Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Oil Palm in the 2020s and Beyond: Challenges and Solutions

Version 1 : Received: 4 December 2020 / Approved: 7 December 2020 / Online: 7 December 2020 (08:50:30 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Murphy, D.J.; Goggin, K.; Paterson, R.R.M. Oil Palm in the 2020s and beyond: Challenges and Solutions. CABI Agriculture and Bioscience 2021, 2, doi:10.1186/s43170-021-00058-3. Murphy, D.J.; Goggin, K.; Paterson, R.R.M. Oil Palm in the 2020s and beyond: Challenges and Solutions. CABI Agriculture and Bioscience 2021, 2, doi:10.1186/s43170-021-00058-3.


Background Oil palm (OP), Elaeis guineensis , is by far the most important global oil crop, supplying about 40% of total traded vegetable oil. Palm oils are key dietary components consumed daily by over three billion people, mostly in Asia, and also have a wide range of important non-food uses including in cleansing and sanitising products. Main body Oil palm is a perennial crop with a >25-year life cycle and an exceptionally small land footprint compared to annual oilseed crops. Oil palm crops globally produce an annual 81 million tonnes (Mt) of oil from about 19 million hectares (Mha). In contrast, the second and third largest vegetable oil crops, soybean and rapeseed, yield a combined 84 Mt oil but occupy over 163 Mha of increasingly scarce arable land. Despite this advantage, oil palm has acquired a poor environmental reputation, especially in Europe and North America, although soybean planting is now responsible for more deforestation. Oil palm crops face other challenges in the 2020s. On the demand side, these include changing consumer purchasing habits, threats to global trade systems, and diminishing demand for liquid fuels as transport systems become increasingly electrified. On the supply side, major issues include stagnant yields in ageing plantations, sluggish replanting of improved varieties, labour shortages, diseases and climatic/ environmental threats. The latter include the increasing incidence of new and existing pests/diseases and a general lack of climatic resilience, especially relating to elevated temperatures and increasingly erratic rainfall patterns. This review surveys the oil palm sector in the 2020s and beyond, its major challenges and options for future progress. Conclusions Oil palm crops face many future challenges, including emerging threats from climate change and new pests and diseases, that require more effective international collaboration. Nevertheless, new breeding technologies are providing the promise of improvements, such as much higher yielding varieties, improved oil profiles, enhanced disease resistance and modified crop architecture to enable harvesting mechanisation. The industry also needs to redouble its efforts to engage with global consumers in a constructive dialogue aimed at addressing its image problem and explaining the many benefits of its products.


oil palm; breeding; sustainability; certification; diseases; basal stem rot; phytophthora; climate change; modelling; supply chains; biodiesel; covid-19


Biology and Life Sciences, Anatomy and Physiology

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