An oil palm has a productive life of around 25 years, so the quality of seeds can make have an enormous impact on yields and therefore a farmer’s income.
Asian Agri has been developing its own seeds for decades, helping smallholder farmers to grow bigger harvests without increasing their land area.
Ang Boon Beng, Topaz Seeds Senior Breeder Asian Agri says that smallholders often lack access to the latest tools and techniques – and that includes quality plant materials.
“We are conscious of that so we step in to provide the needed support,” Ang said.
One way that Asian Agri has been doing this is through the sale of Topaz palm oil seeds to smallholders in Indonesia. The Topaz seeds are developed by a team of 21 researchers at Asian Agri’s Oil Palm Research Station (OPRS), who combine plant material sourced from around the world to create seeds that provide superior yields in a variety of environments.
Topaz palm seeds offer two major benefits to any palm oil farmer: adaptability to marginal land, and high-yield capability.
The seeds recently attracted the attention of Indonesian President Joko Widodo during a visit to Asian Agri’s booth at a trade event held at Indonesia Convention Exhibition Serpong, Indonesia in October 2017
OPRS routinely runs various tests on Topaz seeds to ascertain their productivity potential in different soil conditions.
“When we talk about marginal land, we talk about very infertile land – the term is used for hostile, infertile soil – an environment that is not so conducive to oil palms. But we have developed materials which are quite well-adapted even in such situations,” Ang explained.
Asian Agri’s Topaz palm oil seeds come in 4 varieties: Topaz 1, Topaz 2, Topaz 3 and Topaz 4.
The difference between the varieties is basically the pisifera (the male plant) used in breeding them, Ang clarifies.
Topaz 1 is a cross between Deli dura and pisifera from Nigeria, while Topaz 2 uses pisifera from Ghana. Topaz 3 uses pisifera from Ekona (in Cameroon), while Topaz 4 uses pisifera from Yangambi (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Topaz 1 and 3 seeds are generally more popular among customers, particularly the high-yielding Topaz 1 which produce fresh fruit bunches (FFB) which are bright orange.
“In terms of productivity, you can surmise that Topaz 1 has got a very good yield potential because it produces a lot of female flowers which in turn create fruit if the plant is fertilised with pollen,” Ang says.
Palm oil trees grown using Topaz seeds also have slow vertical growth.
“This means that the palm tree will remain relatively short, and if it is short, it is much easier to harvest its fruit.
“The palm tree doesn’t increase in height when it grows older either,” Ang added. Uncertified seeds, on the other hand, result in palm trees which “invariably lack growth uniformity, take longer to reach maturity, and produce significantly lower FFB and crude palm oil yields arising from inferior fruit bunches.”
With a capacity of 25 million germinated seeds per year, Asian Agri is currently the third biggest seller of palm oil seeds in Indonesia. The company sold 10 million out of the 70 million seeds consumed in Indonesia in 2016.
“Our own company takes up about 5 per cent of the seeds, while the rest goes to customers (comprising) other companies and smallholders. Smallholders take up only about 1 to 1.5 per cent of our seeds. Nevertheless, we put a lot of emphasis into ensuring that our good quality seeds go to them,” Ang stated.
Ang shared that Topaz seed production is now carried out in line with the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System (QMS), an upgrade from the ISO 9001:2008 system which was used prior to the beginning of 2017.
“The ISO provides us with leverage to make sure that our operations are efficient, that we monitor and always audit internally in line with ideal expectations. It’s disciplinary in its function and we enforce it,” Ang said.
Ang also elaborated that employing a QMS is just another way that the company focuses on customer satisfaction.
“Customers buy our seeds with expectations that they will be able to develop a plantation which will give them high yields – that’s our core interpretation,” he said.
At the moment, customers can only buy Topaz seeds through one outlet: Asian Agri’s Pekanbaru office.
“We monitor the security of our fields in a way that there is no excuse for anyone to say that they have access to our material, while they use uncertified seeds for sale and claim them to be authentic Topaz seeds,” Ang clarifies.
For more information and sales enquires of Topaz Seed click here.