Milkweed

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 Research Updates

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2007 Research Article - NEW!

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Additional Milkweed Data

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Milkweed Insect Visitors

New cash crop for local farmers

Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, is a perennial crop traditionally considered a nuisance weed by farmers throughout the Midwest. However, the Alternative Crops Research Program at Western Illinois University is currently seeking to add milkweed to the list of agronomic crops grown in the western counties of Illinois. The production of milkweed for floss and seed could provide local farmers with a new crop option that provides annual returns with minimal maintenance.

Commercial uses of milkweed

The market for milkweed fibers, seed, meal, and oil are developing rapidly as new uses for milkweed products are found. Traditionally, common milkweed floss was used as filling in life jackets during World War II and the seed of the milkweed has been cultivated as monarch butterfly habitat in prairies and preserves throughout the United States. Currently, the Natural Fibers Corporation based in Ogallala, Nebraska is manufacturing comforters and pillows made from milkweed fibers. The floss has a higher thermal rating than goose down and is hypoallergenic. Other parts of the plant also have potential uses in latex production, nematicide applications, and the cosmetics industry.

Continuing research

Western Illinois University began field trials of common milkweed in the summer of 2001. First year studies investigated intra-row spacing and the effects of coal dust on follicle and stalk biomass in the first year of production. Second year's projects focused on inter-row spacing, nitrogen requirements, and planting dates. Work will also continue on developing harvesting techniques and drying equipment.

 Prior and Continuing Research Projects

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Spring 2001 Root Transplants

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Spring 2001 Direct Seeding

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Spring 2001 Seedling Transplants

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2001 Direct Seeding Trials

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2001 Transplant Studies

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2002 Direct Seeding Trials

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2002 Transplant Studies

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2003 Experiments

Collaborators

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Natural Fibers Corporation

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Rogers Harry O'kuru - New Crops and Processing Research Division, NCAUR

    

   

   

   

Milkweed Product Resources

bulletOgallala Comfort Company

Milkweed Articles

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Census Shows Where Milkweed Grows by Hank Becker

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The Milkweed Business by Herbert D. Knudsen and Richard D. Zeller

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New Uses for Milkweed by Linda McGraw

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New-Crops Case Studies (This is a CAST Issue Paper, Diversifying U.S. Crop Production)  

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Common Milkweed in Iowa by Bob Hartzler and Doug Buhler (USDA/ARS)

Selected References

bulletMilkweed Citations  
 

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2009 All photographs and content included at this website are protected by Western Illinois University. 

  Comments concerning this web site may be directed to WB-Phippen@wiu.edu (309-298-1251).

Last revised: March 10, 2009