Oil palm is one of palm trees producing oil (of industrial and edible use) and world over the consumption of palm oil is maximum among the different edible oils. Ever rising consumption of vegetable oils with respect to increasing population and increase in per capita consumption of edible oil necessitates an alternative crop like oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.), Mainly two species namely Elaeis guineensisand Elaeis oleiferacomprises of oil palm. Cultivated species mostly dominated by E. guineensis. Oil palm is a cross pollinated crop and pollination takes place through insects, the weevils (Elaeidobius kamerunicus ) .
Inflorescence (Male & Female Flowers) :
Both species of Elaeis (guineensis and oleifera) are monoecious and produce male and female inflorescences separately on the same palm. Each leaf axil has one floral bud, which differentiates into male/ female inflorescence. In rare cases male and female organs are produced on the same inflorescence (Hermaphrodite). The early development of inflorescence takes 2½ to 3 years, during which it remains completely enclosed by the leaves. Shortly before anthesis, inflorescence emerges from the leaf axil. The inflorescence of both sexes is a compound spike (spadix) with 100-200 branches (spikelets) on which thousand of flowers are borne, initially enclosed in a spathe or bract that splits two weeks prior to anthesis. Flower opening (anthesis) starts first in the basal spikelets of the inflorescence. Within each spikelet flower opening starts first in basal flowers which later progresses to the top. The spikelets are thick and fleshy, develop in axils of spinous bracts and are arranged spirally around a stout rachis of the spikelets.
Each female inflorescence developed into a bunch consisting of 1000-2000 fruits after pollination of the flowers individually. The sepals of the flower are around 2 cm in length and 5-10 such flowers are present in each spikelet. Each female spikelet bears about 10-20 floral clusters containing over 4000 flowers. At anthesis the trifid stigma curves outward and the stigmatic lobes when receptive are white to pale yellow in colour. Later a red stripe develops along those lobes as the flower turns purplish indicating the end of receptivity. Anthesis in a normal inflorescence usually lasts for 36-40 hours, but may be extended to a week in E. guineensis. Several such spikelets form the bunch. Spikelets of female bunches have thorny projections, and the female flowers are situated in between the projections. Each bunch can have few hundreds to a few thousand flowers in it depending upon the genotype and age of the palm. Each male inflorescence may have up to one lakh flower and produces 25-300 gm pollen. Pollens are viable for 6 days after their release from the anther; however, viable pollens can be harvested and stored under desiccation for a few months under controlled conditions.
The fruit consists of the outer exocarp (skin), mesocarp (or pulp rich in oil) and endocarp (hard stony shell surrounding kernel). The fruit development takes place from about the 15th to 19th day after anthesis and oil formation takes place towards the end of maturity during which shell hardens and the embryo becomes viable.
There are three types of oil palm fruits which impart characteristic feature to a palm as:
1. Dura (Mother palm)
2. Pisifera (Male palm)
3. Tenera (Hybrid palm)
Dura: Dura palms have fruits with thick shell (2-8mm in thickness), low to medium mesocarp content (33-55%) and are not commercially grown. These are used as female parent (mother palms) in developing Tenera hybrid.
Pisifera: Pisifera palms are female sterile, shell-less and used as male (pollen) parent in development of Tenera hybrids.
Tenera: This is the commercial planting material which is the cross between Dura (female parent) and Pisifera (male parent). Tenera fruits have thin shell (0.5-4.0mm) with medium to high mesocarp content (60-95%). There is prominent fibre ring in its mesocarp.
Research Institues working on Oil palm:
1. Directorate of oil palm research (DOPR), Pedavegi, Eluru, West Godavari Dist, Andhrapradesh & its Regional station at Palode, Kerala. Link to this site http://dopr.gov.in/
Oil Palm Organizations (International):
- African Oil Palm Development Association (AFOPDA)
- Agricultural Services and Development, Costa Rica (ASD) Link to this site http://www.asd-cr.com/
- Centre de Investigation en Palma de Aceite, Columbia (CENIPALMA)
- Centre de Cooperation Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Development, France (CIRAD)
- Centre National de Recherche Agronomique, Cote d'Ivorie (CNRA)
- Empersa Brasileira de Presquisa Agropecuaria, Brazil (Embrapa)
- Federacion Nacional de Cultivadores de Palma de Aceite, Columbia (FEDEPALMA)
- Indonesian Oil Palm Research Institute, Indonesia (IOPRI)
- Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France (INRA)
- Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Benin (INRAB)
- Institut de Recherche Agricole pour le Developpement, Cameroon (IRAD)
- Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement, France (IRD)
- Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI)
- Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR)
- Oil Palm Research Institute, Ghana (OPRI)
- FELDA, Malaysia
- MPOB, Malaysia
- IDEFOR, Ivory Coast
- DAMI, Papua New Guinea
SRF, Plant Breeding,
Directorate of oil palm Research (DOPR),
Pedavegi-534450, Eluru, West Godavari Dist, Andhrapradesh, India
Email Id: balu...@gmail.com
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