Tissue Culture

Clonal propagation of oil palm with in vitro culture

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In 2000, ASD’s new tissue culture laboratory began operating, which has a production capacity of around 500,000 ramets (plantlets) per year. The building that houses it covers 1400 m2 and it was built in a modular way in the event production capacity must be increased in the future.

The laboratory is divided into three main sections: an area with a clean and controlled environment (rooms for growth, a work room with laminar flow chambers, and a room for the storage of ready-made media), laboratory area (preparation of media, reagent storage and cleaning of glassware) and offices for scientific and administrative personnel.

The oil palm cloning process includes the following stages:

  • Selection of ortets (exceptional palms) in the field
  • Obtaining explants (tissue from the ortet to be taken to the laboratory)
  • Induction of embryogenesis
  • Generation of shoots
  • Rooting
  • Acclimatization of the ramets
  • Evaluation of clones in the field

The ortets to be cloned are selected mainly for their high oil production and smaller size (short trunks and leaves). Other types of palms that are cloned are outstanding pisiferas that are used as a pollen source and also mothers (dura palms) for commercial seed production (tenera).

The explants (tissue for culture in vitro) used in the ASD laboratory are segments of inflorescences in the development phase, which is an important difference with other laboratories in the world that use young leaves or roots. Under favorable conditions and depending on the type and origin of the palm (ortet), the explants produce a white pearl tissue called embryogenic, with or without the previous formation of a structure called a callus. The embryogenic tissue is multiplied by adventitious embryogenesis, giving rise to polyembryogenic masses that develop a large number of small shoots. The shoots are separated and subjected to a treatment to induce rooting, after which the plantlets are ready to be transferred to the greenhouse for acclimatization.

The ASD laboratory has produced approximately 3,000,000 plantlets of clonal origin from more than 100 ortets to date. Only some clones planted between 1994 and 2005 had a low percentage of floral abnormality (<2%). However, such abnormality has not been observed in the most recent plantings.