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.
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.