Genting Plantations bets on genomic research

KUALA LUMPUR: Genting Plantations Bhd is betting on genomic research to boost its fresh fruit bunch (FFB) yield by 15 per cent to 27 tonnes/ hectare/year, as it plant up more designer oil palms, said president and chief operating officer Yong Chee Kong.

Currently, Genting Plantations' average FFB yield is around 23 tonnes/hectare/year.

Genting Plantations, a 55 per cent unit of Genting Bhd, owns agricultural landbank of 66,000ha in Malaysia and another 162,000ha in Indonesia, through joint ventures.

"We hope to improve this number (FFB yield) by 15 per cent in the mid-term through genomic research and precision breeding," said Yong. 

 He was speaking with the media after Genting Plantations' biotechnology unit ACGT Sdn Bhd, signed on to American chemical company DuPont's marker-assisted selection technology. In the next 30 months, DuPont promises ACGT to develop skills, tools and techniques aimed at raising oil palm yields.

DuPont, which was represented by its Asean group managing director, Ho Hsing, said the group has more than 9,500 scientists and engineers, with five innovation centres in Asia. "We're pleased to improve agricultural productivity here."

DuPont's collaboration with ACGT seeks to bring down research cost. "DuPont's marker-assisted selection technology is able to scale up and bring down research tenure to six years from the current traditional selection system which takes 11 years," said ACGT chief executive officer Derrik Khoo.

Khoo assured stakeholders that ACGT is working with existing oil palm genes. "There is no genetic introduction or modification. We've so far planted up an experimental plot of about 10ha."

Also present was head of GGT Sdn Bhd, Genting Plantations' plant breeding subsidiary, Dr Lee Chong Hee, who explained that ACGT's findings will enable his team to come up with "designer palms" that can bear many more fruit bunches with super-oily fruitlets.