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The genome of oil palm tree sequenced, a key gene identified

The sequencing of the genome of oil palm, world’s leading source of vegetable fat, has identified a gene essential to boost yields and ease pressure on the rainforest, according to two studies. Producers around the world grow the oil palm for its fruit. This fruit is the most consumed vegetable oil in the world.

Palm oil represents the first oilseed crop in the world (33% of the global vegetable oil production and 45% of the edible oil production), as well as the more productive. The oil palm produces 5 at 7 times more oil per hectare than peanuts and 10 times more than soybeans.

Faced with the increasing global demand for palm oil, to meet the demands of the food industry, but also biofuels, areas planted with oil palm has increased dramatically in recent years, especially in Southeast Asia, most often at the expense of the forest.

The Malaysian office palm oil (MPOB) has presented, in a scientist revue two studies, which may help to improve its culture. Read more on

 The MPOB has analyzed the genome of the two main species of oil palm, Elaeis guineensis, native to West Africa, the most common, and Elaeis oleifera native to Latin America.

They identified a specific gene, called “Shell”, which determines the nature of the shell of the fruit. There can be seen three varieties of palm trees, depending on the thickness of the shell. Type “dura” is characterized by its thick shell, type “pisifera” by his lack of hull, but this palm are generally produces no fruit, and type “tenera” hybrid precedents, characterized by the thinness of its hull.

 Tenera type contains a normal version of the gene and one mutated Shell version optimal combination resulting in an oil yield fruit 30% higher than the dura type.

The palm oil having a very long reproductive cycle, it takes up to six years for producers to determine the type of seedling.

Obtaining a genetic marker would accelerate the selection process and reduce the acreage.

“This discovery could help to reconcile the conflicting interests between the growing global demand for edible oils and biofuels on the one hand, and the preservation of the forest on the other,” said one of the authors of the study Rajinder Singh (MPOB).

 The growing of oil palm, which is dealing with a rapid development, has a dual image problem: she is accused of destroying forests and threatens human health by leading consumer products harmful to the cardiovascular system.

 Malaysia is the second largest producer of palm oil after Indonesia.