rcular 2 December, 1917
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN
AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA DIVISION OF AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AND UNITED
STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE COOPERATING
P. H. ROLFS, Director
By P. H. ROLFS
The main supply of castor beans to the United States in recent
ears has been from India, but recently this supply has been in-
errupted by difficulties in transportation. Formerly a consider-
ble amount of seed was produced in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri
nd Illinois, but owing to the expense of collecting the seed other
rops became more profitable. A number of attempts have been
ade in Florida to grow castor beans on a commercial scale, but
his has not succeeded to the extent of making a regular crop.
SOIL. The plant will mature seed on nearly all the dry lands in
Florida, giving best returns on good cotton and citrus grove land.
Some seed can be produced even without fertilizer, on black jack
-idges or spruce pineland. The production, however, is so small
hat it would not be profitable under ordinary circumstances.
jand that is likely to become waterlogged or overflowed will not
e satisfactory. The richest truck land, while giving extremely
large plant growth, usually produces a disappointing amount of
PREPARATION OF THE LAND for castor beans is the same as for
their crops, the better the land is prepared the more likely one
s to get large-crop returns. A well prepared seed bed will give
large percentage of germination and rapid growth of the plants.
[t is advisable to give the plants a good opportunity for making a
quick start and rapid growth, early.
AMOUNT OF SEED. In planting it is well to drop two or three
beans to the hill and when the plants are about 6 inches tall all but
the most vigorous plant should be removed.
There are many varieties of castor beans, most of them are
grown for ornamental purposes. These should not be planted
for oil production as they are likely to have a low oil content and
be poor croppers. The Indian or Bombay will probably be as
good as any. The variety formerly grown in Kansas for oil, and
2 Florida Cooperative Extension
planted to some extent in Florida, produces a smaller bean b
seems to be a satisfactory producers The Indian bean runs about
1200 to the pound, the Kansas variety runs about double thi
lumber. The Indian variety will run about 50,000 beans to th
bushel, while the Kansas variety runs about 100,000 to the bush
of 46 pounds.
If the rows are made 6 feet apart, the hills 4 feet apart in th
row and the seeds dropped three to the hill, it will require 544
seeds to plant an acre. A bushel of the Indian variety at thi
rate will plant a little over 9 acres.
The seed may be planted by means of a corn or velvet bea
planter. The plates should be drilled so as to drop a seed ever
foot or eighteen inches. If dropped at intervals of one foot i
will require 7260 seeds, if at eighteen inches 4840 seeds, to plan
an acre. When the plants are about six inches high they should
be thinned out to stand about three or four feet apart on th
poorer soils and farther apart on rich ones.
CULTIVATION. In the castor bean crop, as well as any other
farm crop, it will pay to prepare a good seed bed and this will b
practically half the cultivation. The seed usually germinate
quickly but if the weather is cool, or dry it may germinate slow
ly. It will pay to cultivate the field with a weeder, or some light
implement that will not disturb the seedlings, to conserve the
soil moisture. The first cultivation should be given within a
week or 10 days after planting and continued the same as for
cotton or corn. Ordinarily the first bloom spikes will appear
when the plants are waist high. If the soil is fertile and moist
the plants may be shoulder high before the first spikes appear.
On poor land the seed spikes may appear before the plants are
knee high. On good land less cultivation will be necessary ex-
cept for keeping down weeds. On poor land more frequent cul-
tivation will be necessary to stimulate growth. After the rainy
season sets in the plants will shade the ground to such an ex-
tent that weeds are not likely to be troublesome.
HARVESTING. The seed heads must be collected soon after they
are ripe, otherwise much of the crop may be lost either by shell-
ing out in the field or by molding in moist weather. They should
be cut from the plant and dropped into bags or baskets in the
most speedy and convenient way. When these bags or baskets
have been filled they may be carried to the middles, left for haul-
ing. The harvesting is the most expensive operation connected'
Circular 2, Castor Beans
ith the castor-bean crop. Each grower must handle his labor
id methods for harvesting so as to be most economical for his
PLANTING. The seed should be planted as early in the spring
soil conditions will permit. In extreme South Florida this
ill be some time during the latter part of February or in March,
north and west Florida it should be at the same time that cot-
n is planted or a little earlier.
Before the beans are planted they may be soaked in warm
water for 24 hours. Swelling the seeds will give quicker germi-
tion and secure a more uniform stand. In the cotton growing
!gions the rows may be made 5 or 6 feet apart and one plant
rery 4 feet in the row. About every 9th or 10th row may be left
vacant to facilitate hauling when the beans are gathered. The
ed should be planted about the same depth as corn or cotton,
which will vary with the character of the soil and the moisture
Castor beans may be planted in young citrus groves to some
advantage. It should be remembered, however, that they will
raw on the fertility of the soil, but by proper handling they may
e grown without serious detriment to the trees. Occasional
riddles should be left to enable the owner to enter with a team
or hauling the beans. Two rows 6 feet apart in the middles are
bout all that should be attempted. The hills may be made 3 or
feet apart in the row.
FERTILIZATION of castor beans should be similar to that of corn
ir cotton; that is, on land with a fair supply of humus, capable
)f producing 30 bushels of corn per acre, no fertilizer will be
iceded but on thin sandy land an application of 400 to 600 lbs. of
!ertilizer analyzing about 4% ammonia, applied just before plant-
ng the seed, is advisable.
Some varieties shatter readily; these must be handled carefully
;o avoid waste. In the final drying of pods, before they are ready
;o be threshed, it will be necessary to expose them to the sun. In
;he case of varieties that shatter (sometimes called poppers) this
vill have to be done on a plank floor or platform with sides 6 or
3 feet high, either cloth or planking, to catch the seed as they pop
)ut, so that the beans that shell out may be readily scooped up and
:leaned. The pile will have to be forked over from time to time
so as to dry the beans uniformly. With some varieties, a special-
ly constructed machine is required for removing the beans from
4 Florida Cooperative Extension
the pod. In the West home-made machines with cylinders
rollers were so adjusted that the pods when fed in were crush
but the seed left uninjured. A fanning mill was then used to r
move the hulls, chaff and dirt from the beans. After which th
are sacked for market.
YIELD. The amount of beans produced, per acre is more
matter of estimate than actual knowledge. Not much attenti
was given to this crop in Florida as long as it was possible to i
port large quantities from India. Twenty bushels is thought
be a reasonable estimate for the Indian variety. As long as
was possible to import the beans freely the United States use
1,000,000 bushels annually. At that time the price of cast
beans was approximately $1.00 a bushel, this price was so lo
that it did not prove attractive to the American farmer.
USES AND PRECAUTION. The principal use of the castor bea
is in the manufacture of castor oil, principally employed for m
dicinal and lubricating purposes. The principal factories i
the United States are at Jersey City, N. J., Buffalo, N. Y., Tc
ledo, 0., and Grand Rapids, Mich. The equipment and operation
of an oil mill is very much like the cotton seed oil mills. Th
pomace is valuable as a fertilizer. Owing to the poisonous prin
ciple which it contains, it cannot be used for stock feed without
being specially treated.
Castor beans contain a very poisonous principle. The death o
horses has been reported as due to eating them. Special care
should be taken that children do not eat them, since two beans arn
likely to prove serious if not fatal.