Characterization of linoleic acid (C18:2) concentration in commercial corn silage and grain hybrids

M. Baldin, Y. Ying, Y. Fan, G. Roth, D. P. Casper, K. J. Harvatine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Corn silage and high-moisture corn grain are commonly recognized as risk factors for biohydrogenation-induced milk fat depression and may be due to the high concentration of linoleic acid (C18:2) in corn. Corn silage and corn grain have a low concentration of fatty acids (FA), but due to their high inclusion rate in diets they contribute substantially to unsaturated FA intake. The first objective of this study was to characterize the contribution of individual plant parts to total FA in whole-plant chopped corn. The second objective was to characterize the variation in FA profile in commercial silage and grain hybrids and evaluate the relationship between FA profile and other nutrients. To determine the location of FA in the corn plant, 4 stalks from 4 different commercial hybrids were separated into stalk, husk and shank, leaves, cob, and kernels. On a dry matter basis, 80.5% of total FA were in the kernels, 11.8% in the leaves, 5.1% in the stalk, 1.7% in the cob, and 1.0% in the husk and shank. More than 96% of the oleic acid (C18:1) and 92.5% of the C18:2 was in the kernels, whereas 71.0% of the linolenic acid (C18:3) was in the leaves. Next, the FA composition of fresh whole-plant chopped corn from 124 silage hybrids and grain from 72 grain hybrids was determined over 2 yr from test plots in Pennsylvania. Last, to extend the characterization, FA composition of whole-plant corn silage from 45 hybrids grown in test plots in South Dakota were characterized. In the fresh whole-plant chopped corn from PA test plots, C18:2 as a percentage of total FA averaged from 48.7% in 2013 (percentiles: 10th = 45.2, 90th = 52.2) and 48.0% in 2014 (percentiles: 10th = 44.1, 90th = 49.4). Concentration of C18:2 in corn grain averaged 57.5% in the 2013 (percentiles: 10th = 53.4, 90th = 60.8) and 56.1% in 2014 (percentiles: 10th = 53.5, 90th = 59.4). In the corn silage from South Dakota, the concentration of C18:2 as percentage of total FA averaged 45.4% (percentiles: 10th = 39.4, 90th = 50.2) and C18:2 concentration as a percent of dry matter averaged 1.1% (percentiles: 10th = 0.76, 90th = 1.41). An increase in the concentration of C18:2 was associated with a decrease in C18:3 in fresh whole-plant chopped corn and with a decrease in C18:1 in corn grain. Total FA and C18:2 (as a percentage of dry matter) were positively correlated with starch and negatively correlated with neutral detergent fiber in both fresh whole-plant chopped corn and corn silage samples, whereas no correlation with these traits was observed for C18:2 as a percentage of total FA. In conclusion, FA concentration and profile of corn silage reflects to a great extent the FA composition of kernels and the proportion of grain in the silage. The variation in C18:2 across hybrids provides the opportunity to develop selection programs to decrease C18:2 in corn silage and grain. Selection based on C18:2 concentration as a percent of total FA is preferred as this trait did not correlate with other nutritional properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-232
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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