(i)General background on the plant
Honesty is a biennial plant which grows to a height of 30 to 100 cm. The stem is stiffly hairy, the leaves are cordate-acuminate, coarsely toothed. Flowering in April/May, the flowers are purple or white. The green seedpods are large, circular and flattened and are firmly attached to the stem. Seeds are large, stongly compressed in two rows. A flat, thin-walled, translucent silicula is formed during the ripening process leaving 'Silver Penny' which is used in floral arrangements.
Lunaria annua is a native of south east Europe and western Asia (Bailey 1949). It is now naturalised in many temperate countries of Europe and North America as an ornamental flower and as a garden escape on waste land.
(ii)Details of quality characters
The potential of honesty as a new crop lies in its fatty acid composition. It contains 30-40% oil which is rich in long chain fatty acids e.g. erucic and nervonic, which make it potentially suitable for production of high-temperature lubricants and engineering nylons, possibly also some pharmaceutical preparations.
|Fatty acid composition||
1 - 3
1 - 2
16 - 20
8 - 10
2 - 4
38 - 48
22 - 25
(iii)Current production and yield
Still at the developmental stage, with field crops being grown to learn more about its agronomic requirements, field performance and ease of harvesting.
|Seed yield t/ha||Oil %||Reference|
|Germany||1.2||-||Beerentrup and Robbelen 1987|
(iv)Constraints on production
Honesty is a native of Europe and well adapted to a temperate climate. Yield data is limited but its shatter resistance should make harvesting straightforward, however agronomic pilot experiments indicate that mechanical harvesting and cleaning of the seeds is a problem.
The major limitation to progress is the biennial nature of the plant and its high vernalisation requirement. The development of a late winter or spring sown annual type is a primary requirement.
The production potential and agronomy of the crop requires investigation. Honesty often does not thrive in large open fields.
At present commercial production of honesty is limited to seed multiplication for ornamentals.
(v)Markets and market potential
Honesty has potential interest for the oil processing industry because of a high content of long chain fatty acids (C:22-C:24) in its oil.
The characteristic silver coloured seed capsules of Lunaria are often used in dry flower arrangements, but its oil has a potentially more valuable role in combating the debilitating disease multiple sclerosis (MS).
Because Honesty is a member of the family Cruciferae family, it is anticipated that glucosinolates are the only antinutritional compounds in the seed meal, and that no special processing will be required for quality oil and meal.
Honesty has an absolute requirement for vernalisation, which is quite considerable. Plants will not flower in spring unless they have been overwintered as well-established plants. The plant requires a cold temperature vernalisation period of at least 10 weeks at 5°C to induce maximum flower production Pierik (1967). Sowing dates must therefore be sufficiently early to allow plants to grow sufficiently large before the onset of winter. Mid July and early August have been suggested as the latest safe sowing dates in Europe.
Cromack (1994) found that the plant required to be sown at a depth of 25 to 35 mm to ensure adequate establishment, shallower sowings were particularly susceptible to plant loss post-emergence. Field establishment was variable with best establishment in early August under moist soil conditions. Effect of sowing date on yield is unknown.
No herbicides are yet recommended as completely crop-safe. The crop should be easily combinable. Little assessment of yield has been made.
See the following pages in the NF-2000 Database
Honesty (Lunaria biennis)
AIR2-CT93-1817 - Vegetable Oils with Specific Fatty Acids (VOSFA) Agricultural and Industrial Development of Novel Oilseed Crops
FAIR-PL97-3884 - CTVO-NET Chemical-technical utilisation of vegetable oils
Crops for Paints/Coatings/Plastics
Crops for Fine Chemicals
Springdale Crop Synergies Ltd,
Mr Clifford Spencer, Springdale Crop Synergies Ltd, Rudston, Driffield, East Yorkshire, YO25 4DJ
Telephone: +44 (0) 1262 421100
- Bailey, L.H. (1949) Manual of cultivated plants. The Macmillan Co, New York
- Beerentrup, H.M. and Robbelen, G. (1987) Screening for European productions of oilseeds with unusual fatty acids. Angew, Botanik 61 287-303.
- Cromack (1994) Unpublished data
- Pieik, R.L.M. (1967) Regeneration, vernalisation and flowering in Lunaria annua in vivo and in vitro. Mededelingen Landbouwhogescool Wageningen. 1-66.
- Princen, L.H. and Rothfus, J.A. (1984) Development of new crops for industrial raw materials. Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society 61 (2) 281-289.
- Soest L.J.M. (1993) Vegetable oils with specific fatty acids. EC AIR Project Proposal.
- Wellensiek, S.J. (1973) Genetics and flower formation of annual Lunaria. Neth. J agric Sci. 21 163-166.