Molecular Research in Oil Palm, the Key Oil Crop for the Future

  • Sean Mayes
  • Farah Hafeez
  • Zuzana Price
  • Don MacDonald
  • Norbert Billotte
  • Jeremy Roberts
Part of the Plant Genetics and Genomics: Crops and Models book series (PGG, volume 1)


African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq) produces more than five times the yield of oil/year/hectare of any annual oil crop. In consequence, it represents a key species for meeting future vegetable oil needs (both for food and for industry) against the background of a rising world population. As it is a tree crop and naturally out-crossing current planting material is, in contrast to most annual crops, generally heterogeneous. This complicates breeding for future needs. Recent developments in molecular biology have the potential to substantially alter approaches for the genetic improvement of oil palm. Some of these biotechnological approaches have already made an impact, for example, somatic embryogenesis for clonal propagation and routine genetic fingerprinting for quality control. The recent development of plant sequence-based approaches, supported by bioinformatics and broadly classified into genomics (DNA) and functional genomics (mRNA, protein and metabolites) could lead to a step-wise change in our understanding of the genetic basis of agronomic traits and the development of practical tools and trait information for plant breeding. These high-throughput developments add significant new potential to the two broad approaches generally adopted in crop molecular research. The “bottom-up” approach involves investigating individual genes and the pathways in which they operate with a long-term aim to develop a complete understanding of these networks and their importance in trait specification. The alternative “top-down” approach starts with the trait in the species of interest and uses inheritance studies, anonymous molecular markers, and physiological techniques to begin to dissect the trait and its interactions with the environment. Genomics and functional genomics represent a suite of techniques which can help to bridge the gap between the bottom-up and the top-down approaches. In this article we review recent progress in developing molecular resources for oil palm and assess the potential impact that specific cutting edge techniques, already developed and implemented in other plant and crop species, could have in oil palm. The article gives background information on the various technologies, but is not intended to be exhaustive. A number of good text books and articles are available which go into greater detail. It also does not go into depth on discoveries in other species, except to illustrate their potential utility in oil palm.


Quantitative Trait Locus Analysis Best Linear Unbiased Predictor Elaeis Guineensis 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean Mayes
    • 1
  • Farah Hafeez
  • Zuzana Price
  • Don MacDonald
  • Norbert Billotte
  • Jeremy Roberts
  1. 1.School of Biosciences, Sutton Bonington CampusNottingham UniversityLoughboroughUK

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