GENETIC ENGINEERING IS USED TODAY to maximize the productivity and profitability of palm oil crops. Genetically engineered palms are already part of the farming and production process and the goal of several R&D laboratories is to create the highest possible-yielding oil palm.
ANG BOON BENG→ We believe that we should have a minimum of ten clones mixed in a clonal oil palm plantation. This gives you the diversity. This is a standard policy and we continue to use this technique to ensure harmonious flowering. This is important. We clone because that is the best way to fix an individual palm that is very outstanding. Whether it's a parent, a parent of palm or an individual Tenera palm, we clone it so that we can multiply large numbers of plants replicating the original plant. And if we provide the correct environment for its ramets, then we get a whole plantation of the highest yielding material. This is in fact, the peak of research, breeding research.
We clone because that is the best way to fix an individual palm that is very outstanding. And if we provide the correct environment for its ramets, then we get a whole plantation of the highest yielding material.
Our technology in tissue culture has progressed a long way. The normal duration from inoculation of the x-plants to the ramet rooting and planting in the acclimatization nursery takes three years. Now, we have been able to do it in 18 months which is reducing the period in the lab by half. You can imagine this will reduce the cost by half.
ANG BOON BENG→ We have been carrying out large number of progeny tests. This progeny tests are actually the test of materials derived from the female parents and the male parents. We have done more than 1,700 of these crosses. We have now identified some very outstanding ones but within the outstanding ones, we have found individual seedlings that are capable of very very high yields. More than 15 tons of Crude Palm Oil (CPO).
The normal Crude Palm Oil yield is now about 5 to 6 tons in plantations. The small holders would have lower yields, they have only about three. Some of them 3.5 tons of CPO per hectare. So can you imagine some of this material, which is capable of yielding 15 tons, transferred into the small holdings? They'll be wealthy very soon and that is our intention. The estates will continue to develop and we, to tell you the truth, we have some material that is almost capable of yielding the theoretical yield, which is about 18 tons of CPO per hectare. When we have fully tested them, I think we have no reservation in sharing with the farmers. But it's only after we have actually tested them and confirmed that there are no problems.
ANG BOON BENG→ The cloning process does not transform the plant into something strange. The genetic is still the same. In fact, we do sample the leaves of the original palm which we call an ortet. We do a profiling of the DNA in our microbiology lab. So there is no change in the genetics of the clonal material. We are very careful about this because of the sensitivity of, what do you call, the genetically engineered material, the GMO, Genetic Modified Organism. We are very sensitive and we do not do anything like that at all.