Breakthrough discovery could result in fragrant golden harvest

Sep 19, 2013
Breakthrough discovery could result in fragrant golden harvest

Sandalwood oil - the 'golden harvest' - is one of the world's most valuable essential oils, but increased demand has caused natural populations of sandalwood trees to diminish over the past century through harvesting, grazing animals and disease.

Plantations of several sandalwood (Santalum) species provide a more sustainable alternative to traditional wild harvesting but the long maturation requirement for heartwood to be produced within a tree hampers oil productivity.

A solution - with significant implications for the Australian sandalwood industry and for conservation of wild Australian sandalwood - has been found through .

Key genes that produce sandalwood oil have been discovered by an international research team from The University of Western Australia and the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada. These newly discovered genes, together with previous gene discoveries, produce some of the final constituents of the oil found in Indian sandalwood trees.

"These results - published in PLOS ONE today - provide a foundation for the production of sandalwood oil by means of metabolic engineering," said UWA's Dr Liz Barbour, one of the co-authors of the paper.

"Presently sandalwood oil, extracted from the heartwood in tree stems and roots, is highly sought after by the fragrance and perfume industry. This discovery will open new nutraceutical and medicinal markets," she said.

Another UWA co-author is PhD student Jessie Moniodis who travelled to the UBC Michael Smith Laboratories in Canada to work with Professor Joerg Bohlmann and Dr Maria Diaz-Chavez (the lead author of the new study) on characterisation of the discovered sandalwood genes. Associate Professors Emilio Ghisalberti, Professor Julie Plummer and Dr Christopher Jones from UWA were also involved. The research was partly funded by the Western Australian Forest Products Commission, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and an industrial partner.

Historically, the harvest and export of Western Australia's native sandalwood, S. spicatum was vital to the State's early economy. It is suggested that the Wheatbelt was settled faster because of revenue generated by local sandalwood harvesting.

Today, the industry is reviving as farmers replant native sandalwood as a land restoration strategy while exploring the possibility of benefitting from 'the golden harvest'. This discovery will add novel value streams to the industry and provide the supply security needed to attract long-term markets.

Explore further: Juniper essential oil characteristics determined

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Juniper essential oil characteristics determined

Sep 04, 2013

Scientists evaluated Rocky Mountain juniper trees for changes in year-round essential oil content and composition. They found that the concentration of essential oil in fresh leaves varied, and that oil content in the male ...

Plants may be key to diabetes treatment

Jun 29, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- With the growing worldwide incidence of diabetes, a new study reveals that traditional Aboriginal and Indian plant extracts show potential for managing the disease.

Beneficial tea tree oil given all-clear

Mar 12, 2013

After two recent reports suggesting that exposing bacteria to tea tree oil may contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans, an international study - led by researchers at The University of Western Australia ...

Spicing up your fish fillets with science

Aug 14, 2013

The health benefits of consuming omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are well established. The primary sources of these fatty acids in the human diet are through fish and seafood. Researchers ...

How to make high-end perfumes without whale barf

Apr 05, 2012

University of British Columbia researchers have identified a gene in balsam fir trees that could facilitate cheaper and more sustainable production of plant-based fixatives and scents used in the fragrance industry and reduce ...

Fish oil found to help serious pregnancy complications

Jul 29, 2013

Taking fish oil during pregnancy could limit the effects of serious complications such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and miscarriage as well as enhancing fetal growth, according to researchers at ...

Recommended for you

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

9 hours ago

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Building better soybeans for a hot, dry, hungry world

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —A new study shows that soybean plants can be redesigned to increase crop yields while requiring less water and helping to offset greenhouse gas warming. The study is the first to demonstrate ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...