Sustainable Oil Palm Project

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Figure 1. Pile of wastes produced during oil palm replantation that included fronds, fruit bunches and shredded oil palm trunks (OPT)
Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq), native to West Africa, is a major commodity of global trade and it is also one of the leading vegetable oils. Till date, oil palm is the highest oil yielding crop. Palm oil alone accounts for a quarter of world’s consumption and it makes up approximately 60% of international trade in vegetable oils. Malaysia is one of the top producers of palm oil in the world. Typically, oil palm is replanted every 25-30 years to maintain continuity in the yield. This practice in turn generates substantial amount of oil palm waste and creates the problem of biomass overload (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2).
Hence, our group focuses on the identification of sustainable biomass waste management practice in Malaysia. This project is funded by Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS), a Japanese government program that promotes international joint research. The outcome of this research may lead to future social and economic benefits not only for Malaysia but also for various Southeast Asian countries. This project is broadly divided into two divisions as below:
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Figure 2. Mounds of felled OPTs after the clearing of old oil palm trees for replantation activity.
1. To investigate the effects of degradation of felled oil palm trunks in the plantation.
2. To develop value-added products for the felled oil palm trunks.

Effects of degradation of felled OPTs in the plantation

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Figure 3. Felled OPTs will be chipped and pulverized to produce shredded OPTs to be added to the compost soil of newly planted palm seedlings. Soil analysis and metagenomic profiling of soil bacteria will be carried out to determine the changes in soil fertility with the addition of shredded OPTs.
In this project (Fig. 3), our team in collaboration with the Japanese researchers are investigating the changes that occur during the felling and degradation of OPT such as:
1. Metagenomics of soil bacteria
2. Soil nutrients and fertility
3. Diseases and pathogenic microorganisms
4. Growth of oil palm and intercrops
This investigation will result in the optimal utilization of OPTs as a nutrient source in the oil palm plantations.

Development of value-added products from felled OPTs

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Figure 4. Felled OPTs will be chipped and pulverized to produce shredded OPTs that will be processed to produce sap. The obtained sap will be assessed for its efficiency as the main nutrient source for biosynthesis of PHA. Purified PHA will be investigated in the application of controlled release fertilizers with OPTs as a filler material. Additionally, combinations of shredded OPTs and purified PHA will also be evaluated as a durable wood-plastic composite material.
Felled OPTs have the potential to be an income generator for plantation holders through the development of value-added products (Fig. 4). Listed below are some of the products that we aim to develop from using felled OPTs as our renewable resource.

  • Production of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) – Production of bioplastic using sap obtained from felled OPTs as a main nutrient source for biosynthesis of PHA.
  • Production of wood-plastic composite – Development of wood-plastic composite from combinations of shredded OPTs and purified PHA.
  • Production of controlled release fertilizer – Development of controlled release fertilizer using shredded OPTs as the filler with purified PHA as the coating material.
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References

  1. Abdul Hamid, Z.A., T. Arai, M.R. Sitti Fatimah, A. Kosugi, O.,Sulaiman, R.,Hashim, S. Nirasawa, T. Ryohei, B.E. Lokesh, K. Sudesh, Y. Murata. (2015) Analysis of free sugar and starch in oil palm trunks (Elaeis Guineensis Jacq.) from various cultivars as a feedstock for bioethanol production. Int. J. Green Energy. 37-41.
  2. Baskaran, M., R. Hashim, M. F. M. Yusoff, S. Bauk, O. Sulaiman, M. Sato, K. Sudesh. (2015) Mass attenuation coefficients of binderless and polylactic acid added oil palm trunk particleboard in the diagnostic energy range. Int. J. Adv. Sci. Eng. Inform. Technol. 5(5): 355-357.
  3. Paramasivam, M., P. Chhajer, A. Kosugi, T. Arai, C. J. Brigham, K. Sudesh. (2016) Production of P(3HB-co-3HHx) with controlled compositions by recombinant Cupriavidus necator Re2058/pCB113 from renewable resources. Clean Soil Air Water. 44(9):1234-1241.
  4. Kunasundari, B., T. Arai, K. Sudesh, R. Hashim, O. Sulaiman, N. J. Stalin, A. Kosugi. (2017) Detoxification of sap from felled oil palm trunks for the efficient production of lactic acid. Appl. Biochem. Biotechnol. 183: 412-425.
  5. Bomrungnok, W., Arai, T., Sudesh, K., Hatta, T. Kosugi, A. (2019) Direct production of polyhydroxybutyrate from waste starch by newly-isolated Bacillus aryabhattai T34-N4. Environ. Technol. 1-11.
  6. Juanssilfero, A. B., Kahar, P., Amza, R. L., Sudesh, K., Ogino, C., Prasetya, B., Kondo, A. (2019) Lipid production by Lipomyces starkeyi using sap squeezed from felled old oil palm trunks. J Biosci. Bioeng. 127(6):726-731.
Oil Palm Project

Ecobiomaterial Laboratory

Lab 409, G09A
School of Biological Sciences
Universiti Sains Malaysia
11800 USM Penang, Malaysia

E-mail: ksudesh@usm.my

Ecobiomaterial Laboratory

Lab 409, G09A
School of Biological Sciences
Universiti Sains Malaysia
11800 USM Penang, Malaysia

E-mail: ksudesh@usm.my

Oil Palm Project
Oil Palm Project
Oil Palm Project