Biotech Updates

Malaysian Palm Oil Board Completes Sequencing Of Three Oil Palm Genomes

November 13, 2009

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and Orion Genomics announced that they have deciphered the genetic blueprint of three oil palm varieties. Oil Palm is an important commodity crop, especially for Malaysia, the world's top palm oil producer. The country last year produced 17.7 million tons of crude palm oil and exported RM65.2 billion (US$17.6 billion) worth of palm oil products.

MPOB's Advanced Biotechnology and Breeding Centre facilitated the sequencing of oil palms Elaeis oleifera and E. guineensis, including the pisifera and dura palm varieties. Sequencing three oil palm genomes is no easy feat. The crop's genome is composed of more than 1.8 billion base pairs, four times bigger than that of the rice genome. Earlier this year, scientists at Sime Darby, a leading global plantation company, reported that they have also completed the sequencing and assembly of the oil palm genome.

MPOB director-general Datuk Dr Mohd Basri Wahid stressed that knowledge of the genomic sequence of these oil palm varieties will enable researchers to develop high-yielding and disease resistant varieties. MPOB said that it is also planning to study the epigenetic make-up of oil palm next year. "We theorize that by studying oil palm epigenetics, we may be able to help to speed the development of varieties of oil palm that produce more oil, rapidly increasing the per acre efficiency of this crop," Wahid said. The MPOB has allocated RM 100 million (USD 30 million) for the oil palm genome project.

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