Latest Update: Monday, 19 February 2018

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How many types of planting materials has MPOB produced and what are the traits?

To date, MPOB has produced 13 types of planting materials.? The list is shown below:
List of MPOB Planting Materials



Specialty Traits


Current DxP


Dwarf palm

(low height increment)




50 – 75cm/yr


High Iodine value




Large kernel fruit (K/F)




High carotene (E. oleifera)

> 3,000ppm

500 – 700ppm


Thin shell tenera (S/F)

2.80 – 7.40%



Large fruit dura (weight)

24g – 34g



High bunch index




High vitamin E

1,300 – 2,500ppm

600 – 1000ppm


Bactris gasipaes

Not oil palm



Long stalk

20 – 30cm



High carotene (E. guineensis)

2000 – 2474ppm

500 – 700ppm


High oleic acid

48 – 52.5%

37 – 40%


Low lipase (FFA cold activation)

1 – 10%

22 – 73%

Why are planters advised not to plant voluntary oil palm seedlings (VOPS) i.e. seedlings growing under the trees in oil palm plantations?

Planting of VOPS would lead to low productivity (low FFB and oil yield) since segregation of fruit types (25% dura, 50% tenera and 25% pisifera) would take place.  The duras normally have thick shell and thin mesocarp whereas the pisiferas are normally female sterile.  The teneras arising from VOPS on the other hand has lower productivity compared to DxP crosses derived from selected dura and pisifera parents.

Why is the genetic base of oil palm planting materials in the country narrow? What is the impact of this and what can be done to broaden the genetic base?

Oil palm planting materials in the country is derived from only four dura palms brought from Bogor, Indonesia in 1848.  Hence, genetic improvement would be limited and the whole industry would be at stake in case a disease epidemic occurs.  Expeditions to collect oil palm germplasm from the centre of origins in Africa and Latin America are a useful breeding strategy to broaden the genetic base.  New genes can be introgressed into current oil palm breeding populations, hence broadening the genetic base.

What are the advantages of planting oil palm with clones?

Clones derived from selected palms (ortets) with desired traits such as high oil yield or dwarf character etc. The performance of clones is more uniform compared to the seed-derived planting materials.

What are the stages involved in the oil palm tissue culture process?

Oil palm having a single meristem can only be vegetatively propagated via the tissue culture process. This process comprises several stages:
1) sampling of explants from selected ortets,
2) callus initiation in explants,
3) embryoid formation (embryogenesis) in callus,
4) embryoid maturation and multiplication
5) shoot regeneration,
6) rooting, and
7) plantlet transplanting to ex vitro conditions    

How many Tissue Culture laboratories are there in Malaysia?

The existing laboratories:
•    Sime Darby  
•    IOI Corporation Bhd
•    Applied Agriecological Resources Sdn. Bhd. (AAR)
•    FELDA Agricultural Services Sdn Bhd.
•    United Plantations Bhd.
•    Agrocom Enterprise Sdn Bhd
•    Clonal Palm Sdn Bhd
•    Borneo Samudera Sdn Bhd,
•    TSH Sdn Bhd.
•    Kulim-Top Plant Sdn Bhd
•    RISDA
•    MPOB (R&D Lab)

What is somaclonal variation? And how is this related to clonal abnormality observed in the oil palm?

Somaclonal variation simply means variation seen in plants that have been produced via plant tissue culture. Chromosomal rearrangements are an important source of this variation. Somaclonal variation is not restricted to, but is particularly common in, plants regenerated from callus. The variations can be genotypic or phenotypic, which in the latter case can be either genetic or epigenetic in origin. Typical genetic alterations are: changes in chromosome numbers (polyploidy and aneuploidy), chromosome structure (translocations, deletions, insertions and duplications) and DNA sequence (base mutations). Typical epigenetic related events are: gene amplification and gene methylation.

In the case of the oil palm, there are various types of abnormalities arising from clonal propagation. Through experience and years of research, most tissue culturists have established a process with a tolerable rate of abnormality at ~5%. However, there is still the primary concern with the "mantling" abnormality. This abnormality affects the floral and fruit development. Severely mantled fruits abort in development, resulting in loss of oil yield.

What is ‘epigenome’? And what is the study of epigenetics?

The term ‘-omics’ encompasses the broad study in the fields of genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and other omes (e.g. interactome, phenome, etc.). Epigenome or also known as the second genetic code (i.e. first genetic code being the genome) is defined as the group of modifications that can occur in our genomes that will not change the sequence of the bases in the DNA but can change the DNA conformation and as a consequence change the expression of genes.

Epigenetics is the study of the modifications in the DNA or the epigenome. These modifications that occur in the DNA molecule can be divided in three: (1) binding of different proteins to the DNA such as histones; (2) addition of chemical groups in the bases of the DNA such as methyl  (CH3) groups and (3) microRNAs and other non-coding RNAs that can regulate the expression of genes. Epigenetic processes are natural and essential to many organism functions, but if they occur improperly, there can be major adverse health and behavioral effects.

Are there markers available now to screen for oil palm abnormality? If there are, how can we obtain them?

MPOB is actively and continuously developing markers to tackle the abnormality issue in the oil palm. To date, markers that have been developed tend to be genotype dependent, which means that they are only applicable to very limited clone types. Thus, leveraging the oil palm genome information, MPOB is now pursuing a high resolution and high throughput strategy to discover potential markers that are more robust.

Markers are made available to members of industry via collaborations as well as through a Materials Transfer Agreement (MTA).

What are the microscopy services offered and what is the difference between them?

MPOB, under the purview of ABBC, provides histology, scanning electron microscopy and RNA in situ hybridization services. Histology is done to examine structures in a tissue at a microscopic level. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) reveals information on external morphology, crystalline structure, composition and orientation of materials on a sample. SEM also has a higher magnification power compared to optical microscopy. The RNA in situ hybridization is to detect the localization of specific mRNAs in a tissue section, allowing one to identify the cell types that express the particular mRNA.

What is DNA?

DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid is present in all living organisms and is self replicating.  More importantly DNA carries the genetic information relevant to an organism and determines the traits exhibited by the organism.

What is genetics?

Genetics is the study of inheritance that is how traits are passed from parents to off-springs.

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