Because of the ending oil reserves and the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it is essential to move in the near future from a petrochemical economy into a bio-based one. KeyGene uses its powerful technology platforms to contribute to the production of bio-based fuels. Below are examples of some of the projects we’ve delivered.

Oil palm breeding accelerated

KeyGene and Felda Global Ventures (FGV)
The application of Marker Assisted Selection in oil palm breeding

FGVAbout oil palm
Palm oil is an important ingredient in our daily life. It’s one of the components in margarine, cereals, crisps, sweets and baked goods but also in soaps, washing powder and cosmetics. Next to this palm oil is used for the production of biodiesel. Palm oil production from both the flesh and kernel of the fruit is highly efficient; each fruit contains 50% oil. Although planted on only 3% of the world’s total vegetable oil acreage, palm oil accounts for 33% of vegetable oil and 45% of edible oil worldwide. Source: www.greenpalm.org

fruit forms oil palmChallenge in oil palm breeding: selection desired fruit takes at least 3 years of growing
Oil palm breeding is not a straight forward and short term process. On the one hand breeding oil palm comprises several intercrosses to obtain the high oil yielding thin-shelled fruit and on the other hand there is the time-consuming and labor intensive process of maintaining the oil palm plants until flowering and seed production. It takes  at least 3 years of growing before the desired fruit type can be selected and until that time as many plants as possible from the involved crosses have to be maintained in the field.

Solution: marker assisted selection of oil palm seedlings
Genetic markers have already proven their usefulness in molecular breeding for numerous crops. In order to exploit molecular breeding knowledge and experience in oil palm breeding, KeyGene and FGV started a collaboration in the second half of 2012. Goal: identification of a genetic marker which is closely linked to the SHELL gene, which is responsible for the fruit shell type. KeyGene’s Sequence Based Genotyping technology (SBG) was used to generate genetic markers. This technology enables the discovery of genetic markers in high throughput manner without any prior knowledge of the genome sequence.

Felda Global VenturesSaving time and reducing costs
Diagnostic DNA assays for the SHELL gene can be used to identify unwanted plants in the nursery. In this way fewer plants have to be maintained and grown and costs of trialing, field management and the required acreage will decrease. Alternatively more crosses can be set up and monitored at the same costs. The costs for the development of an improved oil palm genotype using conventional breeding are ca. € 110.000/year and will take 10 years. The largest part of these costs is related to maintaining and taking care of the plants in the field comprising 20 ha for the complete period of 10 years. Development of a new oil palm genotype using marker assisted selection costs ca. € 28.000/year. This significant reduction in costs is possible because less plants have to be kept in the field and as a consequence the required acreage is decreased to 5 ha at the end of the breeding process. 30% gain in time and 75% reduced costs!

What is your challenge in breeding?

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