Another use for one of Iowa’s biggest crops is making corn oil, though it’s high in saturated fat. New varieties being planted today may improve on that, and offer cooking oils that promise better heart health. Sue Duvick at the U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service in Ames helped develop the new strains of corn.She says most corn-oil on the market today comes from a genetically narrow selection of “germ plasm” and bringing in more genes expands that genetic base and gives more varieties they can choose from to breed plants with a lower fatty-acid content. Duvick and two other scientists who did the work have planted test plots and tested lab samples, and now they’re applying for patents and looking for commercial partners. The research and development part’s just wrapped up and now scientists in Ames can work with a seed company, or license it themselves. The scientists used genes from gama grass, a primitive relative of corn, to produce a grain with a higher content of oleic acid, a component that’s credited for lowering saturated fat and blood cholesterol.
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