A small crop of an unusual plant is being grown on a test plot in western Iowa which researchers say has the potential for becoming a huge third-crop for the state behind corn and soybeans. Wayne Roush manages the I-S-U Research and Demonstration Farm near the Monona County town of Castana and he says the plant is called cuphea, pronounced koo-fee’-ah. The plant reminds Roush of an alfalfa plant in its size, purple blooms and its broad leaves. Cuphea is being grown in test plots from Canada to Louisiana to see where it thrives best. Roush says two large corporations are paying for the research as they now get cuphea from farmers overseas and would like to have it grown domestically.The companies say they could use one to two-million acres of cuphea if we could figure out how to grow it here. Roush says cuphea is used to create a chemical called loric acid. That acid is used to create sodium lorate, the prime cleaning agent in a variety of products, including soaps, detergents and shampoos. Roush says the cuphea crop grew up hearty this first season in Iowa and he thinks this could be an ideal location for the plant.Roush expects the cuphea study to continue for several more years.
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