The fatty acid composition of corn oil can be altered to meet consumer demand for “healthful” fats. The first step in altering the oils is to survey existing corn breeding materials for fatty acid composition. The Latin American Maize Project (LAMP), an international program designed to evaluate the agronomic characteristics of maize accessions in Latin American and U.S. germplasm banks for future use, provides useful starting materials. LAMP was based on the cooperative efforts of 12 countries. In a two-stage evaluation, the project identified the highest-yielding open-pollinated top 20% of populations, then approximately the top 5% of those 20%. Twenty of the populations from four countries with temperate climates were randomly selected for fatty acid analysis. The populations were from United States, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Fifty S1 lines from each population were randomly chosen for analysis for a total of 1,000 genotypes sampled. Statistical differences in fatty acid composition were computed among the 20 populations and among the four countries. The findings showed a wide range of fatty acid profiles present in unadapted, elite corn breeding materials with ranges for each fatty acid as follows: palmitic acid, 6.3–18.2%; stearic acid, 0.9–4.5%; oleic acid, 18.5–46.1%; linoleic acid, 36.6–66.8%; linolenic acid, 0.0–2.0%; and arachidic acid, 0.0–1.4%. Several populations were significantly different from the others. Some lines had unusual fatty acid compositions, including one with 8.3% total saturates and another with 20.2% total saturates. This study shows that existing corn breeding materials could be used to produce high- and low-saturate oils, but other methods would probably be required to produce a high-oleic corn oil.
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