Journal of Oil Palm Research Vol. 32 (3) September 2020, p. 420-426



Published Online: 30 June 2020

At the beginning of the oil palm industry at the turn of the 20th century, commercial plantations utilised the thick-shell thin-mesocarp dura planting materials. The breeds were unconsciously and informally selected from the ‘best-looking’ palms and fruits in the African palm groves or in subsequent decorative avenues elsewhere. Discovery of the single gene inheritance for shell thickness led to the use of the thinner- shell thicker oil-bearing mesocarp dura x pisifera (DxP) cultivated variety (cultivar). However, oil palm breeding populations had been derived from few ancestral palms, which hindered selection progress. The basic population of the maternal line in breeding programmes is almost exclusively the Deli dura. Improvements of tenera/pisifera paternal lines were mainly the AVROS, La Me and Yangambi populations. Malaysian oil palm breeders widely practiced the modified recurrent selection (MRS) in improvement programmes. Subsequent parental inbred lines developed in recurrent selections, crossed and progeny tested exploiting heterosis had boosted bunch and oil yields. The MRS allows incorporation of new genes into the parental lines; and coupled with the need to widen the genetic pool, wild Elaeis guineensis and E. oleifera germplasms were prospected in centres of origin and diversity in Africa and Latin America, respectively. Besides breeding for bunch and oil yields, secondary traits such as dwarfism, oil quality and phytonutrient contents are incorporated in developing PS series new varieties for niche purposes. A notable cultivar is PS1 characterised by short palm height. It takes more than 20 years from collection in the wild to the release of new cultivar. To speed up selection and release of cultivar, the preliminarily selected breeding materials are shared among local industry breeders for further breeding and improvements. In addition to quantitative genetics, further strides in cultivar development are supported by tissue culture, biotechnology and genomics. New varieties are registered based on the Test Guidelines for new, distinct, uniform and stable (DUS) of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). Commercial production and sale of oil palm planting materials in Malaysia are regulated by law. Oil palm seed producers must be a registered company, financially sound and has a competent breeder. Seeds and seedlings for commercial sale must fulfill the requirements of Malaysian Standard MS157 (seeds) or MS2099 (clones) and subscribe to relevant certification schemes. Companies must obtain the license to produce, store, shipping and handling of the planting materials. Field performance of commercial oil palm planting materials are regularly evaluated in comparative trials.


* Malaysian Palm Oil Board, 6 Persiaran Institusi, Bandar Baru Bangi, 43000 Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia. E-mail: