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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Crop Improvement and Genetics Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The objective of this cooperative research project is to develop industrially useful oilseed crops. The expected product will contain hydroxy fatty acids.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Apply biotechnological and biocatalytic approaches to modify oil composition of high oleic oils provided by Purpan. Documents Non Funded Cooperative Reseach Project with Ecole d-Ingenieurs de Purpan. Formerly 5325-21000-016-02N (08/10).

3. Progress Report:
The ultimate purpose of this project was to enhance availability and utilization of seed oils that are useful for industrial purposes. The target fatty acid was ricinoleate, 12-hydroxy oleic, a fatty acid that comprises 90% of castor oil. The castor plant produces an oil that is used to make a wide range of materials that can replace materials currently derived from petroleum, and an acre of castor can produce the equivalent of 8 barrels of oil. The Purpan group took the approach of using bioconversion of high oleate oils and were successful in achieving in vivo production of ricinoleate in microbes. To that end, ARS researchers at Albany, California, provided Purpan with gene technology that they identified and isolated from the castor plant. The ARS researchers at Albany, California, approached the problem of producing more industrial use hydroxy fatty acids from the standpoint of making castor a more desirable crop to grow. Purpan provided student helpers to assist the Albany, California, group in achieving this goal. One key to enhancing castor as a domestic crop is expanding uses for castor. The castor plant can produce significant amounts of biomass that has great potential for conversion to ethanol. Purpan students working with Albany, California, scientists evaluated the potential of castor biomass for conversion to cellulosic ethanol, and contributed to identifying conditions that result in solubilization of 70% of the stem material, producing potentially fermentable saccharides. An additional approach to expanding production of castor is to improve the oil and ricinoleate yield. The remainder of the work assisted by students that Purpan provided was focused on development and characterization of a castor mutant population. Initially they maintained and tracked the plants, followed by characterization of the oil and ricinoleate content of seeds from the M2 generation od castor mutants. The mutants contain a number of variants in oil content. The high oil content seeds are of great interest in increasing yield, and the low oil mutants are of interest in elucidating the biochemical pathway castor uses to make ricinoleate. The results of this research will ultimately lead to an understanding of factors involved in modifying plants to produce industrially useful fatty acids and developing castor as a major energy crop plant. This research supports Objective 2 of the parent project: Develop technologies to enable the domestic production of natural rubber and ricinoleate with properties as good as or better than existing sources for industrial applications.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 06/26/2017
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