Researchers are boosting the content of dye pigment in carrots – University of Copenhagen

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16 July 2015

Researchers are boosting the content of dye pigment in carrots

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences is increasing the content of pigment in carrots and optimizing them for Danish conditions so it will be cheaper and easier to produce the natural colourants used in food. The Danish ingredient company and project partner Chr. Hansen is pleased with the results so far and sees a great potential.

Carrots contain pigments such as carotene, which can be yellow, orange, red and purple, and anthocyanins, which can be found in different red-blue shades. There is a great market for extracting these pigments to use them as natural colouring agents in foodstuffs.

To optimize the production of the pigments, researchers have started the search for carrot sorts with an extra high content of the pigments. To begin with they have cross-bred around 20 different carrots from the gene bank NordGen.

”So far we have cultivated around 100 different varieties of carrots and we have harvested a lot of good roots, which we have examined for the dye content,” explains professor Søren K. Rasmussen from Copenhagen Plant Science Centre, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at University of Copenhagen.

The best carrots will be optimized to be grown under Danish conditions. This means that qualities such as resistance against pests and adaption to our climate will have to be bred into them.

Bjarne Jørnsgård, who is Crop Science Manager in Chr. Hansen’s Color Division, is happy with the results.

”There is a large global market and the carrot pigments are one of our most important colour sources so there is a significant potential in making the carrots into even more efficient factories for producing these natural colouring agents and for optimizing them for Danish conditions so that we can produce them here. This will give us competitive advantages and a larger share of the marked,” he says.

Besides breeding of the different carrots the researchers will also try to achieve all new colour compositions in the carrots by making selected carrots mutate.

Read the full article here (in Danish).