A “super high oleic” safflower is set to touch down in the Wheatbelt next month as trials begin to see how the winter crop used to produce industrial-grade plant-based oil fares across the State. It could see the crop planted commercially as soon as next year, with the clean technology company behind the trials — GO Resources — believing WA is perfectly poised to tap into the Asian export market. About 10 trials are expected to take place in Moora, York, Kellerberrin, Merredin and throughout the South West from May. It is the first time the SHO variety will be grown in the State’s grainbelt. Research and development lead David Hudson said it was an “exciting” development, following years of trials across the Eastern Seaboard, from Mackay in Queensland, to Wagga Wagga in New South Wales and Horsham in Victoria. “Last year was a really good year, we had about 4000ha,” he said. “Now we’re looking to expand into WA. “We’ll be looking at a range of trials — time of seeding, seeding rates, looking at new variety developments and we’ll also look at herbicide screening. “We’ll put the trials across as many diverse locations as we can.” Safflower is one of three GM crops grown commercially in WA, along with cotton and canola, and was first introduced to Australia from Arizona in the 1950s, with an Australian safflower breeding program active until 1987. Several varieties are available, producing two different types of oil — linoleic and oleic. Many of the varieties contain oil at about 30-40 per cent, but a SHO variety — containing an oleic acid content of over 90 per cent — developed by the GRDC and CSIRO was made commercially available in 2019. According to the GRDC its high oil content made it “the only plant-based source of oil suitable for a large number of high-value industrial applications including lubricants, plastics, polymers, resins, cosmetics and biofuels”. The technology and SHO variety is now licenced to GO Resources, which uses the 92-95 per cent oleic oils to develop “renewable, sustainable biobased lubricants to replace harmful petroleum-based oils” The oils can be used as engine, hydraulic or electrical transformer oils, as well as grease, and have applications in the pharmaceutical, food, cosmeceutical and personal care industries. Trials have been ongoing in the Ord for the past five years, but Mr Hudson said it was the first time it would be grown in the Wheatbelt. With saline or sodic soils characteristic for some parts of WA, Mr Hudson said the salt and drought tolerant crop would offer farmers a new break crop to add into their rotation. And with demand for the plant-based lubricants from Asia, he said it would be a value-adding crop to their operations, with the State’s location ideal to tap into that market. “We’re really keen to develop a WA market,” Mr Hudson said. “One of the drives is that we have an export market for the oil in WA — WA’s proximity to the Asian market is one of the attractions.” If grown commercially, farmers would purchase the seeds from the company, grow the crops and sell their harvest back to GO Resources to produce their SHO vegetable oil. “It is a closed-loop marketing system,” Mr Hudson said. Exact locations of the trials are yet to be finalised.