Plant oil is usually produced only in the seeds of plants such as soybean, sunflower and canola. These seeds represent only a small amount of the plant biomass with the rest of the plant not directly used for oil accumulation. CSIRO’s Leaf Oil technology switches on oil production and accumulation in the entire plant. Our prototype plant, tobacco, can produce up to five times the amount of oil currently produced by conventional plant oil crops. The oils we produce in the leafy biomass are normal triglyceride type oils – just like canola oil, soybean oil, and other vegetable oils – and are distinct from the essence-type oils already produced in some other plants (such as eucalyptus or lavender).
CSIRO Leaf Oil technology greatly increases energy density in plant biomass by switching on oil production in leaves. This is achieved by activating the plant’s oil synthesis and accumulation genes in the leaf. These genes are usually only active in seeds, and this results in the production of oil droplets in non-seed parts of the plant.