Toxin-free oilseed rape: researchers develop safer animal feed
Plants produce toxins to defend themselves against potential enemies such as herbivorous pests and unwanted diseases, and for oilseed rape plants, the third most widely grown oilseed-producing crop, the toxin in question is glucosinolate.
However, this protection process can be a headache for farmers who use the protein-rich rapeseed plant for pig and chicken feed: the toxic glucosinolate must be used sparingly - it is harmful to most animals when consumed in larger amounts and can only be used in limited quantities. As a result, northern Europe currently imports large amounts of soy cake for animal feed.
But now a team of EU-funded researchers from Denmark, Germany and Spain has developed a new method to keep the unwanted toxins from getting into the edible parts of the plant. Their breakthrough has significantly upped the chances of using oilseed rape as commercial animal feed instead.
Two of the study researchers were supported by Marie Curie grants: Meike Burow from the University of Copenhagen with a EUR 200 222 Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (IEF) grant for the REGULATION OF FLUX ('Molecular dissection of factors controlling flux through pathways') project; and Ingo Dreyer from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid with a EUR 100 000 Marie Curie Career Integration Grant for the REGOPOC ('Regulation of plant potassium channels') project.
Writing in the journal Nature, the team outline the potential for toxin-free oilseed rape as a feed crop. And what's more, the oilseed rape plant is just one example of a crop whose use will be greatly enhanced thanks to this new technology.
One of the study authors, Professor Barbara Ann Halkier from the University of Copenhagen, says: 'We have developed an entirely new technology that we call "transport engineering". It can be used to eliminate unwanted substances from the edible parts of crops. We managed to find two proteins that transport glucosinolates into the seeds of the thale cress plant, a close relative of the oilseed rape. When we subsequently produced thale cress without these two proteins, the remarkable result was that their seeds were completely free of glucosinolates and thus suitable for feed.'
Their approach, dubbed 'transport engineering', could soon be deployed to produce an oilseed rape plant with glucosinolate-free seeds which would significantly enhance the use of oilseed rape meal as animal feed and bring along a more sustainable oilseed rape processing procedure.
For more information, please visit:
University of Copenhagen:
Category: Project results
Data Source Provider: University of Copenhagen
Document Reference: Nour-Eldin, H. H. et al. 'NRT/PTR transporters are essential for translocation of glucosinolate defence compounds to seeds', Nature, 2012. doi:10.1038/nature11285
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Environmental Protection; Life Sciences; Scientific Research