Plant Biotechnology for Sustainable Production of Energy and Co-products

Volume 66 of the series Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry pp 209-259


Engineering Status, Challenges and Advantages of Oil Crops

  • Richard F. WilsonAffiliated withOilseeds & Biosciences LLC Email author 
  • , David F. HildebrandAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky

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The outlook for adequate global supply of renewable oils during the next decade is encouraging. Current rates of oil supply should be maintained. Demand is expected to be strong, and equilibrium will be reached between the relative levels of oil demand for food and industrial applications. Indeed, a robust biofuel market may be necessary to balance gains in productivity. However, total renewable oil supply will become more dependent on crops that have sufficient production systems to sustain continued growth. Impact on the environment will be a major factor in determining the sustainability of biodiesel. The main problems with oxidative stability, poor cold-flow properties and NOx emissions can be mitigated through genetic enhancement of oleic acid concentration and other changes to the fatty acid composition of biofuel feedstocks. All major edible oil crops now have a high-oleic option; many are entering commercial production. Looking forward, research must continue to develop new sources of edible and industrial oils as a necessary step in meeting the consumer-driven demands of twenty-first century markets. Many new plant and algal oil sources are being investigated for biodiesel and specific industrial applications. Genetic engineering of commercial oilseeds for biosynthesis and selective accumulation of specific fatty acids with unique chemical properties is progressing.