Advances of the molecular biology program

ASD’s molecular biology program only began in 2009, but it has already begun to yield its first fruits in the routine application of molecular markers to generate the genetic fingerprinting of clones and elite pisiferas, varietal identification and the molecular characterization of the ASD germplasm. All this is done with a high degree of precision and reliability, which allows ASD to guarantee the genetic authenticity of any planting material.

With the consolidation of the first projects, the number of microsatellite and AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) markers was increased to produce a genetic map with descendants of a cross of the compact population. For trunk height, three markers were mapped that identified the smallest palms. In addition, three microsatellites that identify palms with the shortest rachis length and three markers for oil content in the mesocarp were mapped. Currently these markers are being validated to determine whether the association can be extended to descendants of different compact crosses. If so, these markers would help track the compact phenotype and they could also be used for the early selection of compact mother or father palms. The fact that oil palm research in other laboratories in the world has focused on the development of trait linkage maps for oil quality, fruit type and fruit color (virescens) stand out. However, the type of research carried out by ASD on vegetative characteristics is not common, as verified at the last congresses of the ISOPB and PIPOC in 2009.

During 2010 we worked with molecular markers designed using bioinformatics tools in a Nigeria population with the virescens trait (green fruit color) on identifying pure virescens, non-pure virescens and pure nigrescens palms. It was determined that within the progeny of "non-pure" tenera x tenera crosses, the "pure" palms could be identified in the nursery stage. In addition, pure progenitors can be separated to generate a 100% virescens variety.

Another ongoing project is the application of molecular markers to identify groups of palms with spear rot tolerance and search for markers associated with the tolerance condition. On the other hand, genes related to the synthesis of fatty acids are being sequenced in order to generate intragenic markers and use them in the future as a method of selecting materials that inherit better quantity and/or quality of oil. The basis of this work was the characterization of the fatty acid profile (using chromatography), of different guineensis and oleifera materials. The study will emphasize the compact materials to complement the growth markers with ones for oil composition.

The work with molecular markers is fostering practical applications in the short and medium term in the genetic improvement program, to make the creation of new varieties more efficient. This is partly due to the benefit of the genetic analyzer (sequencer) in our laboratory, with which molecular markers (microsatellites and AFLP) are rapidly and efficiently analyzed with high precision.