Courses, the genetic improvement program and leaf length in compact palms

COURSES ON OIL PALM CULTIVATION

ASD has a long history of organizing training courses on oil palm cultivation. These courses have been taught mostly in Costa Rica, but also in other countries. The last international course for Spanish-speaking agronomists and agricultural technicians was given in Costa Rica in July 2010, and the next one is being prepared for July 4-22, 2011. We remind you that space in these courses is limited and normally the demand is great, so if your company is interested in participating, we recommend you to see our ad on this website.

Content:

  • Morphology and physiology
  • Climatic and soil
  • Genetic improvement
  • Commercial seed production and processing
  • Clonal propagation
  • Nursery planning and management
  • Planning for planting and infrastructure
  • Land preparation
  • Planting and maintenance of the young plantings
  • Management of weends and ground cover
  • Nutrition and fertilization
  • Integrated phytosanitary problem management
  • Harvest, pruning and fruit transport
  • Quality controls for agricultural operations
  • General information about extractors and by-product treatment
  • Administrative aspects
  • Prospects for the future of the business

GENETIC IMPROVEMENT AND COMMERCIAL SEED PRODUCTION AT ASD

Brief history and objectives of the program. ASD de Costa Rica was created in 1986 as a company specialized in the development of oil palm seed and clone varieties. The diversity of palm origins and types in ASD’s germplasm bank has allowed it to develop new and unique seed and clone varieties since the 1970s. The development of these varieties is supported by an improvement program that uses not only the broad genetic base available and traditional breeding, but also modern techniques based on molecular markers and gene sequencing.

ASD works permanently on developing new planting materials with high potential for the production of fruit bunches with the highest content of the best quality oil, less vegetative development and better adaptation to new and diverse environments. However, the permanent improvement of traditional varieties is not left out and the search and selection of parent palms with higher production, less vegetative growth and greater adaptability to different environments is maintained.

The program management is also responsible for genetic seed production programs, molecular biology research and the personnel that manage the experimental farm.

Our oil palm genetic improvement program is located in the Coto region, in the southern Pacific of Costa Rica (50 meters above sea level, Corredores canton, Puntarenas province, at 5° 77" west longitude and 2° 87" north latitude) . The region has a tropical climate, with temperatures between 22 and 34° C, an annual precipitation close to 4,000 mm and a solar radiation less than 15 MJ/m2/day; its soils are inceptisols and entisols of alluvial origin, poor to moderately well drained and with good natural fertility.

In these environmental conditions, traditional oil palm varieties such as Deli x AVROS, Deli x Ekona and Deli x Yangambi grow vigorously, with a rate of increase in annual trunk height of 60 or more centimeters and with leaves that reach eight or more meters in length. Due to the above, it is considered that Coto has excellent conditions for the genetic improvement of oil palm, since there are no factors that mask the expression of vegetative and bunch traits; which is particularly important for the selection of palms with slow-growing trunks and short leaves that can be planted at high density.

Personnel. Approximately 150 people work in the genetic improvement and research program, including professionals, field and laboratory supervisors and operational personnel. They are responsible for research, development of new seed and clone varieties, maintenance of experimental lots and seed production.

The experimental area. Our experimental station is divided into two farms and 13 lots, where diverse experiments are planted, in addition to the progenitor palms (for seed production) and the ortets (superior palms) that give rise to the clones. The total area is 600 ha, with a basic infrastructure comprising 70,447 meters of natural waterways and drainages and 61,500 meters of roads. Of the total area, 6.5% is dedicated to commercial seed production (mother palms), and 0.5% comprises the pollen source palms (pisifera: for commercial seed production and for experimental purposes). Approximately 3% of the area contains oleifera palms and OxG hybrids, and the remaining 90% is devoted to progeny trials and the germplasm bank.

As of 2006, plantings in new areas and the renewal of old palms in the experimental area intensified. In total, 300 ha were planted with descendants of almost all the populations of the ASD germplasm bank. From these new plantings, the intention is to develop new generations of male and female parents of guineensis, compact and oleifera populations.

In parallel, progeny trials were established to evaluate the behavior of the palms selected as progenitors. This will make a more orderly cycle in the selection and improvement process of the ASD program, hoping to improve it even more in the next ten year cycle.

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ASD varieties have a high oil production potential

From this generation we expect to obtain a new group of African Deli dura and compact mother palms that will allow us to considerably increase our seed production capacity, mainly from compact and stress-tolerant varieties. We expect that by late 2013 we will have more than 8,000 mother palms, as well as a sufficient number of guineensis and compact pisifera palms that will supply the pollen needed for the next 15 years.

Seed production. Since its creation, ASD has exported more than 262 million seeds to practically all the oil palm producing countries of the world; which means about 1.45 million hectares are planted with these materials.

At present, the program has 5,550 guineensis and compact mother palms (4,600 of Deli origin and 450 compact palms derived from the second backcross of the original compact palm). In addition to this, there are 200 mother palms of African dura, Bamenda and Tanzania origins. In a period of approximately two years, new mother palms will be available, especially Deli and compact ones, which will be selected from the population that was planted in 2008.

The organization of our program allowed the production of nearly 60 million seeds in 2010 to be processed for commercial sale (not all of these, of course, finally reach the market given the strict quality standards for commercial germinated seed) . The Deli x Nigeria nigrescens, Deli x Ghana and Deli x Nigeria virescens varieties accounted for most of the total volume produced.

From this generation we expect to obtain a new group of African Deli dura and compact mother palms that will considerably increase our seed production capacity, mainly for compact and stress-tolerant varieties. It is expected that at the end of 2013 we will have more than 8,000 mother palms, as well as a sufficient number of guineensis and compact pisifera palms to meet pollen needs for the next 15 years.

Seed production. Since its creation, ASD has exported more than 262 million seeds to practically all the oil palm producing countries of the world, which means about 1.45 million hectares are planted with these materials.

At present, the program has 5,550 guineensis and compact mother palms (4,600 of Deli origin and 450 compact palms derived from the second backcross of the original compact palm). In addition to this, there are 200 mother palms of African dura, Bamenda and Tanzania origins. In a period of approximately two years, new mother palms will be available, especially Deli and compact ones, which will be selected from the population that was planted in 2008.

The organization of our program allowed the production of nearly 60 million seeds in 2010 to be processed for commercial sale (not all of these, of course, finally reach the market given the strict quality standards for commercial germinated seed) . The Deli x Nigeria nigrescens, Deli x Ghana and Deli x Nigeria virescens varieties accounted for most of the total volume produced.

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ASD has developed unique technology for processing oil palm seed while maintaining quality

VARIABILITY IN LEAF LENGHT

One of the important objectives of the breeding program is to obtain varieties with short leaves that can be planted at higher densities (160 or more plants/ha) than the traditional ones (136-143 plants/ha). A clear strength of ASD in this effort is the great genetic variability it possesses. The following figure shows an example (field experiment) of this variability in the length of the leaf, which indicates the availability of genes that can be used for the search and selection of genotypes with short leaves.

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Variation in leaf length (cm) within and between origins (varieties) in 54 month old palms from a particular experiment

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Comparison of leaf length between 'standard' and a compact varieties. Five-year-old palms.