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.