Category Archives: 2009 Vol 21 Dec

Transformation of oil palm using Agrobacterium tumefaciens

Transgenic oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) plantlets were regenerated after using Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation of embryogenic calli derived from young leaves of oil palm. The calli were transformed with a Agrobacterium strain, LBA4404, harbouring the plasmid pUBA, which carries a selectable marker gene (bar) for resistance to the glufosinate-ammonium and is driven by a maize ubiquitin promoter. Modifications of the transformation method, treatment of the target tissues using acetosyringone, exposure to a plasmolysis medium and physical injury via biolistics were applied. The main reasons for such modifications were to activate the bacterial virulence system and to subsequently increase the transformation efficiency. Transgenic oil palm was selected and regenerated on a medium containing glufosinate-ammonium. Molecular analyses revealed the presence and integration of the introduced bar gene into the genome of the transformants. This is the first report of a successful transformation of oil palm using A. tumefaciens for selection against glufosinate-ammonium.

Optimization of pyrolysis of oil palm empty fruit bunches

In this study, pyrolysis of oil palm empty fruit bunches (EFB) was investigated using a quartz fluidizedfixed bed reactor. The effects of various pyrolysis temperatures, particle sizes and heating rates on the yields of the products were investigated. The temperature of pyrolysis and heating rate were varied in the range of 300ºC-700ºC and 10ºC-100ºC min-1, respectively. The particle size was varied in the range of <90, 91-106, 107-125 and 126-250 μm. The products obtained from pyrolysis of EFB were bio-oil, char and gas. Under the experimental conditions, the maximum bio-oil yield was 42% obtained at 500ºC, with a heating rate of 100ºC min-1 and a particle size of 91-106 μm. The maximum yield of char was 42%, obtained at a pyrolysis temperature of 300ºC, heating rate of 30ºC min-1 and particle size of 91-106 μm. Meanwhile, the optimum yield of gas was 46%, which could be achieved at a pyrolysis temperature of 700ºC, heating rate of 30ºC min-1 and particle size of 107-125 μm.

RBD palm olein-based methyl/ethl esters

In this study, transesterification of refined, bleached and deodorized (RBD) palm olein was carried out with methanol, ethanol and their mixtures at various methanol/ethanol ratios, while maintaining the molar ratio of oil to alcohol at 1:6. Potassium hydroxide was used as the catalyst. The process variables were temperature, methanol/ethanol molar ratio and amount of catalyst. The optimum biodiesel production yield was 98.10% when using a methanol/ethanol molar ratio of 4:2 and an alcohol to oil molar ratio of 6:1, a reaction time of 1 hr and a reaction temperature of 50ºC. Physical and chemical properties of all the esters were also obtained and these parameters are reported. The physical properties of esters obtained from this study were found to be comparable with standard biodiesel specification of EN 14214. Analysis was also done to establish the differences in physical properties between biodiesel produced in this work and Malaysian petroleum diesel, data which is vital for blending purposes.

Effect of Bacillus thuringiensis, Terakil-1® and Teracon-1® against oil palm pollinator, Elaeidobius kamerunicus and beneficial insects associated with Cassia cobanensis

A laboratory study on the effect of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) product, Terakil-1® and Teracon-1® on oil palm pollinating weevil, Elaeidobius kamerunicus and beneficial insects such as predators and parasitoids was studied to evaluate the safety and specificity of Bt product against non-target organisms in particular the beneficial insects as compared to chemical. The male spikelets were sprayed with Terakil-1® and Teracon-1® at different doses, ranging from 3.7×107 cfu ml-1 3.7×1011 cfu ml-1 and 0.1124 μg ml-1 – 1124 μg ml-1, respectively. At five days after treatment (DAT), Terakil-1® and Teracon-1® being target specific at dose of C5, 3.7×1011 cfu ml-1 and 11.24 μg ml-1, resulted in 21% and 25% mortality of beneficial insects, respectively. Whereas, at seven DAT, Terakil-1® and Teracon-1® being a safe Bt products at dose of C5, 3.7×1011 cfu ml-1 and 11.24 μg ml-1, resulted in 22% and 23% corrected mortality of beneficial insects, respectively. Cypermethrin at 5.5% w/w as a chemical control led to 100% corrected mortality of beneficial insects at five DAT. As for oil palm pollinating weevil, E. kamerunicus, Terakil-1® and Teracon-1® being a safe and environmental-friendly products, each resulted in 26% and 33% mortality of E. kamerunicus at seven DAT at 100-fold higher dose than the recommended dose of C3, 3.7×109 cfu ml-1 and 11.24 μg ml-1. Whereas, at seven DAT, Terakil-1® and Teracon-1® being a safe Bt products at dose of C5, 3.7×1011 cfu ml-1 and 1124 μg ml-1, resulted in 14% and 16% corrected mortality of E. kamerunicus, respectively. At five to seven DAT, the mean mortality of the adult E. kamerunicus subjected to the five different doses, 3.7x107cfu ml-1 to 3.7×1011 cfu ml-1 and 0.1124 μg ml-1 – 1124 μg ml-1 of Terakil-1® and Teracon-1®, respectively was not significantly different at P=0.05 when tested using Duncan’s Multiple Range Test, implying that even at very high doses, Bt products were equally safe to the weevils. Cypermethrin was significantly toxic to pollinating weevils as compared to high doses of Terakil-1® and Teracon-1®. Unlike chemicals, B. thuringiensis, Terakil-1® and Teracon-1® were found to be safe for beneficial insects under the oil palm and is therefore recommended for integrated control of bagworm under oil palm.

Optimization of the epoxidation of methyl ester of palm fatty acid distillate

Methyl ester of palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD-ME) can be used for producing epoxide compounds. PFADME consists of 39.3% of oleic acid (C18:1) and has an iodine value of 49.2 g I2/100 g. It can be converted to a low oxirane content epoxide which can be used for several applications, such as plasticizers, polyols or alkanolamines, with appropriate modification. Temperature, mole ratio of hydrogen peroxide to unsaturation, and mole ratio of formic acid to unsaturation were optimized in the epoxidation of PFAD-ME. The study showed that more than 98% conversion of unsaturation to the epoxide ring moiety can be achieved within 3 hr of reaction by using the optimum molar ratio of 1:1:4 (unsaturation: formic acid: hydrogen peroxide) and a temperature of 50°C.

Study on low temperature properties of palm oil methyl esters-petrodiesel blends

Synergistic properties, especially low temperature properties (e.g. pour point and cloud point), can be achieved by blending palm oil methyl esters with petroleum diesel in appropriate ratios. In a preliminary study, appropriate blending of palm oil methyl esters-petrol diesel at 70%-80% palm oil methyl esters led to a decrease in pour point temperature. A decrease in cloud point temperature was also noted at mixtures of 90% palm oil methyl esters with petrol diesel. A similar phenomenon was observed in the viscosity properties of the palm oil methyl esters-petrol diesel mixture. Further improvement in the low temperature properties (e.g. pour point temperature) of the palm oil methyl esters-diesel mixtures at 3°C can be achieved by adding 1% of a palm-based additive. However, the blended palm oil methyl esters-petrol diesel fluid resulted in an increase in viscosity. The decrease in low temperature properties (both pour point and cloud point) in the blended palm oil methyl esters-petrol diesel mixtures and in the presence of the additive was suspected to be mainly due to the disruption and changes in the molecular orientation and arrangement on both the palm oil methyl esters and the petrol diesel.

Efficacy of entomopathogenic fungi, Paecilomyces spp., in controlling the oil palm bagworm, Pteroma pendula (Joannis)

Laboratory efficacy of the entomopathogenic fungi, Paecilomyces carneus and P. farinosus, was assessed against the first larval instars of Pteroma pendula, using conidia generated on solid fermentation media. Three isolates of P. carneus and three isolates of P. farinosus were infective on the first larval instars of P. pendula. Most of the Paecilomyces spp. caused a significant increase in mortality between seven days after treatment (DAT) and 11 DAT. However, a dramatic increase in mortality was recorded with isolate PC2 of P. carneus whose effectiveness increased nearly three-fold over this period. The highest corrected mortality after 11 DAT varied from 75% for P. farinosus to 93.8% for P. carneus. Among the tested isolates, P. carneus caused the highest corrected mortality of 93.8% at 11 DAT, while a corrected mortality of only 75% was induced by P. carneus isolated from the soil. The most successful isolate was of P. carneus which controlled over 80% of the first larval instars of the P. pendula population at 11 DAT. This indicates that the efficacy of P. carneus is superior to that of P. farinosus against the first larval instars of P. pendula, and can be exploited as biological control agents of the oil palm pest bagworm.

Effect of solvent pre-treatment on lignophenol production from oil palm empty fruit bunch fibres

Oil palm empty fruit bunches (EFB) are a by-product in the palm oil industry, and represent an abundant, inexpensive and renewable resource. EFB can be categorized as a lignocellulosic material due to its cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin contents. The purpose of this research was to investigate the effect of solvent pretreatment on lignophenol production from EFB. Two types of EFB were tested, i.e. treated ground EFB (LP1) and non-treated ground EFB (LP2). EFB has potential as a starting material for lignophenol production using a two-step process involving a phase separation system at room temperature (~ 28°C). This process utilizes the phenol derivative (p-cresol) and concentrated acid (72% sulphuric acid) whereby the lignin is dissolved in the organic phase and the carbohydrates are present in the aqueous phase after 1 hr of stirring. LP1 and LP2 were further analysed and characterized by Proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR), Fourier transform infra-red spectroscopy (FTIR), gel permeation chromatography (GPC), ultraviolet spectroscopy (UV) and by thermomechanical analysis (TMA). The experiments gave sufficient information on the characteristics of the lignophenols from treated and untreated EFB. The lignophenols of LP1 and LP2 showed similar results in their characteristics while their molecular weights were 5759 and 5866, respectively. There was no significant difference in the amount of cresol attached to lignin in LP1 and LP2, both being 26±1%. The yields of lignophenols for LP1 and LP2 were almost similar at a value of 61±1%. TMA curves showed that LP1 and LP2 had an apparent change of phase at 166.4ºC and 160ºC, respectively.