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Jojoba: Not Your Usual Oilseed Crop

I’m Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

We have an e-mail from Phan Tan Hien, who wants to know about the jojoba [ho-HO-ba] plant and the uses for its oil.

Jojoba is a woody plant that grows in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It needs dry weather and cannot survive low temperatures.

The jojoba plant produces a high quality oil. In fact, more than half of the seed can be oil. This liquid wax does not spoil easily. And it keeps its chemical qualities at temperatures up to three hundred degrees Celsius.

Jojoba oil is mainly used in skin care and beauty products. Scientists say the oil is chemically similar to the oil produced by human skin.

But jojoba oil can also be used to control insects on crops. It was approved in the United States as a pesticide in nineteen ninety-six.

It can be sprayed on all crops to fight white flies. It is also used to control mildew on grapes and on non-food plants. Jojoba-based pesticides work mainly by forming a barrier between a plant leaf and pests.

The Environmental Protection Agency says jojoba oil is not a risk to non-target organisms. And it says it does not know of any harmful effects to humans even if the oil is eaten. But farmers should not release jojoba products into waterways. Oils are generally dangerous to water life.

Many industrial uses for jojoba oil are being studied. It can be used as a lubricant for machines or electronic parts. It has even been considered as a low-calorie food additive because the body cannot break down jojoba oil.

Large plantings of jojoba in the United States are said to date back to the late nineteen seventies. The export market started to grow in the middle of the nineties. By two thousand, the Agriculture Department found that about ninety percent of American jojoba oil was exported. France, Switzerland and Japan are major importers.

The International Jojoba Export Council has members in Mexico and the United States. It also includes companies and universities in Australia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Egypt and Israel.

A limited number of producers, and changing harvest conditions, mean that prices for jojoba oil can change sharply.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. For more information about jojoba, go to We have a link to a guide written by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota. I'm Shep O'Neal.