UK scientists have developed a new strain of hemp plants with 'dramatically increased' contents of oleic acid, making it an attractive oil for industrial use.
The development of a new high oleic strain, reported by researchers at the University of York, has resulted in production of oil that has a similar in fatty acid content to olive oil - with a much longer shelf life and heat tolerance compared to traditional hemp oils.
Led by Professor Ian Graham, the team suggested that high oleic acid varieties are a major step towards developing hemp as a commercially attractive break crop for cereal farmers, adding that the resulting oil has many potential industrial applications.
“The new line represents a major improvement in hemp as an oil crop. Similar developments in soybean and oilseed rape have opened up new markets for these crops, due to the perceived healthiness and increased stability of their oil," explained Graham.
"This work lays the foundation for the development of additional novel oil varieties in this multipurpose low input crop," added the team.
Writing in Plant Biotechnology Journal, the team reports the use of fast-track molecular plant breeding to select hemp plants lacking the active form of an enzyme involved in making polyunsaturated fatty acids.
These plants, the team explained, make fewer polyunsaturated fatty acids and instead accumulated higher levels of the monounsaturated oleic acid.
Using conventional plant breeding techniques to develop the plants into a 'High Oleic Hemp' line, they created an oil that is almost 80% oleic acid, compared with typical values of less than 10 per cent in the standard hemp line.
This high monounsaturated/low polyunsaturated fatty acid profile increases the oil’s thermal stability and oil from the new line was shown to have around five times the stability of standard hemp oil, said Graham and his colleagues - adding that this not only makes the oil more valuable as a cooking oil but also increases its usefulness for high temperature industrial processes.
A small field trial in the UK has already been successfully completed and wider field trials of the new High Oleic Hemp are being rolled out across Europe throughout 2014 in order to establish agronomic performance and yield under a range of environmental conditions in advance of launching a commercial crop, said the team.
Source: Plant Biotechnology Journal
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/pbi.12167
"Targeted mutation of Δ12 and Δ15 desaturase genes in hemp produce major alterations in seed fatty acid composition including a high oleic hemp oil"
Authors: Monika Bielecka, Filip Kaminski, et al