Future prospects for oil palm in the 21st century: Biological and related challenges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract Oil palm is currently at a historic crossroads as regards its future prospects as a versatile global oil crop. In 2005, oil palm became the world's leading commercial source of vegetable oil, and the continued expansion of Asian economies augers well for further growth in production. There are several significant challenges that face the oil palm industry, both biological and non-biological. The major biological and managerial challenge will be to tackle the stagnating yield that has characterised average plantation output over the past decade. Yield can be enhanced by developing and efficiently propagating/distributing improved germplasm for both large plantations and smallholders. Improved biocontrol of major pests and diseases, such as Ganoderma and rhinoceros beetle, will also have a significant impact. Oil quality can be improved by diversifying fatty acid composition to produce high-oleate varieties for mainstream edible/oleochemical use, as well as other useful acyl compositions, including nutraceutical components and enhanced vitamin A and E contents for higher-value niche markets. The whole spectrum of breeding approaches, from DNA marker-assisted selection to genetic engineering, is being deployed to meet these objectives. One of the potential threats to the future growth of oil palm as a source of high-quality foods and oleochemicals is the rapid emergence of biodiesel, which might destabilise the industry in the short term and adversely impact on its image and attractiveness for longer-term investment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296 - 306
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Lipid Science and Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2007


  • biotechnology
  • high-oleic
  • oil quality
  • fatty acids
  • oleochemicals


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