Category Archives: 2010 Vol 22 Dec

Phosphorus fractions in soil amended with empty fruit bunches and phosphate fertilizer – an incubation study

In an incubation experiment, P was added to the Rengam Series soil through empty fruit bunches (EFB) alone (38 mg P kg-1 soil), P fertilizer alone (900 mg P kg-1 soil), and P fertilizer added together with EFB (938 mg P kg-1 soil). The P fertilizers used were triple superphosphate (TSP), Gafsa (Tunisia) phosphate rock (GPR) and Christmas Island phosphate rock (CIPR). For each month during the six-month incubation, soil P fractions, namely iron oxide-coated strip P (Pi), Bray 2 P, NaOH P, occluded P, Ca P, organic P, microbial biomass P, total P, amount of P dissolved (DP) from phosphate rock (PR), and exchangeable Ca were determined. The percentage dissolution of TSP, GPR and CIPR was 94.8%, 31.3% and 26.6% of added P, respectively, following the chemical reactivity of the materials. Addition of organic residues (EFB) only had a significant effect on the dissolution of CIPR. However, the results show a positive influence of organic residues added with P fertilizer which stimulated the formation of microbial biomass P (four times more than with P fertilizer added alone), organic P (about two times more than with P fertilizer added alone), and less movement into the inorganic P fractions. Addition of organic residues led to the continued increase in dissolution of PR with time, over the six months of incubation, compared to when PR alone was added to the soil; this might be due to the additional sinks for P (biological transformation of P) and Ca (increase in Ca-exchange sites).

Applications of palm oil in animal nutrition

Palm oil and its derivatives play a significant role in animal nutrition, and the opportunity to increase usage in this sector is large. Fats and oils are used as energy sources, to supply dietary essential fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic acids) that cannot be synthesized by the animal, to aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and to provide specific bio-active fatty acids. The amount of fat or oil that can be used in animal diets varies depending on the species and its digestive physiology. The digestive systems of cattle, pigs and poultry differ with respect to the way in which fats/oils are broken down, absorbed and utilized. Cattle are ruminants in which the fermentation of carbohydrates in the rumen provides energy for the animal. Dietary triglycerides are largely hydrolyzed in the rumen by the resident microbial population, while the unsaturated fatty acids are hydrogenated to saturated fatty acids. Feeding large amounts of triglycerides (>3% of the diet), particularly those which are unsaturated, inhibits rumen microorganisms and makes biohydrogenation incomplete. If biohydrogenation does not occur fully, a flow of unsaturated or partially unsaturated fats/oils with trans-double bonds into the small intestine can decrease feed intake and depress milk fat production, as well as alter milk fat profiles. To overcome this problem, fats/oils for ruminant feeding need to be in a form that makes them inert in the rumen, such as in the form of a calcium salt or soap of palm fatty acid distillates (CaPFAD), or after crystallizing the saturated fatty acids by beading or flaking. Pigs and poultry are nonruminants (monogastrics) and rely on their own enzymes for the breakdown of dietary triglycerides. Fatty acids are then absorbed in the small intestine along with mono- or diglycerides. Pigs and poultry can utilize relatively saturated as well as unsaturated fats in their diet, but the inclusion of unsaturated fats/oils results in more unsaturated fatty acids in their body fat, which makes the carcass fat softer and this can reduce carcass quality. Increased energy levels in the diet of dairy cows can benefit the production of milk and milk components, improve reproductive efficiency, reduce heat stress, and improve general health and well-being. Increasing fat/oil levels in pig diets improve growth rates, reproduction and lactation. Hard (more saturated) dietary lipids help produce firmer carcass fat. Increasing fat/oil levels in poultry diets improves feed efficiency and growth rates. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are also of interest, particularly in young animals where their rapid absorption can help provide a readily available energy supply. Palm oil and palm kernel oil can be used to replace butterfat in milk replacers for feeding young animals to substitute their mother’s milk. Fats are also used in the diets of companion animals (dogs and cats) and horses. Worldwide animal production is increasing rapidly. As standards of living increase, more animal products are being consumed in the diet, including meat, milk and eggs. Livestock consume approximately 33% of global cereal grain production, and the animal nutrition industry consumes between 8 and 10 million tonnes of fats and oils per annum. This use will increase significantly in the next 15 years as more animal products are consumed. In addition, there is greater focus on finding ways to replace cereal energy in animal nutrition as cereals are increasingly being diverted to human foods or biofuel production. Fat/oil levels in feed are generally lower than the levels that can be utilized by the animal based on its digestive and metabolic processes. More calories could be supplied by fats/oils but there are limitations based on the physical characteristics of the fats and oils and their interactions with the target animal’s physiology.

Testing of glyceryl monoesters for their anti-microbial susceptibility and their influence in emulsions

Natural anti-microbial agents have received great attention in the cosmetic preservation area due to their well-documented safety profile. The anti-microbial activities of palm-based glyceryl monoesters (monolaurin, monocaprylin and monocaprin) were compared with commercially available tea tree oil and potassium sorbate against Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Aspergillus niger, using the anti-microbial susceptibility testing procedure. Monolaurin was found to exhibit excellent inhibitory activity against S. aureus and Asp. niger, whereas potassium sorbate and tea tree oil had no activity against Asp. niger and S. aureus, respectively. Monocaprylin was shown to have low inhibitory activity against E. coli, and no inhibitory activity towards P. aeruginosa. On the other hand, tea tree oil had a higher inhibitory activity than monolaurin at 2% against E. coli but showed no activity against P. aeruginosa. Similar trends were observed for monocaprin and monolaurin which showed no anti-microbial activity towards P. aeruginosa as well as E. coli. Interestingly, the presence of monolaurin was not only effective as a preservative, but was also found to induce the formation of liquid crystals at concentrations as low as 0.5%. The formation of liquid crystals is said to enhance the stability and functionality of cosmetic emulsions.

Cloning and in silico analysis of promoters of highly expressed genes in oil palm embryogenic cultures

Promoters are the regulatory regions of DNA that control the expression of their genes. This study aimed at identifying the 5’ upstream regulatory regions of four embryogenically up-regulated genes that may elucidate clues to their regulation. Isolation and sequence analyses of the four putative promoters revealed similarities in the predicted motifs. The putative promoters of OPSC10 and EgHOX1 shared more motifs in common compared to the other two promoters, accounting for similarities in the two former expression profiles. The highly represented motifs in the putative promoters suggested regulation by light, phytohormones and Myb binding proteins. The upstream region of EgPER1 was the most unique of the four, with the possibility of being part of a dicistronic operon.

Effects of N, P and K fertilizers on leaf trace element levels of oil palm in Sumatra

Nine trials testing the application of N, P, K and Mg fertilizers to oil palm were carried out at different locations on mineral soils in both North and South Sumatra, and their effect on the contents of both major and minor elements were monitored. This article reports the effect of N, P and K fertilizers on the trace element status of the palms. In four of the trials on old palms in North Sumatra, urea fertilizer significantly reduced the leaf levels of both copper and zinc, in some cases below the established critical levels. In addition, superphosphate fertilizer significantly reduced leaf copper in four of these trials whilst muriate of potash fertilizer significantly depressed leaf zinc in two trials. In contrast, N and P fertilizers had no effect on leaf trace element levels in five trials on younger palms in South Sumatra, but in four of the trials, K fertilizer significantly reduced leaf zinc. There were no consistent effects of N, P and K fertilizers on leaf levels of B, Mn or Fe.
Changes in soil properties due to the fertilizer applications did not appear to explain these results. Furthermore, the effects of fertilizers on trace element levels were not generally seen in the rachis, suggesting that the uptake of trace elements into the palms was not significantly affected. The reduction in leaf copper and zinc levels may therefore have been due to a physiological effect of the fertilizer nutrients inside the palms which influenced the transfer of these trace elements to the leaves. Leaf concentrations of other trace elements were not generally affected by fertilizers, indicating that the results for copper and zinc were not due to a dilution effect resulting from increased growth.
In the trials on older palms in North Sumatra, yields had generally fallen with time, and Ganoderma incidence had increased in the treatments where trace elements had been depressed by the major fertilizers. It is concluded that continuous application of N, P and K fertilizers is likely to have an adverse effect on the trace element status of oil palms, which if not corrected may result in reduced yields and increased disease incidence.

Life cycle assessment of oil palm seedling production (Part 1)

The oil palm nursery is the first link in the palm oil supply chain where oil palm seedlings are produced for the cultivation of palms in plantations. One seedling is the defined functional unit. This article outlines the environmental impacts, identified using life cycle assessment (LCA), associated with the production of a single seedling, and the proposed mitigation measures. LCA is a cradle-to-gate study which starts at the pre-nursery stage, proceeding to the main nursery before subsequent transplantation of the seedlings in the plantation. An audit on electricity, diesel, fertilizers, pesticides, polybags and water consumption was carried out using data obtained from a questionnaire on the life cycle inventory of seedling production. The information obtained was then verified by follow-up site visits. The life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) was carried out for a single seedling produced, using the SimaPro software version 7.1 and the Eco indicator 99 methodology. Polyvinylchloride (PVC) pipes were also included in the study. Ecotoxicity was found to be the major impact category followed by fossil fuel and respiratory inorganics.

Life cycle assessment for oil palm fresh fruit bunch production from continued land use for oil palm planted on mineral soil (Part 2)

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an important tool for identifying potential environmental impacts associated with the production of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) from specific operations in Malaysian oil palm plantations. This LCA study is to make available the life cycle inventory for cradle-to-gate data so that the environmental impacts posed by FFB production in the plantation can be assessed. The results of the study provide the Malaysian palm oil industry with information, and identify ways and measures to reduce the environmental impacts.

Most of the foreground data were collected directly from the oil palm plantations (site specific) from a detailed survey of the estates throughout Malaysia. The inventory data were collected from 102 plantations (based on feedback to a questionnaire) covering 1.1 million hectares of planted area, which is approximately 25% of the total area under oil palm. This survey area consisted of immature (1- to 2-year-old palms) and mature (3- to 25-year-old palms) areas, with both data sets included in the inventory for an amortized period of 25 years. Data gaps were filled by information obtained through literature and public databases, or calculated using published models. The inputs and outputs from upstream activities were quantified on the basis of a functional unit of production of 1 t FFB, while the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) was carried out using the Sima Pro version 7.1 software and the Eco-indicator 99 methodology.

The weighted results of LCA for the production of 1 t FFB from continued land use (replanting) show significant environmental impacts in the fossil fuels, respiratory inorganics and climate change categories. The most significant process contributing to these environmental impacts comes from the production and usage of the various fertilizers (especially N fertilizers) from the use of field machinery (tractors) during operations in the plantation, and the use of transport vehicles bringing inputs to the plantations and transporting FFB to the mills. Producing FFB from continued land use (replanting) has no effect on land use.

The results clearly show that nitrogenous fertilizer production and application in the plantation is the most polluting process in the agricultural stage of FFB production; this is followed by the energy used by the machinery in the plantations and for transportation of FFB to the mills. Ways of reducing the environmental impacts are by increasing the FFB yield through the use of high-yielding oil palm planting materials which will result in increased fruit production, by applying more organic sources of nitrogen fertilizer instead of chemical fertilizers, by returning the nutrient-rich slurry from palm oil mill effluent (POME) treatment ponds to the field, or by applying compost (empty fruit bunches + POME) as fertilizer.

Life cycle assessment of the production of crude palm oil (Part 3)

The oil palm industry is a very important industry which contributes immensely towards the economy of the country. In 2009 alone, the total exports of oil palm products, constituting palm oil, palm kernel oil, palm kernel cake, oleochemicals and finished products, amounted to 22.40 million tonnes, resulting in total export earnings of RM 49.59 billion. The oil palm industry is an export-orientated industry which relies heavily on the world market. Therefore, it is vital for the oil palm industry to be sustainable and competitive to increase its longterm profitability. The objective of this study is to identify the potential environmental impacts associated with the production of crude palm oil (CPO), and to evaluate opportunities to overcome the potential impacts. This study has a cradle-to-gate system boundary. This article is part of the life cycle assessment (LCA) of the whole supply chain for palm oil, and is linked to the upstream LCA for nursery and plantation which can be found in Parts 1 and 2. This article examines the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) of the production of 1 t of CPO at the palm oil mill.

For this study, 12 palm oil mills were selected. These mills were selected based on the type of mill, i.e. whether they were plantation-based mills or private mills, and having different processing capacities for fresh fruit bunches (FFB). The mills selected were all located in different zones in West Malaysia. Inventory data collection consisted of inputs and outputs of materials and energy. LCIA was carried out using the Simapro software version 7.1 and the Eco-indicator 99 methodology. Results show that the impact categories with significant impacts were from fossil fuels, respiratory inorganics and climate change. The impact under the fossil fuels category came from the production of the fertilizers used as well as diesel usage for transportation and harvesting in the nursery and plantation phases. The impact categories of climate change and respiratory inorganics came from upstream activities and the palm oil mill effluent (POME) in the mill. Both these impact categories are related to air emissions. The main air emission from the POME ponds during the anaerobic digestion was biogas which consisted of methane, carbon dioxide and traces of hydrogen sulphide. The unharvested biogas is a greenhouse gas. The impact under respiratory inorganics and climate change from upstream was caused by the application of nitrogen fertilizers in the plantation as well as the nursery. When biogas was captured, the impact under climate change was reduced. What was left were the impacts from upstream activities. The Malaysian oil palm industry should seriously look into the old sludge treatment system which is emitting biogas. They should capture the biogas and use it as renewable energy source, or produce value-added products such as fertilizer from POME which will eliminate methane generation.

Life cycle assessment of the production of crude palm kernel oil (Part 3a)

The present reality is that we have to deal with environmental deterioration. Mitigation using the life cycle assessment (LCA) concept must be viewed as an investment for our future generations, if not for ourselves, because efforts in mitigation of environmental degradation will translate into a concerted effort to combat the many environmental impacts resulting from mismanagement of natural resources and energy. The oil palm fresh fruit bunches (FFB) are a unique crop product. Two types of oil can be obtained from this raw material. Crude palm oil (CPO) is obtained from the mesocarp while palm kernel oil is obtained from the kernel within the nut. CPO is processed at palm oil mills, and the kernels which are removed from the cracked nuts is a by-product at the palm oil mills as has been discussed in the Part 3 article. These kernels are then transported by trucks to kernel-crushing plants that process the kernels into crude palm kernel oil (CPKO). The objective of this study is to identify the potential environmental impacts associated with the production of CPKO, and to evaluate opportunities to overcome the potential impacts. This study has a cradle-to-gate system boundary.
This resulting article is part of LCA of the whole palm oil supply chain which is linked to the upstream LCA for nursery (Part 1), plantation (Part 2) and palm oil mill (Part 3). The article examines the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) of the production of 1 t of CPKO at the kernel-crushing plant. For this study, six kernelcrushing plants were chosen for their locations which were well-distributed all over Peninsular Malaysia. Five kernel-crushing plants were located near the ports, while the remaining plant was located right beside a palm oil mill. This selection strategy was carried out to examine the different scenarios that exist in Malaysia, and also to ensure that they were representative of the scenarios of all kernel-crushing plants in Malaysia. Inventory data collection consisted of inputs and outputs of materials and energy. LCIA was carried out using the Simapro software version 7.1, and the Eco-indicator 99 methodology was selected.
Based on the results, the main impacts from upstream activities were from fertilizer production and application, and biogas emissions. The impacts directly associated with the production of CPKO were mainly rom the transportation of palm kernels from the palm oil mills to the kernel-crushing plants and from the lectricity consumption from the grid for the processing of the CPKO. The best scenario for the production of PKO with the least environmental impact was when the kernel-crushing plant was integrated with a palm oil mill which captured the biogas.

Life cycle assessment of refined palm oil production and fractionation (Part 4)

With the increasing global attention to sustainable development, the environmental and social relevance of palm oil production are now defining issues in responsible trade. The life cycle assessment (LCA) study on refined palm oil (RPO) and its fractionated products is part of the sustainable solution provided by the Malaysian palm oil industry. The study was conducted according to established ISO (International Standards Organization standards) for LCA. The system model for this LCA study was developed and analyzed using SimaPro software, and the Eco-indicator 99 methodology was used for the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA).
An average of 1.05 t of crude palm oil (CPO) is required for the production of 1 t of RPO. The greatest environmental burden arising from refining is from CPO, and consequently from RPO for fractionation to produce refined palm olein (RPOo) and palm stearin (RPOs). This is followed by boiler fuel combustion and the transport of materials, suggesting that a potential mitigation measure for the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) and consequently the impact on climate change would be to address these three inflows into the system. It was found that sourcing CPO from mills with systems in place for capturing biogas reduced the impact on climate change by about 40%.

Life cycle assessment for the production and use of palm biodiesel (Part 5)

In Malaysia, the major consumers of energy are the industrial and transport sectors. The demand is expected to increase steadily in tandem with the growth of the economy. As such, alternative sources of energy need to be developed, in particular energy from renewable sources, to meet the energy requirements. Fatty acid methyl esters, commonly known as biodiesel, derived from oils and fats have long been known as a potential diesel substitute. Biodiesel is suitable to be used neat or blended with petroleum diesel in any proportion in an unmodified diesel engine. However, the many concerns related to the emissions from the production and use of biodiesel have been discussed globally. Thus, this life cycle assessment study was conducted to investigate the environmental impacts from the production and use of palm biodiesel produced using MPOB’s production technology. The results show that the environmental impact from the production of palm biodiesel is related to the use of methanol, while the use of palm biodiesel contributes to the impact categories of respiratory inorganics and acidification/eutrophication. In spite of these, the production and use of palm biodiesel is more environmental-friendly as compared to petroleum diesel.