The Advanced Biotechnology and Breeding Centre (ABBC), a division of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), is now the largest oil palm germplasm collection centre in the world for conservation and research based on oil palm breeding and biotechnology.
The ABBC's deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) gene bank has a collection of germplasm that enables plant improvement with the discovery of genes that control important agronomic traits of oil palm, leading to major breakthroughs in research findings and increased commercial value.
The oil palm germplasm collection has become the main source in MPOB's research to produce elite plant material through either breeding or tissue culture.
The great success of MPOB's research in biotechnology is an important contributor to the development of new generation plant materials.
Continuous evaluation over 50 years of the germplasm collection has produced 14 PS plant materials (PS1 to PS14) with unique and superior agronomic characteristics. These plant materials have been widely used in producing palm seedlings of better quality than the current crops.
One example of potential plant materials that have been produced from the germplasm collection is the PS1.1 breed, which is short and has high productivity, capable of increasing the productivity duration of oil palm.
The PS1.1 breed is 25 to 30 per cent shorter compared to existing commercial crops. In terms of yield, the oil extraction rate (OER) is 27 per cent with a potential oil yield of around eight tons per hectare per year, higher than existing seeds.
The MPOB germplasm collection has also been a source for the production of superior oil palm clones, such as CPS3 with OER and oil yield potential equivalent to existing commercial cultivars.
The germplasm collection is also the reason for MPOB's success in developing DNA-based molecular technology, which allows MPOB and the oil palm industry to continue using germplasm effectively.
This will help the industry in increasing productivity and meeting the country's aspirations towards a sustainable farming sector.
As a result of its outstanding achievements in the oil palm industry, both locally and internationally, ABBC has recently been selected as the recipient of the Mahathir Science Award 2022, a global Malaysian award.
ABBC won the Award in the Tropical Natural Resources Category in recognition of its far-sighted research in using palm germplasm, which has become an important resource in driving the socioeconomic value of the oil palm industry at the national and global levels.
ABBC's contributions were examined through six impact dimensions: knowledge networks, stock of creative talent, new knowledge, economic development, branding and positioning and societal development.
ABBC is the third Malaysian recipient of the Mahathir Science Award in its 17-year history. This germplasm collection will champion sustainability in terms of economic growth, societal wellbeing and conservation of the environment.
If this collection were a book, there would be hundreds of chapters, many of which are undiscovered gems.
We look forward to furthering our research with this award.
The writer is Malaysian Palm Oil Board director-general, Datuk Dr Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir