MPOB leverage on green, gene technologies

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIAN Palm Oil Board (MPOB) plans to leverage on green and gene technologies to achieve increased profit, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

"The application of gene technologies in the study of oil palm breeding materials will lead to the identification of genes and accelerate the development of elite planting materials," said MPOB director-general Datuk Dr Choo Yuen May.

"The genome contains the genetic blueprint for life and encodes the entire set of genes responsible for each and every trait," Choo said in her plenary presentation at the recent MPOB International Palm Oil Congress (Pipoc) here yesterday.

Her presentation focused on MPOB's genome research breakthrough and the discovery of its practical application, the SureSawit Shell Kit, which enables oil palm growers to identify their shell type with 100 per cent accuracy.

With conventional breeding, scientists must wait until they can measure the trait in mature trees before selecting high-performing individuals for the next breeding cycle, she said.

"But knowing which gene controls a desired trait, however, enables the selection of elite materials at the nursery stage through marker-assisted breeding, and it saves time, too.

"Genomics applied to oil palm will play a significant role in yield improvement, food security, the reduction of the rainforest footprint and serve as an indispensable tool for breeding," she explained.

Choo said by 2050, when the world population has grown by a projected two billion to 9.1 billion, it will require a significant increase in food production over current levels. In the near future, exporting nations must significantly increase their production and exports.

Another concern is the increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the population growth and the reliance on fossil fuels.

"There is an urgent need for renewable fuels that can provide a sustainable solution to the world's energy needs. Oil palm, properly managed, is an eco-friendly feedstock for biofuel," she said.

Palm oil is the leading source of vegetable oils and the best candidate for meeting the world's increasing need for food and renewable fuel as it yields 10 times more oil than soya bean, its closest competitor. 

"Oil palm is planted on only five per cent of land occupied by oil crops and yet it contributes to about 43 per cent of the world's edible oils," she said.