Supercharged safflower

May 21, 2012
This is a super-high oleic safflower. Credit: CSIRO

This scientific achievement has produced safflower seed oil that contains more than 90 per cent of this valuable fatty acid, the highest level of purity of an individual fatty acid currently available in any plant oil.

The new safflower type will provide Australian grain growers with a unique opportunity to produce and supply renewable, sustainable that will replace petroleum-based in the manufacture of industrial products.

The future for high purity oleic acid oil could require over 100,000 hectares of this 'super-high' oleic safflower, which is comparable to the size of the cotton industry in Australia.

Dr Allan Green, Deputy Chief of CSIRO Plant Industry, said this breakthrough safflower oil combines high-purity for industrial chemical production with tremendous stability for direct use in industrial lubricants and fluids, creating a versatile, valuable industrial raw material. "Plant oils contain a range of including both monounsaturates and polyunsaturates," Dr Green said.

"For food use it's important to have a healthy balance of these. However, the polyunsaturates cause problems for industrial use because they are unstable and difficult to remove during oil processing," he said.

Dr Green said the team used CSIRO gene silencing technology to boost the level of desirable oleic acid in the seed by switching off its conversion to the undesirable polyunsaturates.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Plants capable of producing oils for industrial chemicals and human health are a step closer thanks to breakthrough research by CSIRO researchers who have supercharged safflower to produce increased amounts of desirable fatty acids. Credit: CSIRO

"We have succeeded in dramatically lowering the polyunsaturates to below three per cent, thereby raising the monounsaturate oleic acid to over 90 per cent purity," Dr Green said.

This new 'super-high' oleic safflower was developed by the Crop Biofactories Initiative, a strategic research and product development partnership between CSIRO and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Dr Jody Higgins, Senior Manager Commercial Grain Technologies at the GRDC, said the breakthrough development could create a new crop industry in Australia, initially suitable for farmers in northern NSW and southern Queensland.

"Safflower is an old crop known from ancient times, but it is very minor crop in Australia today because of the low local demand for its current oil quality type," Dr Higgins said.

"Interestingly, safflower was originally grown in Australia as an industrial crop where the oil was used to make paints and resins," she said.

Safflower is ideal for Australian biofactories as it is a very hardy and adaptable crop that does well in warm-season conditions and should cope well with the expected stresses of climate change.

"Our market intelligence has shown that global demand for high purity oleic acid could require over 100,000 hectares of 'super-high' oleic safflower, which is comparable to the size of the cotton industry in Australia," Dr Higgins said.

"The Crop Biofactories Initiative will engage in further discussions with a number of local and international companies to develop production of this high value safflower crop in Australia," she said.

'Super-high' oleic safflower will also provide a core technology platform for the future development of a range of oils with high contents of industrially-important derivatives of oleic .

Explore further: Bioengineering study finds two-cell mouse embryos already talking about their future

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Boost for 'green plastics' from plants

Apr 28, 2008

Australian researchers are a step closer to turning plants into ‘biofactories’ capable of producing oils which can be used to replace petrochemicals used to manufacture a range of products.

Making cookies that are good for your heart

Sep 13, 2010

Years of research has proven that saturated and trans fats clog arteries, make it tough for the heart to pump and are not valuable components of any diet. Unfortunately, they are contained in many foods. Now, ...

Recommended for you

Cataloguing 10 million human gut microbial genes

Nov 25, 2014

Over the past several years, research on bacteria in the digestive tract (gut microbiome) has confirmed the major role they play in our health. An international consortium, in which INRA participates, has developed the most ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.