The cotton was engineered so that the toxic gossypol is reduced to tolerable levels in the high-protein seed but remain at higher levels in the rest of the plant to ward off pests and disease.
"The results look very promising." said Dr. Keerti Rathore, the Texas AgriLife Research plant biotechnologist in whose lab the cotton was developed.Gossypol has long been a block for cotton farmers trying to make cotton seed available for human or animal consumption. Cotton fibers have been spun into fabric for more than 7,000 years, but generally only cattle have been able to eat the fuzzy seeds that are separated from the fiber. Cattle can tolerate the gossypol because it is gradually digested through their unique four-part stomach.
Five generations of cotton plants produced in greenhouses and the small test plot in the field this year are showing similar findings, Rathore said, though the results have not yet been published in scholarly journals.
"We have analyzed the plant leaves, flower organs and seeds," Rathore said of the first plant grown under normal farm conditions. "The levels of gossypol and related defense chemicals are similar to that of regular cotton plants in the buds, leaves and flowers. But the seed is still showing the ultra-low levels of gossypol."
Rathore and his team used a scientific method called RNAi, a process also being used to explore cancer and HIV cures. This technology, discovered by Nobel laureates Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello, can silence specific genes. That enabled the team to target the gossypol gene in the cottonseed but let the gene express itself in the rest of the plant.
The "beauty of this project," Rathore said, is that the high-protein seed could be a new food source - especially in developing countries.As reported in his original paper, the cottonseed from these plants meet World Health Organization and U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards for food consumption, potentially making a new, high-protein food available to 500 million people a year.
He said kernels from the safe seed could be ground into a flour-like powder and used as a protein additive in food preparations or perhaps roasted and seasoned as a nutritious snack.
Cotton Inc., which helps fund the research, is enthusiastic about the results.
"The entire cotton industry has a vested interest in expanding the uses of the cotton plant," said J. Berrye Worsham, Cotton Inc. president and CEO. "The success Dr. Rathore and his team have had with the field trial gets us one step closer to cotton being viewed as a fiber and a food source for future generations."
Previous attempts to breed cotton varieties without gossypol were not commercially successful because the toxin was removed from the seed as well as the rest of the plant. That left the plants vulnerable to insects and disease – a risk and a cost that farmers weren't willing to accept.
A way to extract gossypol out of the oil was developed years ago, Rathore noted, but at a cost. Plus, the meal left after the oil was extracted still contained the toxin so could not be consumed by humans, or as feed for pigs, chickens or turkeys.
Rathore plans to continue field trial studies to assure the stability of the gossypol-free cotton variety, and he has additional lines that he expects have even lower levels of the substance. But, he adds, the greatest obstacle for seeing the variety grown in fields and ultimately feeding the world's hungry may be legalities.
Because the variety is "genetically modified," the scientist and AgriLife Research will have to negotiate with others who hold patent rights to some of the basic technologies used to develop this "ultra-low seed-gossypol" cotton. He will also have to seek approval through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and perhaps other agencies to make it commercially available as seed to farmers. That process could take years, he said.
Kathleen Phillips | EurekAlert!
Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University
New findings about the deformed wing virus, a major factor in honey bee colony mortality
11.11.2016 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy