin, Kwara State with an installed capacity of 8MT/ day. The two plants are producing and selling to the end-users. This has generated employment and reduced importation of castor oil.
The Council also commenced field trials of 10 promising accessions for the provision of improved seed varieties for the farmers. In an effort to address the issue of sustainable raw materials supply with improved oil yield, the Council collaborated with National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badegi and Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria to carry out multi-location trials on 10 promising accessions of castor in 5-geopolitical zones of the Country. The locations include Enugu, Awka, Ogbomosho, Lafia, Gombe and Gusau.
The results showed that there are varietal differences among the accessions. However, all the accessions are thriving in all the locations. Accessions from IAR did better in terms of vegetative and reproductive parameters.