2010, pp 407-421
Date: 31 Oct 2009

Biotechnology Advances in Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis)

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Abstract

Wax esters have important applications in medicine, and in the cosmetics and food industries, besides their more traditional usage as lubricants. The value of the wax from sperm whales was one of the factors responsible for this animals being hunted to near extinction, which prompted the eventual ban on harvesting and the search for alternative sources. Recognition of jojoba oil as an alternative to sperm whale oil has led to a surge of interest in jojoba across the globe. The hardiness of this plant, which is amenable to cultivation even on water-deficient wastelands, has led to it being cultivated as a crop in several semi-arid and arid regions of the world. In addition, oil from the seed de-oiled cake is rich in protein and can be used as livestock feed and as a source of commercial enzymes. The plant is dioecious, and exhibits tremendous variability in male:female ratio in a given population, with male plants generally outnumbering female plants, leading to low yields as expected due to heterogeneity in the population. High yielding genotypes have been selected from experimental plantations, and vegetative propagation methods have been developed to provide genetically uniform, known sex plants to boost yields. Due to limited production, jojoba waxes are not available for a number of applications in spite of high demand. The advent of genetic engineering has provided novel opportunities to tailor the composition of plant lipids and also engineer agronomically suitable oilseed crops to produce high levels of wax esters in the seed oil. This chapter discusses efforts made towards the domestication, genetic improvements for yield and oil content, detoxification of cake for use as a live stock feed, and aspects of micropropagation of this species.