Category Archives: 2020 Vol 32 June

QUANTITATIVE TRAIT LOCI (QTL) LINKED TO COMPACTNESS IN AN INTERSPECIFIC BACKCROSS TWO (BC2) POPULATION OF OIL PALM

Conventional quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis of a mapping family is carried out to generate molecular tools for development of compact interspecific hybrid palms that can be planted more closely for higher yields per unit land area. Genetic maps were constructed for an interspecific backcross two (BC2) oil palm population using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. A total of 1744 markers were mapped onto 16 linkage groups, spanning 1499.5 cM with an average marker interval of 0.86 cM. Using empirical genome and chromosome-wide thresholds, QTL analysis yielded a number of significant associations with vegetative characters for palm compactness. Subsequent QTL analysis revealed two major and two putative QTL linked to rachis length and petiole cross-section, two important characters for palm compactness. The QTL identified are an important step towards the implementation of marker assisted selection (MAS), enabling breeders to make early informed decisions on improving interspecific hybrids.

PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS OF DIVIDING WALL COLUMN MODEL FOR FRACTIONATION OF OLEOCHEMICAL FATTY ACID

Fractionation process of oleochemical products in Malaysia normally uses conventional distillation columns (CDC). Due to the considerable amount of energy used in the separation process, there is a need to have an intensified process. Dividing wall column (DWC) is an attractive option which offers big advantages with reduced cost and energy consumption. However, research on its feasibility for oleochemical fractionation is scarce. In this article, we conducted a model-based performance analysis of DWC for oleochemical fatty acid fractionation. The model was designed and simulated using a customised four column configurations in Aspen Plus. A step-by-step design procedure was introduced to aid the model development. Economic and environmental assessment was performed and compared with conventional distillation columns. Hydraulic analysis of several packing type was also performed to gain insights on the column hydrodynamic behaviour. Our result shows that the major economic advantage is in the operating cost with savings of up to 16.9% and 10.2% on cooling and heating utilities, respectively while reduces 10.2% of CO2 emissions. Overall, our study shows the feasibility of fractionating fatty acids in oleochemical industry using DWC. Such assessment is important to assess its feasibility especially during the early stage of technology development prior to industrial implementation.

PILOT SCALE INTEGRATED ANAEROBIC-AEROBIC TREATMENT OF PALM OIL MILL EFFLUENT

Palm oil mill effluent (POME) is abundantly generated from the palm oil milling process. Its stringent discharge limits of biological oxygen demand (BOD) of < 20 mg litre-1 has been the most prevalent issue faced in the course of extending palm oil business development. Conventional POME treatment system anaerobically in a series of ponding systems, topped with additional costly tertiary polishing system may not be able to meet this challenging standard due to inconsistent plant performance. A cost-effective POME treatment technology featuring full resource recovery and zero discharge/zero emissions is encouraged. This article examined the performance of an integrated anaerobic-aerobic zero discharge POME treatment pilot system in full operation for a year in a palm oil mill. The assessed system showed 100% compliance to BOD of 100 mg litre-1 and 80% for the more stringent BOD 20 mg litre-1 while generating renewable electricity from the combusted biogas and recycling boiler-grade water via reclamation.

LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT FOR PALM OIL REFINING AND FRACTIONATION

A gate-to-gate life cycle assessment (LCA) for production of refined palm products, i.e. refined, bleached and deodourised (RBD) palm oil, palm olein and palm stearin was performed. Five years inventory data were obtained from six palm oil refineries located in Malaysia – three from Peninsular, two from Sabah and one from Sarawak. The LCA study was conducted using SimaPro software version 8.5 and the impact assessment was performed according to ReCiPe 2016 methodology. Allocation based on economic value was found suitable for the current study, i.e. allocating higher environmental burden to the more valuable main products – RBD palm oil from refining process and RBD palm olein from fractionation process. No difference was observed in the environmental impacts between allocation based on mass and energy content due to similar energy content of the products. Bleaching earth, electricity and transportation of crude palm oil (CPO) were identified as hotspots in palm oil refining whereas RBD palm oil was the single major hotspot in fractionation process. Improvement in transportation of CPO can significantly reduce the overall environmental impact, through sourcing of CPO from nearby mills and use of modern Euro 5-compliant trucks as mode of transportation.

INVESTIGATING THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF LITTLE FIRE ANT (LFA), Wasmania auropunctata (Roger) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) ON THE OIL PALM POLLINATING WEEVIL, Elaedobius kamerunicus FAUST. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) AND FIELD WORKER PRODUCTIVITY TIME

The oil palm pollinating weevil (E. kamerunicus) is a million-dollar insect in the oil palm industry in terms of its role as the key pollinating agent. Any negative impact on the weevil population due to influence by either biotic or abiotic factors can potentially have dire consequences on palm oil production. The invasive Little Fire Ant (LFA), W. auropunctata was detected on oil palm blocks in West New Britain Province in 2012. Its invasion into the oil palm fields poses a potential risk to the weevil as it can feasibly prey on the immature stages. A study was necessary to investigate this risk. Hence, a research was instigated in 2016 and conducted over 13 months period to evaluate the potential impact on the weevil population as well as the worker productivity time (because of the pain normally inflicted on humans by the sting) in smallholder blocks of the Hoskins Oil Palm Industry Corporation (OPIC) project within the West New Britain Province. The results showed that LFA does not impact on the pollinating weevil population but does affect field worker productivity time. Study investigating the management options to circumvent LFA stings is proposed.

PRELIMINARY FIELD AND COSTS EVALUATION OF A NEW MECHANISED SYSTEM FOR HOLING SOIL IN LARGE POLYBAG IN OIL PALM NURSERY

A preliminary field and costs evaluation was conducted to evaluate the performance of a newly developed prototype machine system for holing soil in large polybags in oil palm nursery. The parameters measured during the preliminary field and costs evaluation included production capacity, mean increase in heart rate, human energy expenditure, total operating costs and return on investment (ROI). The results showed about 257 bags hr-1 per man of production capacity were obtained with the new machine system or 209.64% increase as compared to 83 bags hr-1 per man with the current practice. Mean increase in heart rate of worker when operating the machine systems was 24.2 beats min-1 or a decrease of 52.54% when compared to 51 beats min-1 with the current practice. On the basis of human energy expenditure, the new machine system consumed 3.16 kcal min-1 per man or 54.34% less exhausting when compared to 6.92 kcal min-1 per man with the current practice. Total operating costs of the new machine system was RM 0.05 bag-1 or 28.57% cheaper as compared to RM 0.07 bag-1 with the current practice. ROI of the new machine system was 233.07%, which assures the investment on this new machine system is worthwhile.

EFFICACY OF BAITS FOR RED PALM WEEVIL (RPW), Rhynchophorus ferrugineus OLIVIER UNDER CONSTANT LABORATORY CONDITION

Rhynchophorus ferrugineus or also known as red palm weevil (RPW) had caught the attention of government and researchers in Malaysia for its aggressive behaviour in attacking various palm species including coconut palm and date palm. To date, their presence was recorded in oil palm plantations in Terengganu, Malaysia by using pheromone mass trapping technique but no symptom of attack was detected up to now. The pheromone traps were filled with natural food baits such as sugar cane and pineapple, together with synthetic pheromone lure to attract the RPW entering the trap. However, the most preferred bait by the RPW still remained inconclusive. In this study, a Y-tube olfactometer experiment was conducted to identify the most preferred bait by the RPW under laboratory conditions. The result showed that pineapple was the most preferred bait by RPW compared to other treatments (F=20.44, d.f=7, p<0.05). The study showed that oil palm cabbage was the least preferred bait by RPW, indicating that the pest was less attracted to oil palm. However, their presence in the oil palm plantation recently gave us a warning that we need to be more cautious to ensure their populations will not jeopardise the oil palm industry in future.

NUTRIENT RECOVERY FROM ANAEROBIC PALM OIL MILL EFFLUENT WITH THERMALLY REGENERATED SPENT BLEACHING EARTH USING RESPONSE SURFACE METHODOLOGY

Palm oil mill effluent (POME) and thermally oxidised de-oiled spent bleaching earth (TDSBE) are reusable by-products. This study examined recovery of plant nutrients and biodegradable matter from anaerobically- treated POME using TDSBE. Response surface methodology was used for designing the jar test experiment and optimising the nutrient and colour recovery as a function of TDSBE dosage and mixing time. Phosphorus (P) and ammonia (NH3 ) were determined colorimetrically while P, copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn) and iron (Fe) by atomic absorption spectroscopy. Original, spent, de-oiled (DSBE) and TDSBE were subjected to cation exchange capacity (CEC), Fourier transform infrared -attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR) and Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) (N2) analysis to determine their adsorption-relevant characteristics. TDSBE (50 g litre-1, 120 min) could recover 3.7% NH3, 80% P, 7.3% Zn, 30% Mn and 13.6% Fe from POME, but none for colour. Dosage and mixing time had a significant effect on recovery of all five nutrients (p < 0.0.5) with interaction occurring only for NH3 and Zn. Relatively poor performance of TDSBE was due to lack of functional groups, low CEC and BET surface area. However, the recovery of plant nutrients from POME using industrial by-products such as original or modified DSBE is of great importance towards a circular oil palm industry and opens up new avenues for future research.

SURVEILLANCE OF Ganoderma DISEASE IN OIL PALM PLANTED BY PARTICIPANTS OF THE SMALLHOLDERS REPLANTING INCENTIVE SCHEME IN MALAYSIA

A ground surveillance of basal stem rot disease (BSR) caused by pathogenic fungus Ganoderma sp. in oil palm was conducted by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to determine status of incidence and distribution of Ganoderma disease of the smallholders (SH) particularly participating in the replanting incentive scheme in Malaysia. This survey was conducted for detection either presence or absence of BSR disease in oil palms areas with a total area of 37 359.81 ha involving 10 292 smallholders including in Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak. The survey consisted of visual identification of BSR disease symptoms on mature oil palms based on external symptoms. The classification of BSR disease in oil palm was identified. Confirmation of Ganoderma or BSR disease in infected oil palm were verified using the Ganoderma Selective Media (GSM). The BSR disease affected a total of 3450.70 ha (9.2%) from this survey. As compared to other states in Malaysia, hectarage were mostly found in Johor (1032.97 ha; 487 smallholders), Sabah (930.85 ha; 252 smallholders), and Perak (718.49 ha; 410 smallholders). The disease incidence in oil palms were classified as very severe (>45%), severe (31%-45%), moderate (16%-30%), mild (<15%) and none incidence (0%). Areas affected with Ganoderma were found in inland (1449.29 ha; 8.72%), followed by coastal (1266.41 ha; 14.0%), peat (703.94 ha; 6.08%) and lateritic (31.06 ha; 27.7%). This study has provided information which could be useful for respective researchers, policy-makers and stakeholders on the control measures and management of the disease.

PHYSICO-CHEMICAL AND CONDUCTIVITY STUDIES OF MICROCRYSTALLINE CELLULOSE (MCC) EXTRACTED FROM OIL PALM FRONDS AS A SUSCEPTIBLE FILLER IN PLA-LiTFSI POLYMER ELECTROLYTE

The journey for sustainable solutions in the environment to create safe, cheap and assessable materials in society requires the use of more plant-based natural fibres in the industry. In this work, the acid hydrolysis process was adopted to isolate organosolv-microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) from oil palm fronds (OPF). Complementary analyses such as cross polarisation/magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (CP/ MAS 13C NMR), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), gel permeation chromatography (GPC), and X-ray diffraction (XRD) revealed extracted MCC bear a resemblance to commercial-MCC. Polymer solution casting technique was adopted to prepare different ratios of MCC-polylactic acid (PLA)-lithium bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide (LiTFSI) solid polymer electrolytes and electrical conductivities of polymer electrolyte films were investigated through electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). BO5 (organosolv-MCC-PLA-20 wt% LiTFSI) showed the maximum ionic conductivity of 1.25 x 10-5 S cm-1, while 5 wt% 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride (BMIMCl) ionic liquid added revealed a positive effect of BMIMCl on the ionic conductivity of the polymer electrolyte yielding a higher conductivity of 2.3 x 10-5 S cm-1.

CONTINUOUS AND CIRCULATED BATCH PROCESSES FOR ESTERIFICATION OF FREE FATTY ACIDS BY NOVOZYM 435 IN EXPANDED BED REACTOR: A CASE STUDY OF PALM FATTY ACID DISTILLATE

An effective process for esterification of free fatty acids (FFA) by Novozym 435 in expanded bed reactors was developed. Oleic acid and palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD) were used as FFA. In the circulated batch process, Novozym 435 was reusable for 22 cycles with an FFA conversion greater than 90%. Furthermore, in the continuous process using four expanded bed reactors connected in series, FFA conversions from the esterification of oleic acid and PFAD with a total residence time of 80 min were 93.5% and 88.5%, with the overall productivity of about 1000 g and 940 g fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) litre-1 hr-1, respectively.

IDENTIFICATION OF HYDROPHILIC PHENOLIC COMPOUNDS DERIVED FROM PALM OIL PRODUCTS

Palm oil is a source of water-soluble phenolic compounds, which have been proven to exhibit antioxidant effects. Phenolic compounds have great potential in the development of health-beneficial foods, feeds, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. In this study, hydrophilic phenolic compounds were extracted from various palm oil products including crude palm oil (CPO), refined palm oil (RPO), refined palm olein (RPOo), crude palm kernel oil (CPKO), refined palm kernel oil (RPKO) and refined palm kernel olein (RPKOo). A simple reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) equipped with ultra violet (UV)visible detector was used to identify the phenolic compounds. The phenolic acids identified were benzoic acid derivatives; gallic, protocatechuic, p-hydroxybenzoic, vanillic and syringic acids, and cinnamic acid derivatives; caffeic, coumaric and ferulic acids. Benzoic acid derivatives exhibited higher concentration compared to cinnamic acid derivatives, with p-hydroxybenzoic acid being the predominant acid present in all sample extracts. The results suggested the presence of hydrophilic phenolics, with p-hydroxybenzoic level in palm oil products; CPO (1901.69 mg kg-1), RPO (19.13 mg kg-1), RPOo (7.87 mg kg-1), CPKO (1701.70 mg kg-1), RPKO (5.01 mg kg-1), and RPKOo (nil). The profiling of phenolic compounds in the palm oil products would provide basic information and understanding of their bioactivities. Besides, the potential of phenolics from palm oil products extracts as antioxidants can be further evaluated.

EFFECTS OF PELLET SUPPLEMENTED WITH DIFFERENT PERCENTAGES OF OIL PALM LIPID SOURCES ON BROILER PERFORMANCE, CARCASS TRAIT AND FEED QUALITY

This study was conducted to determine the effects of three different oil palm lipid sources originated from various extraction and refining processes on broiler performance and feed quality. Based on a completely randomised design, a total of 825 one-day old mixed sex broiler chicks (Cobb500) were randomly assigned to one of the 11 treatments with three replicates of 25 chicks per replicate. The treatments were: T1-T3: 4% crude palm oil (CPO), palm fatty acid distillates (PFAD), Malaysian Palm Oil Board-High Energy (MPOBHIE), respectively; T4-T6: 6% CPO, PFAD, MPOB-HIE, respectively; T7-T9: 8% CPO, PFAD, MPOBHIE, respectively; T10: control and T11: commercial feed. Addition of CPO at 4% resulted in good broiler performances in terms of weight gain, feed intake, feed conversion ratio and carcass traits compared to other treatment groups. The addition of 4%, 6% and 8% palm-based oils and fats in the broiler finisher feed met all the nutrient requirements for Cobb500 broilers and did not affect the physical quality including fines percentage (<5%) and pellet durability index (>90%). The results showed that the supplementation of oil palm lipid sources in broiler diet positively supported the growth performance and carcass traits with good chemical and physical quality of feed pellet.

OIL PALM ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE IN MALAYSIA AND R&D PROGRESS IN 2019

Despite the uptrend recorded for crude palm oil (CPO) production, yields and exports in general, and an improved overall performance in the last quarter of 2019, the low export price for most part of the year could not steer the industry away from a decline (4%) in the total export revenue. Sustainable endeavours continue to dominate the palm oil research scene and rightfully so especially when the industry is faced with multi-dimensional challenges. With land expansion being marginal, the importance of good agricultural practice and soil health cannot be relegated as a means towards narrowing yield gaps aside from improving the oil palm’s genetic potential. The industry’s pursuit for circular economy has also led to the adoption of key technologies at every level of the process value chain with zero waste as the ultimate goal. Apart from driving sustainability, the industry has also doubled its efforts in ensuring that palm oil is safe. It is evident that the natural properties of the palm oil make it a healthier and versatile choice for food and its derivatives, respectively. However, its processing methods though need further scrutiny and transformation to allay concerns of its safety. Moving towards a greener and cleaner future, environment-centric policies have helped accelerate the adoption of bio-based materials fuelling palm oil’s divergence further into the chemical and energy sectors. To advance the industry’s commitment towards sustainability, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification was made mandatory embedded as a national policy. With it becoming effective from 1 January 2020, it is anticipated that demand for certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) will soar and for those who heed the content of the MSPO will come to realise that sustainability lies beyond forests. In general, 2019 was indeed a challenging year for the palm oil industry as a whole, however, this could be deemed a blessing in disguise as the industry has not only risen to the occasion but has proven to be a force to be reckoned with.

Bipolaris sorokiniana: A POTENTIAL INDIGENOUS PLANT PATHOGEN TO CONTROL GOOSEGRASS (Eleusine indica) IN OIL PALM PLANTATIONS

Indigenous plant pathogens, namely Bipolaris sorokiniana, Phoma herbarum and Curvularia aeria, were evaluated in the nursery to assess their potential of controlling goosegrass (Eleusine indica). Two experiments were conducted, which involved pathogenicity test and host range test. The pathogenicity test showed that B. sorokiniana was more pathogenic to E. indica compared to P. herbarum and C. aeria. Infection of B. sorokiniana on E. indica occurred on the fifth day after inoculation, with 2 x 106 CFU ml-1. On the Day 35 after treatment, B. sorokiniana caused 94% disease severity, the highest damage compared to the other two fungal plant pathogens. The increase in disease severity affected E. indica’s growth, causing dry weight losses of up to 28.5 g, which was significantly lower than the dry weight of E. indica treated with C. aeria (39.5 g) and untreated control (39.2 g). Nevertheless, B. sorokiniana did not infect oil palm seedlings. In other host plants, such as tomato, lady finger, sweet corn, chives, banana, eggplant, chili, sweet potato, Napier grass and spinach, B. sorokiniana only caused mild disease severity ranging from 10% to 20%. Therefore, this study suggests that B. sorokiniana may have the potential to be used as a biological control agent for E. indica in oil palm plantations.

SELECTION OF OIL PALM MALE PARENTS FOR OPTIMAL PLANTING DENSITY ESTIMATED FROM MATURE CROWN SURFACE

Our study on selecting pisifera male parents aims at determining yield per palm as well as the optimal planting density of the tenera offspring. The data pattern came from dura x pisifera testcrosses, planted at 135 and 160 palms ha-1 in North Sumatra, Indonesia from which the breeding values of 15 pisifera parents of Ghana origin are estimated. Optimal palm densities were assessed from the leaf surface at mature canopy, obtained from the product of number of green leaves with the (asymptotic) maximum leaf area (0.95 L-max), inferred from a logistic growth curve fitted through leaf area values versus palm age. The time to reach the optimum values ranged between 5.5 to 7.9 years after planting. Amount of light under the palms, measured by the vigor of Mucuna cover crop, scored 50 and 67 months after planting (cc-score), considerably varied among pisifera. The clear negative correlation between yield and cc-score reveals that male parents selected for yield during the early years of production may generate tenera offspring palms that are highly lightcompetitive later on. To circumvent this drawback, this study suggests to select pisifera parents for yield per hectare at optimal palm density instead of yield per palm.

INFLUENCE OF POLYGLYCEROL ESTER ADDITIVE ON PALM OIL FRACTIONATION IN RELATION TO THE CRYSTAL SIZE DISTRIBUTION

The effect of polyglycerol ester (PGEmix-8) additive on palm oil fractionation was studied at isothermal temperature of 24°C. Sampling was conducted at 20 min intervals to determine the solid fat content (SFC) of the slurries and the yield and compositions of the olein and stearin fractions. The peak of crystal size distribution was reduced from 100 μm to an average of 70 μm when 0.1% (w/w) to 0.5% (w/w) of PGEmix-8 were added in palm oil. The peak value was further reduced to 35 μm when 0.7% (w/w) additive was used. In spite of this, the SFC of the slurries remained unchanged during the isothermal crystallisation. These results show that PGEmix-8 had influenced the crystal size distribution without affecting the volume of the crystals formed. The fractionation results showed that olein yield increased about 3% to 6% but the triacylglycerol composition of the oleins were comparable with the control. An increase of saturation and a reduction of monounsaturation content in the stearin fractions were observed with increasing PGEmix-8 addition. These results implied that the increase in olein yield was due to less olein entrainment as a result of the more homogeneous and smaller crystals of the palm oil slurries.