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AAR won the best poster award at PIPOC 2013

AAR wishes to congratulate Ms. Gan Siau Ting and their team members for being awarded the 2013 PIPOC’s Best Poster Award, for their poster paper “A High Density DArT- and SNP-based Linkage Map of Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis)” at the MPOB International Palm Oil Congress (PIPOC) Nov-2013.

A High Density DArT- and SNP-based Linkage Map of Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis)

A High Density DArT- and SNP-based Linkage Map of Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis)
Click on photo for full sized image.

Congratulations to Mr. Sim Choon Cheak on being awarded the 2012 Scholar Award by IPNI!

AAR wishes to congratulate Mr. Sim Choon Cheak for being awarded the 2012 Scholar Award, Southeast Asia region by IPNI. For further details, please visit IPNI website at .

Government-linked company (GLC) Open Day (24-26 June 2011)

The GLC Open Day, a showcase of government-linked companies in collaborations with private sectors was held from 24-26 June 2011 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Boustead Holdings Bhd. is one such company which participated. Their research arm, Applied Agricultural Resources Sdn. Bhd. (AAR) showcased some of their products, namely AAHybrida 1 and AAVitroa 1.

Some of dignitaries who stopped over :

AAR Head of Crop Improvement, Mr. Tan C.C. (second from right) briefing Deputy Chairman and Group Managing Director Tan Sir Lodin Wok (left) from Boustead Holdings Bhd.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who officiated at the launch, make time to stop by AAR booth.

Our former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi (picture on left) and current Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture on right) also graced the occasion.

Part of the crowd at the Open Day

An extract regarding GLC Open Day published in the New Straits Times on 27 June 2011. (pdf version)

Prepared by Julie and Edited by SSH

Need to step up agriculture research (published in Business Times, 25 April 2011)

The original article in PDF format

As food prices escalate throughout the world, scientists say it is time for Malaysia to pay more attention to soil and crop research.

“The crisis of high food prices has never left us. Although food prices dipped in 2009 from 2008’s high, they remain worryingly beyond the reach of the poor in developing nations,” Malaysian Society of Soil Science (MSSS) immediate past president Dr Shahrakbah Yacob told Business Times in an interview recently.

Referring to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) price index of 55 food commodities, he said current food prices are almost 40 per cent higher than a year ago.

The magnitude of the food crisis in developing nations, is actually quite alarming. The spike in food prices has led to the deepening of poverty for 1.2 billion people who are already living below the extreme poverty line of US$1.25 (RM3.75) a day, and who spend a large share of their income on food. Since June 2010, an additional 44 million people live below the poverty line set by the World Bank – US$1.25 per day. In its latest food security report, the bank proposes an expansion of the agricultural sector in developing countries. Among measures it highlighted to step up productivity is greater investment in agricultural research.

This is in line with FAO records that show since 1970s, rising yields alone accounted for 70 per cent of the increase in crop production in the developing world.

Malaysia and Indonesia both supply 85 per cent of the world’s demand for palm oil, which is mainly consumed as cooking oil, margarine, soaps and biodegradable detergent. Therefore, the progress Malaysia can make in agricultural productivity will be crucial to continued security in the supply of palm oil for the world.

As Malaysia moves toward a knowledge-based economy, Shahrakbah said the agriculture sector will depend heavily on engineering, technology, biological and physical sciences.

Irrigation, drainage, conservation, sanitary engineering and mechanisation, each of which is important in successful farming, are some of the fields that require the specialised knowledge of engineers. Chemistry and biology deal with other important farming concerns, such as the application of fertilisers, pest controls, fungicides and soil nutrition.

Malaysian Society of Soil Science immediate past president, Dr. Shahrakbah Yacob (left) and MSSS president Dr. Ahmad Husni Mohd Hanid stress the significance of soil and crop research in the interest of food security.

In looking after crops planted in different blocks of agriculture land, Shahrakbah said soil and crop researchers assess the potential yields, fertiliser usage and manage disease outbreaks. Crop improvement, meanwhile, is spearheaded by plant breeders and biotechnologists.

“This is the most time-consuming and expensive part in agriculture research. Generally, a life-time commitment is needed from the scientists before a new breed could be confidently planted on a large scale,” he said.

Computer programmers, too, are enlisted by planters to collate and analyse huge amounts of data from the fields.

“Malaysia needs to pump in more money into agricultural research. Since we focused on industrialisation in the 1980s and 1990s, this sector had been left under-invested,” he added.

A case in point is there are now some 50 practising agronomists looking after 4.85 million hectares of oil palm estates in Malaysia. But there are more than 500 scientists and engineers in the downstream activities of the palm oil industry, working on new and better use of palm oil, palm kernel oil, palm kernel shells and palm oil mill effluents.

“The oil palm industry is actually facing chronic shortage of qualified and experienced soil and crop scientists,” Shahrakbah said.

He estimated that for one scientist in the upstream, there are at least 10 in the downstream of the palm oil value chain.

“If we don’t have enough researchers looking after the soil and the crop, how can we be sure the trees will be able to produce enough oil for downstream activities?” he said.

Newly-elected MSSS president Dr Ahmad Husni Mohd Hanif, who was also at the interview, emphasised a need to revisit the significance of soil research in the interest of food security.

An associate professor at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Husni said there are far more students studying the downstream process of food processing compared to that of soil and crop science.

It is also a well-known fact that the ratio of female students to male at local universities, including UPM, is 65:35.

That, according to Husni, could be a leaning factor where the fairer gender prefer to pursue a career in the downstream value chain of food processing, manufacturing or engineering, where the job is mostly in an air-conditioned environment and pays higher.

“Agriculture is often perceived to be dirty, difficult, sometimes dangerous and lowly-paid,” he said.

It is time for all stakeholders to prioritise agricultural research as a crucial contributor to our economy, he said, adding that agriculture is essentially food production.

AA Hybrida 1 – Malaysia Power Brand 2011 Award

Dr. Kee Khan Kiang, Director of Research, AAR holding the certificate of achievement during the 5th Malaysia Power Brand 2011 Award Gala Dinner held on 27 March 2011.

Congratulations to AAR for achieving the 5th Malaysia Power Brand 2011 Award for outstanding achievement of best quality oil palm seeds – AA Hybrida 1. This is a great and excellent achievement for AAR seed production team in 2011. We are proud of it. It proves that the oil palm seeds, AA Hybrida 1 produced by AAR is marked with quality.

We appreciate seed production team headed by Mr. Tan Cheng Chua, Crop Improvement Section Head and Mr. Ng Woo Jian, Seed Production Laboratory Manager for their dedicated effort and cooperative team work in producing high quality oil palm seeds. We hope that seed production team continues their effort in maintaining and improving the quality of AA Hybrida 1 in the future. Perhaps the next award will be given to AA Hybrida 2 in the coming award presentation…

Dr. Kee Khan Kiang, Director of Research, AAR receiving the award from YB Datuk Liew Vui Keong, Deputy Minister

All the winners of Malaysia Power Brand 2011 Award
Mr. Wong Choo Kian, AAR Plant Breeder giving a speech during the Malaysia Power Brand 2011 Award gala dinner.
The group photo of staff and officers together with Dr. Kee on the stage after award presentation.

(Photograph taken by CSY)

The Advancement of Oil Palm Breeding

Note: This article is written by Dr. Chee in mandarin and published by Agroworld, Issue No. 236, February 2011, Kuala Lumpur : 34-36. (Translated by Soon, S.H. and reviewed by Wong, C.K.)

“The author of this article visited AAR (Applied Agricultural Resources Sdn. Bhd.) Paloh Substation in Johor to have an in-depth understanding towards the outstanding oil palm planting materials developed by AAR″

The oil palm planting materials are being sold by many research and development department of plantation companies in Malaysia. What are the oil palm planting materials produced by AAR?

AAR uses other lineage in oil palm breeding

Mr. Tan Cheng Chua from Research and Development Unit of Tissue Culture and Seed Production in AAR brought me to visit AAR Paloh Substation in Johor in order to have an in-depth understanding towards this process. His colleagues, Mr. Wong Choo Kien as plant breeder prepared presentation slide, exhibitions and brought us around the oil palm fields for our visit.

The DxP denomination is common to all planters and agronomists in the oil palm plantations. For the layman, stands for Dura whereas stands for Pisifera . The fruits produced through pollinating the Pisifera pollen onto the female flowers are called DxP. The palms raised from DxP seeds are called Tenera (commercial oil palm).

The Tenera oil palm scenery is commonly observed in Malaysia . However, the fresh fruit bunch production capability and oil extraction rate among the Tenera s depend on their genetics.

So far, Deli Dura (mother palm) and AVROS Pisifera (father palm) are used for plant breeding. Deli is the name of a place while AVROS is the name of a research station in Indonesia . AAR is different from the others as the plant breeder uses Dumpy Dura (E206) with its short palm features and Psifera S27B with high fresh fruit bunch production for plant breeding. Besides that, they also use AVROS Pisifera (BM 119) with high fresh fruit bunch production and high oil extraction rate for plant breeding. Through the plant breeding process Dumpy-AVROS is produced as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: AA Hybrida 1 Pisifera pedigree

On the other hand, AAR also uses AVROS BM119 and Yangambi (JL 21055) for plant breeding. Their characteristics are high fresh fruit bunch production rate and high oil extraction rate whereas Yangambi has short palm feature. The plant breeding process successfully producesYangambi-AVROS TxP (Figure 1). The final product is the intercross between Dumpy-AVROS and Yangambi-AVROS resulting the AA Hybrida 1 Pisifera lineage – Dumpy-Yangambi-AVROS.

AA Hybrida 1 has long economical life span

According to Pisifera pedigree (Blood) (Figure 1), we obtained Dumpy-AVROS of TxP and Yangambi-AVROS of TxP from plant breeding process. Later, the plant breeding of both of the above produces Tenera and Pisifera of Dumpy-Yangambi-AVROS , then Pisifera is used as father palms for seed production.

As for the mother palms, they are also obtained through the plant breeding process. Deli Dura comes from 3 sources: 1) La Me Deli (LD) with heavy fresh fruit bunch, good oil extraction rate and short palm feature; 2) Dabou Deli (DD) with heavy fresh fruit bunch, good oil extraction rate and short palm feature; 3) Ulu Remis Deli (URD) with many fresh fruit bunch and good oil extraction rate. The plant breeding process among the above produces mother palms with different genetics. Then the good mother palms are selected for seed production purpose (Figure 2).

Figure 2: AA Hybrida 1 Dura pedigree.

The oil palm seeds produced by AAR are known as AA Hybrida 1. According to AAR, the characteristics of AA Hybrida 1 are it’s lower height hence, the economical life span is longer; the fronds are short thus the crown is compact, hence space efficient and 148 palms can be planted per hectare; high number of fresh fruit bunch with average weight helps to buffer against the environmental stress for consistent fresh fruit bunch production and oil extraction rate. Other advantages include smaller palm size, small and lighter fronds thus easier for harvesting.

Picture 1: The long bunch stalk of AAR long stalk line is convenient for harvesting.

AAR gives a brand name to the current oil palm seed as AA Hybrida 1. AA Hybrida 2 will be produced in the near future as an improved product. I visited the oil palm fields to view the oil palm and other exhibits. The fresh fruit bunches with longer stalk are displayed with the length ranging in between 30-50 cm. This characteristic will be included into new oil palm breeding lines. The advantage of long bunch stalk is ease of harvesting without the requirement of pruning the frond below the bunch. It would even better if the long bunch stalk bends down and outwards. Another advantage of long bunch stalk is its protruding structure that allows the convenience of weevil pollinators to pollinate the entire inflorescence to produce well pollinated fresh fruit bunch.

Picture 2: AA Hybrida 1 and long stalk lines, the oil palm varieties produced by AAR , displayed in the oil palm field.

Bi-clonal do not have special advantage

Apart from the exhibits, I also saw clones. The current AAR Dura mother palms are tissue cultured palms, i.e. the well tested mother palms. The tissue culture palms are refered as Ramets, i.e. clone. Consequently, the genetics of mother palm is uniform. Every Dura palms in the seed garden are good mother palms for commercial seed production.

80% of the AAR Dura mother palms are clones whereas 20% of them are good Dura mother palms produced from selfing (pollination of the female flower with pollen from the same palm). The seeds produced from pollination of clonal mother palms and non-clonal Pisifera father palms are called semi-clonal planting materials, or vice-versa (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Semi-clonal seeds via Dura clone.

Similarly, through a long research cycles in determining good parents (due to the female flower of Pisifera is infertile, while Dura is complicated with the thick shell the performance can only be determined through DxP testing) can only then a good palm can be selected for tissue culture. The planting materials produced from the plant breeding process by using pollen from clone Pisifera and non-clone Dura are also known as semi-clonal (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Semi-clonal seeds via Pisifera clone.

The oil palm seeds produced through crossing between clonal Dura and clonal Pisifera is known as Bi-clonal (figure 5). Commercially, it is very rare to get semi-clonal seeds and furthermore bi-clonal seeds do not have any special advantage. On the other hand, due to some undesirable circumstance from genetics, like somaclonal variation, bi-clonal might bear a certain amount of risks.

Figure 5: Diagram of Bi-clonal seeds process.

The earliest commercial clonal seeds are introduced by United Plantations with an annual production of about 1 million seeds currently. DxP ofYangambi is the seed from FELDA. AA Hybrida 1 carries gene from Dumpy-Yangambi-AVROS . The annual production rate of semi-clonal seeds from AAR is about 5 million. The production shall increase to 10 million seeds in the future.

I wish AAR a happy and prosperous new year.

RM4.4b Allocation for Oil Palm Replanting

RM4.4b allocation for oil palm replanting (published in Business Times dated 5 January 2011)

The original article in PDF format

Malaysia’s oil palm industry will spend RM4.4 billion to replant some 365,000 hectares from 2011 to 2013, an official from the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) in the Prime Minister’s Department said.

“We cannot force landowners to do something they don’t want to, especially at the current high palm oil prices. But we can encourage via financial incentives,” John Low, Pemandu’s director of the national key result areas (NKEA) on palm oil, rubber and agriculture told Business Times in an interview in Petaling Jaya recently.

“If replanting is not accelerated, it will take 14 years to clear the backlog. It is critical to clear the backlog now as each year an average of 125,000 hectares of trees are due for replanting,” he said.

There are 161,000 independent smallholders in Malaysia. With 600,000 hectares, they account for 12.8 per cent of the country’s planted area.

Low said the government will pay RM1 billion to independent smallholders, which own some 600,000ha throughout the country, to compensate for the loss of income from the replanting activities.

Independent smallholders with 40 hectares or less are entitled to a one-off replanting payment of more than RM6,000 per hectare and monthly payments of RM500 per household for two years.On the other hand, private and government-linked plantation companies are expected to spend RM3.4 billion to replant aging oil palms in the next three years.Also present at the interview was Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron. He referred to MPOB statistics showing Malaysia’s licensed seed producers churning out some 80 million germinated seeds per year.

“We only need 50 million seeds a year, so there’s enough to go around,” Yusof said.

Asked if the government guarantees that 100 per cent of the seeds for sale are of the genuine, high-yielding dura and pisifera hybrids, Yusof said: “That would not be possible. Therefore, we advise independent smallholders to deal directly with licensed seed suppliers and not middlemen.”

Some licensed seed producers, like Applied Agricultural Resources Sdn Bhd, go the extra mile to ensure seedlings’ authenticity by using a new laser tattooing technology and pre-agreed codes with its clients. 

On rumours of select MPOB enforcement officers abusing their powers instead of enforcing against the supply and sale of fake seedlings, Low said: “We have regulators watching over the industry but it is also for the industry to report any wrongdoings. We’re all for weeding out wrongdoings but without any formal complaint and evidence we’re unable to act on hearsay.”

He highlighted the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, a key piece of new laws under the Government Transformation Programme, that protects the identity of informants revealing acts of corruption.

Informants get immunity from civil and criminal actions. However, this protection can be revoked, if and when, the whistleblower is found to be involved in improper conduct.

Low said as a precautionary measure against graft, MPOB enforcement officers will be rotated periodically. “We want to eliminate opportunities that could facilitate bribery, corruption and abuse of powers,” he said.

On the downstream industry, Low noted the government’s plans to extend the Brain Gain Malaysia programme to woo Malaysian chemists, food scientists and fast-moving-consumer-goods marketing specialists in leading global companies.

Currently, the oleochemicals industry suffers from low-profit margin. Malaysia is producing mostly basic oleochemicals to make soap, detergent and cosmetics.

What we want to do is to spur production of higher-priced specialty oleochemicals to make agro-chemicals, surfactants, bio-lubricants, bio-polyols and glycerol derivatives.

“We want to retain and attract the best brains to Malaysia. There’s still good growth prospects in the downstream businesses,” he said.

Low noted that he had met up with tocotrienol producers, who highlighted the need for more public funding to carry out clinical trials.

Currently, there are several groups of scientists, conducting clinical trials on the effectiveness of palm oil vitamin E in preventing stroke, fatty liver syndrome and cancer.

From ‘Dolly Parton’ bunches to smaller one, oil-laden ones (published in Business Times, 23 November 2010)

From ‘Dolly Parton’ bunches to smaller one, oil-laden ones (published in Business Times, 23 November 2010)

Click here to enlarge image

Congratulations to AAR on being awarded the ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System certification for its Tissue Culture Laboratory

Congratulations to AAR on being awarded the ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System certification for its Tissue Culture Laboratory (published in New Straits Times dated 20 November 2010)

The Strict Quality Control of Oil Palm Seed Production – Fruitful Foundation for Planters

(The mandarin version of this article is published in Alam Pertanian, issue 8, 2010. This article is translated from mandarin to English by SSH)
(The Bahasa Malaysia version of this article is also published in Info Pertanian, issue 8, 2010)


The strict operation of seed production laboratory owned by Applied Agricultural Resources Sdn. Bhd. (AAR, the famous seed producer in Malaysia) as well as the distinguishing feature of AA Hybrida 1 (the main brand of it’s superior oil palm seeds) were introduced in the previous issue of Alam Pertanian (issue 7). Consequently, the reader understands that the process of oil palm seed variety improvement is obtained from the combination of the excellent characteristics of various traits through plant breeding technique.

AA Hybrida 1 originates from the mature fresh fruit bunch of mother palms. With careful management including manual pollination and strict operation, the fresh fruit bunches are delivered to AAR seed production laboratory after harvesting. Next, the oil palm seeds produced from seed production laboratory will be delivered to the purchaser. This article describes the procedures in the seed production laboratory with the illustration of pictures.

. The harvested fresh fruit bunches in the plastic barrel are delivered to the seed production laboratory.

. The plastic barrels are arranged neatly.

. The fresh fruit bunch is being sent to the detaching machine in order to remove the fruits from the bunch.

. The fresh fruit bunch dropped into the detaching machine.

. The fruits extracted from the detaching machine.

. The empty bunch left in the detaching machine.

. The fruits collected are placed into the depericarper in order to extract the seeds from the mesocarps.

. The stripped mesocarps are released from the machine.

. The seeds extracted from the machine.

10 . The seeds are soaked in the water for 4 days in order to increase the moisture level.

11 . The seeds are air-dried by fan.

12. The seeds are kept in the hot room with the temperature of 40 degrees Celcius for 60 days.

13. The seeds are sent to germination room.

14. The selection of good quality oil palm seeds.

15. The process of counting 250 seeds for packing in each packet.

16. The last stage of germinated seed selection.

17. The boxes for shipping the oil palm seeds to the customers are sealed for security purpose.

18. Rejected seeds are smashed by using machine to reduce the risk of re-sale in the market.
19. The picture shows rejected seeds after the smashing process. They can be used for other purposes.
AAR Seed Production Manager, Mr. Ng. Woo Jian, Plant Breeder, Mr. Wong Choo Kian and Miss Liew Yee Row, AAR Paloh Substation Manager, Mr Kumar Krishnan. (from left to right)

The collected empty fruit bunches are used for mulching.

The picture shows the collected solid waste.
The collected solid waste in the barrel can be used for other purpose.

The wastewater management system of AAR effectively treats the wastewater generated from seed production.

The wastewater after treatment will be flowed into oil palm field to supply to the oil palm tree.


The security system in AAR seed production laboratory is strict with CCTV installed in each department for security and safety purpose. Outsiders are not allowed to enter the laboratory and photography is strictly prohibited. The operating procedures and methods are published so the planters are all aware and mindful towards the oil palm seed production and quality control of the company.

Apart from that, the laboratory also adopts an environmental friendly system to resolve residues from seed production. For instance, the waste water can be reused after the purification process whereas the sewage is flowed back into the oil palm fields. On the other hand, the empty fruit bunches (EFB) and fibre substances are used for mulching purposes. The whole cycle is complete and environmentally friendly. This proves to be a good example of the green industry. All this can only bear fruit through the efforts from AAR Seed Production Manager, Mr. Ng Woo Jian who conducted this with proper planning and implementation. This goes to show his persistence towards the strict operating procedures in producing genuine and high quality oil palm seeds which in the end benefits the planters.