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New plant mechanism discovered for better seed oil production


Researchers at Washington State University have made a significant discovery that could revolutionize the production of seed oils, which are crucial in various industries including food, pharmaceuticals, and biofuels.  

Published in Nature Communications, their study reveals a new mechanism by which some plants can alter the fatty acid composition of their seed oils after they are produced. 

The research focused on Physaria fendleri, a relative of canola, which can naturally modify its seed oil makeup. By understanding the genetic basis of these changes, the team successfully engineered another plant, Arabidopsis, to mimic these alterations, significantly increasing the production of valuable oils like those like castor oil. 

This finding challenges the previous understanding that oil composition in plant seeds is fixed once formed. Instead, it introduces the possibility of post-production modifications, opening new avenues for enhancing oil yields and qualities.  

Such advancements could reduce reliance on crops like castor beans, which are restricted in some countries due to their association with the toxic compound ricin. 

The potential applications of this discovery extend beyond industrial uses. The modified oils could be tailored for various needs, including healthier dietary fats and more efficient biofuels.  

This research, supported by the USDA, NSF, and the U.S. Department of Energy, sets the stage for future agricultural innovations that could transform crop production and sustainability. 

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