A major breakthrough now allows hempseed oil to compete with other vegetable oils for cooking.
Scientists at the University of York have developed a new line of hemp that produces oil with a much longer shelf-life and higher temperature stability.
The breakthrough, published this week in Plant Biotechnology Journal, is believed to be a major step towards making hemp a commercially attractive oil crop.
“The new line represents a major improvement in hemp as an oil crop. Similar developments in soybean and oilseed rape have opened up new markets for these crops, due to the perceived healthiness and increased stability of their oil,” said study co-author Professor Ian Graham in a university release.
While standard hemp oil has a nutritional profile that tops other vegetable oils, its high polyunsaturated fat content makes it an unstable oil that turns rancid quickly. It is also unsuitable for frying due to its low smoke point.
But by using selective breeding processes, Graham and his team were able to develop a line of hemp plants that lacked the enzyme responsible for such high levels of polyunsaturated fats. The oil produced by these plants contained high levels of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, instead.
Oil from the new line, called “High Oleic Hemp”, was almost 80 percent oleic acid, compared with typical values of less than 10 percent.
This increases the oil’s shelf life by 5 times and also improves its usefulness for cooking and high temperature industrial processes, according to the team.
Trials conducted by the researchers found similar flowering time, yield and growth habits between the new line and the standard Finola hemp line.
The new line will begin trials across Europe this year in order to evaluate its cultivation performance and prepare for a commercial launch.