Oil palm is the world's most productive oil-food crop despite yielding well below its theoretical maximum. This maximum could be approached with the introduction of elite F1 varieties. The development of such elite lines has thus far been prevented by difficulties in generating homozygous parental types for F1 generation.
Here we present the first high-throughput screen to identify spontaneously-formed haploid (H) and doubled haploid (DH) palms. We secured over 1,000 Hs and one DH from genetically diverse material and derived further DH/mixoploid palms from Hs using colchicine. We demonstrated viability of pollen from H plants and expect to generate 100% homogeneous F1 seed from intercrosses between DH/mixoploids once they develop female inflorescences.
This study has generated genetically diverse H/DH palms from which parental clones can be selected in sufficient numbers to enable the commercial-scale breeding of F1 varieties. The anticipated step increase in productivity may help to relieve pressure to extend palm cultivation, and limit further expansion into biodiverse rainforest.