New hemp plants bred to have increased oleic acid

Scientists have found a way to make hemp produce 70 percent more oleic acid, making the crop more viable as a source for cooking oil and other industrial purposes.

Scientists breed hemp to increase its monounsaturated oleic acid content

The scientists, from the University of York, used fast-track molecular plant breeding, selected hemp plants that lacked the active enzyme responsible for creating polyunsaturated fatty acids. Instead, they used varieties that accumulate higher levels of monounsaturated oleic acid. The plant-breeding research is published in the journal Plant Biotechnology and outlines techniques to develop hemp plant breeds deemed “High oleic Hemp,” which could be introduced commercially as an attractive break crop for cereal farmers.

This new cooking oil could possess a longer shelf life with greater heat tolerance and be similar to olive oil in oleic acid content, making it suitable for many more industrial applications.

The new “High oleic Hemp” is 80 percent oleic acid, which trumps regular hemp oils containing just 10 percent. This will give the oil more thermal stability that is five times greater than normal, natural hemp oil. The new hemp oil could be more useful in high-temperature industrial processes.

Breeding hemp in this way limits other key components of the plant

As the agricultural sector looks to finally embrace valuable hemp farming, they will do so using a select, scientifically established breed of hemp. The natural composition of hemp, producing 80 percent polyunsaturated fat, hass the most polyunsaturated fat among vegetable seed oils known in the plant kingdom. The new agricultural breeding process will reverse all that. The new high-oleic hemp breed will provide increased oleic acid content that stems from breeding techniques that help the hemp plant produce more omega-9 fatty acids. This will alter the plant’s properties, limiting its composition of beneficial polyunsaturated fats.

As scientists breed hemp varieties without polyunsaturated fat content, the overall value of the plant for human health is rearranged. With its increased oleic acid content, it may be good for industrial purposes, but this increase in oleic acid content steers the plant away from producing other key offerings. One of the sacrifices includes the loss of polyunsaturated fats, which means that essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 acids could be limited. These fatty acids are not produced by the body but are needed, especially for cell membrane production. They also are used to produce prostaglandin, which aids the body’s inflammatory functions. The change may be insignificant, however, since humans rarely receive beneficial omega-9 fatty acids, which will be increased in the new breed.

Europe to welcome “High oleic Hemp” in 2014 field tests

The new “High oleic Hemp” will be openly welcomed in the UK, where farming of oilseed rape has declined recently due to pests and disease. To maintain cereal yields, the UK and other European countries may embrace the “High oleic Hemp” as a quality oil alternative.

With its many other uses, hemp will be a great crop choice for farmers. The hemp straw can alternatively be used as fiber for composites, bedding, wax, biomass and textiles.

“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,” says Professor Ian Graham, from York University’s Centre for Novel Agricultural Products Biology Department.

The “High oleic Hemp” is set to be planted in 2014 throughout Europe, as field trials launch a new era of farming. This may be good news for agriculture, industry and cooking processes for people around the world.

It won’t be long before agriculturally suppressed countries like the USA begin farming hemp for a variety of purposes as well.

Increased hemp production is a suitable fit for a world looking to sustain itself.