New technology eliminates plant toxins

Aug 05, 2012

Plants produce toxins to defend themselves against potential enemies, from herbivorous pests to diseases. Oilseed rape plants produce glucosinolates to serve this purpose. However, due to the content of glucosinolates, farmers can only use limited quantities of the protein-rich rapeseed for pig and chicken feed. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen has developed a method to hinder unwanted toxins from entering the edible parts of the plant. The breakthrough was published today in the prominent scientific journal Nature.

"We have developed an entirely new technology that we call 'transport engineering'. It can be used to eliminate unwanted substances from the edible parts of crops," says Professor Barbara Ann Halkier, head of the for Dynamic (DynaMo) at the University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Science.

The oilseed rape plant is but one example of a crop whose use will be greatly enhanced thanks to the new technology. Unlike the healthy glucosinolates found in broccoli, oilseed rape additionally produces a glucosinolate that is harmful to most animals when consumed in larger amounts.

This means that protein-rich rapeseed cake produced using the of rapeseeds pressed for oil, can only be used in limited quantities for pig and chicken feed. Due to this, continues to import large amounts of soy cake for animal feed.

The breakthrough increases the potential of oilseed rape as a commercial animal feed:

"We managed to find two proteins that transport glucosinolates into the seeds of the thale cress plant, a close relative of the oilseed rape. When we subsequently produced thale cress without these two proteins, the remarkable result was that their seeds were completely free of glucosinolates and thus suitable for feed," emphasises Barbara Ann Halkier.

Worldwide, oilseed rape is the third most widely grown oilseed-producing crop. 'Transport engineering', the new , is so promising that one of the world's largest companies involved in plant biotechnology – Bayer CropScience – is now negotiating with the University of Copenhagen's Tech Transfer Unit to collaborate with the research group so as to deploy the new technology and produce an oilseed rape plant with glucosinolate-free seeds. According to Bayer CropScience project leader Peter Denolf such seeds will significantly enhance the use of oilseed rape meal as animal feed and bring along a more sustainable oilseed rape processing procedure.

The research results are the fruit of 16 years of basic research, an excellent example of how basic research can result in new discoveries of direct use for society.

Explore further: Plant variants point the way to improved biofuel production

More information: Nature, DOI:10.1038/nature11285

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ozone depletes oil seed rape productivity

Jun 29, 2009

With rising ozone levels scientists have found that high ozone conditions cause a 30 percent decrease in yield and an increase in the concentration of a group of compounds with toxic effects to livestock, but anticarcinogenic ...

Researchers find protein to up yield from oilseed crops

Mar 26, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at Montana State University have developed a protein that can be expressed in oilseed crops to increase the oil yield by as much as 40 percent, a development that could have an impact on the biodiesel ...

Recommended for you

Project launched to study evolutionary history of fungi

6 hours ago

The University of California, Riverside is one of 11 collaborating institutions that have been funded a total of $2.5 million by the National Science Foundation for a project focused on studying zygomycetes – ancient li ...

Different watering regimes boost crop yields

9 hours ago

Watering tomato plants less frequently could improve yields in saline conditions, according to a study of the impact of water and soil salinity on vegetable crops.

Woolly mammoth genome sequencer at UWA

11 hours ago

How can a giant woolly mammoth which lived at least 200,000 years ago help to save the Tasmanian Devil from extinction? The answer lies in DNA, the carrier of genetic information.

User comments : 0