Genome Publication

Publishing the oil palm genome sequence


 

At Sime Darby Plantation, we’re putting our research on the oil palm genome into the public domain to enable others to accelerate their research on increasing the yield of palm oil - so that across the industry we can produce more oil with less land. This is another important step in our ambition to draw the line on deforestation for us and for the industry.

A genome is the code of life: it is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes, made up of mapped sequences. Each genome contains the information needed to build, grow and maintain that organism. 

 

We have worked to map the genetic sequence of the oil palm, filling in gaps to create a complete map and to identify genetic markers that signal traits that we develop in our breeding programmes to produce better planting materials. So, the genome sequence we’re sharing is 79% more detailed than anything publicly available previously and the result of over a decade of research led by our Chief R&D Officer, Dr Harikrishna Kulaveerasingam.
 
The company has invested over RM150 million into R&D and established one of the largest genotyping labs in Southeast Asia. From the outset, our work has been guided by our Scientific Advisory Committee, chaired by Professor Anthony J. Sinskey from MIT and made up of eminent scientists from world-leading academic institutions.
 
At Sime Darby Plantation, we have the ability to take our lab-based research directly into the plantation, which is a huge asset in delivering real progress on improved yield. We are able to see our fundamental research applied in practice in the field and learn how different planting materials perform in different real-world conditions. This has already enabled us to produce higher yielding seeds, called GenomeSelectTM, which in their first commercial harvest demonstrated 20% increase in yield compared to our best planting material to date.
 
Since 2018, we have used AI and data analytics to process unprecedented amounts of genomic data and worked in partnership with the University of Nottingham to revisit our early work and produce the fuller version of the oil palm’s genetic map. That has helped us identify the genetic markers for traits that will be vital for the future success of palm oil production, including climate resilience, disease tolerance and ease of harvesting. We’re expanding our R&D and breeding programs on these fronts to further improve yield through more stable harvests in an industry already feeling the dramatic effects of climate-change.
 
 
By sharing the results of our research, we hope to fuel the research of others in the sector, whether major producers like ourselves or academic institutions and scientific centers. The new sequence has relevance beyond oil palm for other palm industries, such as date and coconut, that are also seeking to modernise and step change their ability to produce more crop from less land, as other agricultural industries have already done.
 
Sime Darby Plantation is proud to be publishing the palm oil genome because we believe that breakthrough innovation in yield opens up a new avenue for our industry to meet demand for growth while drawing the line on deforestation. 



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