Sourcing a sustainable new vegetable oil

28 August, 2023

From saltwater lagoons in Venice and the South of France to inland lakes in the Arabian desert, Vanessa Melino and her team are gathering a remarkable and comprehensive collection of Salicornia germplasm.

The genus Salicornia includes annual species, commonly known as glasswort, samphire, sea asparagus or sea beans. The small, succulent herbs are obligate halophytes, meaning they require saltwater to grow — and these plants can even thrive in seawater, a trait not found in many plants.

When Melino joined KAUST in 2020, she inherited a small collection of Salicornia used for academic pursuits. She and Mark Tester, plant scientist and associate director of the Center for Desert Agriculture, recognized the potential to use genetic diversity to develop Salicornia as a high-value, sustainable seed oil crop.

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