Researcher in the spotlight – Olof Olsson, LTH, Lund University

What is currently on top of your research agenda?

Biochemical and molecular characterisation of oat lines selected from a mutagenized population with elevated protein, betaglucan, arabinoxylan levels, increased Fusarium tolerance and lower lipase levels. I am also involved in a project aiming at developing saline tolerant wheat.

Tell us about your latest publication?

This is about avenanthramides in oat, a group of unique molecules with several health promoting activities. The publication describes several oat lines that overproduce one or several avenathamides (Hernandez-Hernandez, O., Pereira-Caro, G., Borges, G., Crozier, A and Olsson, O. 2021. Characterization and antioxidant activity of avenanthramides from selected oat lines developed by mutagenesis technique. Food Chemistry 343 (2021) 128408 )

What led you into your particular field of research?

When I moved from Umeå to Gothenburg 1996 I came in contact with the VL foundation. They promoted oat at the time, since it was an important crop i Western Sweden. I was encouraged to develop novel genetic technologies for oat. Over the yeras the project grew, we could attract more funding and also founded CropTailor during 2007. The aim of the company was to apply results from our oat research to develop new, even better oat varieties than the existing ones. Now, many years later most people realise that oat is a very healthy end environmentally friendly crop, ScanOats has been created etc

What are the implications of your research for the society?

Hopefully it will contribute to a more sustainable environment replacing animal proteins with plants ones, remediating saline soils and contributing to several of the UN goals for sustainable develoment. Our research will also create food alternatives counteracting wellfare diseases and promoting a healthy life stile.

Finally, let´s say you got unlimited research funds; where would your research be five years from now?

We would have whole genome sequences of all 2600 lines in our mutagenized oat population, have a detailed knowledge of the molecular mechanism behind all the different traits we are working with, have the capacity to perfom a virtual screening for productive mutants in any gene we are interested in, have developed molecular markers for traits like high protein and fiber content, Fungal and saline tolerance, reduced lipase activity etc. We would also have several new improved oat varieties on the commercial market.