Microbial oil production by the oleaginous red yeast, Rhodotorula glutinis NCIM 3168, using corncob hydrolysate


Corncob waste management has become a concern for corn producers worldwide. Agricultural waste-based energy generation is, therefore, extensively researched these days. However, the calorific potential of the moist corncobs still remains untapped due to the lack of technological advancements. In this study, a dilute acid pre-treatment followed with enzymatic hydrolysis was used to recover 80% of the fermentable sugars from the corncobs. When used for microbial oil production in a two-stage fermentation, this enzymatic hydrolysate resulted in a lipid production of more than 75% dried cell weight (DCW) in Rhodotorula glutinis. Extracellular oil capture in this two-stage fermentation further increased the total oil production to 8 g L−1 and 80% DCW. An oleic acid-rich microbial oil profile obtained from this process exhibited excellent biofuel properties. The energy content of the microbial oil valued 40 MJ kg−1, and was found to be 2.35 times higher than the intrinsic heating capacity of corncobs. Thus, a sustainable bioprocess for corncob waste remediation was devised to obtain vegetable oil equivalent through a microbial conversion platform.

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Data availability

The data used to support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.



American Standard for Testing Material


cold filter plugging point


cetane number


ratio of carbon to nitrogen in the media


calorific value


dry cell weight


fatty acid methyl esters


high heating value


iodine value


kinematic viscosity


long-chain saturation factor


liquid-liquid extraction


monounsaturated fatty acid


oil capturing agent


polyunsaturated fatty acid


residue production ratio


saponification value




volume per volume per minute


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The authors acknowledge the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai (formerly U.D.C.T., Mumbai), and DBT-ICT Centre for Energy Biosciences for providing infrastructure for carrying this research work.


DVR and PPP gratefully acknowledge the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, and DBT-ICT Centre for Energy Biosciences, Mumbai, for their fellowships. The authors are thankful to the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, for financial support (Project grant No.: BT/EB/ICT-Extension/2012, 05/06/2013).

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Correspondence to Annamma Anil Odaneth.

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Rane, D.V., Pawar, P.P., Odaneth, A.A. et al. Microbial oil production by the oleaginous red yeast, Rhodotorula glutinis NCIM 3168, using corncob hydrolysate. Biomass Conv. Bioref. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13399-021-01298-z

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  • Rhodotorula glutinis
  • Microbial oil
  • Two-stage production
  • Corncob hydrolysate
  • Extractive fermentation