NEW plant technology enables leaves and stems to produce oils, and not just seeds, opening the prospect of oil-rich fodder crops for livestock.
CSIRO developed the technology, which it says could be a game changer in production of renewable oils.
This week, US-based company Amfora has signed a deal with CSIRO to commercialise the technology to produce energy-rich feed for livestock.
CSIRO Agriculture and Food innovation leader Allan Green said if the technology were applied to existing oil crops, it could potentially treble oil productivity.
“Previously it has only been possible to extract oil from the oil-rich seeds and fruits of some specialised plants, such as canola, soybean, sunflower, coconut and oil palm,” Dr Green said.
“What we have been able to do is switch on this high-level oil production in vegetative tissue, such as in stems and leaves, as well.”
Dr Green said the technology could be applied to human food, biofuels and industrial uses.
The researcher team achieved up 35 per cent oil content in the vegetative tissue of some plants, the same amount as in many oil seed crops.
“We are using solar energy captured by the plant to convert the leaf’s starch reserves into more energy-dense oil molecules, which significantly increases the energy value of the vegetative tissue where the oil accumulates,” Dr Green said.
CSIRO granted Amfora a worldwide, exclusive license to its technology for use in the development of specified forage crops.
The company will develop oil content in the vegetative tissue of corn and sorghum so it can market a feed for dairy farmers that does not require them to purchase additional oils, such as tallow or cotton seed, to supplement feeds.
CSIRO said dairy cattle require about 7pc fat in their diet to produce milk. If the cattles’ feed already contains this fat in the form of oil then this means less agricultural land is needed to produce feed and fewer greenhouse gas emissions are produced from feed production.