The Importance of Fatty Acid Profiling

- Joseph Zalusky

Throughout the oilseed supply chain, a fatty acid composition profile provides critical information for valuing oil seeds and processed oils. Fatty acid profiling, technically described as analysis of fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), is also used by plant breeders and producers to determine oil composition of oil and oil seeds.

Fatty acid profiling allows sunflower, canola, soybean and rape seed growers, grain handlers, processors and oil producers to understand the oil composition of their products and to verify oil and oilseed quality as products are traded from producer to end user. The analysis is performed by automated, high-throughput gas chromatography (GC), which provides straight-forward, objective results.

Plant breeders can use fatty acid profiling as a screening tool to determine which lines to advance. With a sample as small as a single seed, a FAME test can provide a quantitative analysis of the seed’s oil composition. The plant breeder can use the analysis to check progress and as a selection method for the desired oil profile. A 20-gram sample for analysis is recommended. Because a crop’s oil profile can be influenced by environmental conditions, proper sampling is very important for whole grain profiling. Even in a single production field, multiple samples should be taken to obtain reliable results.

Fatty acid profiling can be used before harvest to determine if growers are producing a quality product that meets contract specifications. Grain elevator operators can make sure the product they are shipping meets the buyer’s specifications. End users can verify they are getting the product they are paying for.

Liquid oil can also be analyzed. A grower, elevator or processor, for example, may use a fatty acid profile to determine the quality of oil seed before processing and of the finished product.

Procedures for calibrating the gas chromatograph to determine fatty acid profiles are defined by the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS). Eurofins BDI tests are performed by experienced AOCS registered chemists who are available to answer customers’ questions about fatty acid profiling. Eurofins BDI’s laboratory procedures are 17025 ISO accredited. Results are identified and reported either as a percent by weight or as a percent by area.