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Research Report: Enhanced Chia Production & Product Usage

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By David Hildebrand & Tim Phillips, University of Kentucky

Work conducted at University of Kentucky and also by Chris Kummer has indicated that chia, Salvia hispanica, has the potential to be an economically viable new crop for Kentucky farmers, but agronomic improvements and/or additional product markets are needed. The objectives of this research were to: 1) continue to develop new chia lines with improved yield and other agronomic performance characteristics by traditional breeding and further mutagenesis, particularly seed retention, lower lodging and larger seeds; 2) analysis of the genotype and
environmental effects on seed composition of materials produced in 2016; 3) economical conversion of chia oil into high value lubricants; and 4) further market development of nutrigel fiber, ω3 applications and improved protein product streams from chia including fish and shrimp feed. 

The most promising chia germplasm from around the world was assembled, and our most promising line was subjected to a further round of mutagenesis. Lines with larger seed, higher oil, reduced lodging and lower shattering were evaluated in the field in 2016 and most promising lines further analyzed in 2017. Breeding for higher yielding chia lines that can set seed in Kentucky was continued by crossing with the best additional chia genetic materials.

For commercialization of these lines as a high ω3 oil in addition to whole seeds, we further screened and selected lines for higher oil and ω3 levels. We established a very efficient screen for higher oil chia lines and have found considerable variability for oil content. Oil, protein and moisture calibrations that have been developed were applied to selecting higher oil and protein chia lines. Further work was conducted on processing and marketing chia for new commercialization opportunities for Kentucky growers for food, health, aquaculture and renewable chemical markets.

Accumulating evidence indicates that chia may be the best source of soluble fiber in addition to ω3 fatty acids. We further studied the formation, isolation, health properties, processing and marketing opportunity of chia water adsorbing fiber in addition to the oil and high protein meal. Removal of as much of the fiber as readily feasible to another product stream will likely make the remaining high protein/high ω3 meal more valuable as fish feed. The oxidative stability of chia oil and whole chia seed products compared to commodity and high ω3 oil sources was further studied for special high value health, nutraceutical and food applications. The chemical processes for converting chia oil into a high value renewable lubricant/motor oil and fuel cell energy source was refined and compared to competitive oil sources.

ResearchJennifer Elwellchia