COSMOS explores oilseeds

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PhD Michał Krzyżaniak, Department of Plant Breeding and Seed Production of UWM
Dr inż. [PhD, Eng.] Michał Krzyżaniak from the Department of Plant Breeding and Seed Production of UWM participates in an international research project called COSMOS. The aim of the project is to make a better use of oilseeds in industry. Researchers from Europe are looking for alternative oils from plants which grow in our climatic conditions.

The aim of the 4.5-year project is to reduce the currently very high dependence of the European oleochemical industry on imported oil.  18 partners are involved in the COSMOS project. Universities and research institutes compose more than half of them. The project started in April 2015 and is coordinated by the Institute of Food and Bio-Research in Wageningen (Netherlands). In this project, the researchers are looking for ways to make a better use of oils derived from non-genetically modified crops – camelina and crambe crops. Camelina is one of the oldest plants cultivated in Europe. Its seeds contain an average of 35% of fat. From camelina’s seeds we can obtain oil which is suitable for consumption and industrial purposes (biodiesel). Camelina can also be cultivated on poor soils and it virtually does not require the use of chemical protection. Crambe is an oil crop which comes from Africa. Oils extracted from the seeds of camelina and crambe can serve as an alternative to palm and coconut oils, and the plant residues – straw, leaves and oilcakes will be used as feed for insects, from which a high value protein, chitin and fats can be obtained.

Dr inż. M. Krzyżaniak directs the research team from our university which participates in this project. It is financed form the EU program Horizon 2020. The amount provided for the UWM’s team is approx. 500 thousand Euros. The researchers from UWM, under the direction of Dr inż. M. Krzyżaniak, are responsible in this project for the research on camelina and crambe cultivation.

– We get seeds of crambe and camelina from our partners and we explore the way in which they give crop and how they grow. Our role is to select the best varieties for the climate of Central Europe. Similar experiments are also carried out by our partners from Greece, Italy and Canada. We check how the tested plants behave in our climatic and soil conditions – explains Dr inż. M. Krzyżaniak.

Scientists use plant oils as building blocks of polymers which are necessary i.a. for the production of plastics, detergents and lubricants.

Małgorzata Hołubowska