PT SMART Tbk, a subsidiary of Singaporean palm oil company Golden-Agri Resources Ltd, announced on 22 May that it had cultivated high-yielding oil palm planting materials that could “substantially” increase the yields from its oil palm plantations without increasing land use.

The two materials – called Eka 1 and Eka 2 – were developed at the SMART Research Institute and SMART’s Biotechnology Centre naturally through a conventional selection programme and tissue culture from “elite palms”.

“Tissue culture helps us propagate planting materials through a non-GMO process that produces more CPO and, in the near future, it will help to produce planting materials that make better use of nutrients and are more resistant to both disease and drought,” said SMART’s head of plant production and biotechnology division Tony Liwang.

The materials could increase SMART’s crude palm oil (CPO) yield to more than 10 tonnes/ha/year at the prime palm production age of 8-10 years from its current yield of 7.5-8 tonnes/ha/year under optimal soil conditions, according to the company.

Indonesia’s industry average yield was still under 4 tonnes/ha/year, SMART said.

“With the success to date of our tissue culture programme, we can expect to see substantially higher yields with Eka 1 and Eka 2 and greater oil extraction levels from the fruit itself,” Liwang said.

SMART expected the Eka 1 seedling to produce 10.8 tonnes/ha of CPO at prime maturity, with oil extraction levels of 32% due to increased oil ratio in the fruit, while the Eka 2 seedlings were projected to yield an even greater 13 tonnes/ha and 36% oil extraction.

Furthermore, the company expected the seedlings to reach the first harvest in 24 months, in contrast to the current industry average of 30 months.

It intended to multiply the seedling clones through tissue culture over the next five years to cultivate a sufficient quantity to plant over a “larger commercial area” by 2022.

SMART first started developing the materials in 2007, when its research team studied more than 4,000 oil palm trees for differing varieties, with field technicians selecting and breeding the optimal specimens over the next ten years.

The first clonal seedlings were planted in 2011 and following several trials and commercial pilots, Golden-Agri Resources had by 2016 planted the materials in Sumatra and West Kalimantan in Indonesia.