Elegant native to the Gulf of Guinea is the oil palm. Because of its oil-rich fruits, Elaeis guineensis gets its name from the ancient Greek word elaia, which signifies olive. It has long been used as food in tropical Africa’s gathering economy.
The first source of vegetable fats on the global market today, palm oil is made from the pulp of oil palm fruits and is a key component of food security in Asia and the tropical belt.
The industry is occasionally heavily criticized for its effects on the ecology and deforestation, which is a drawback of this success.
This book incorporates the work done in terms of the sustainable development of oil palm since the early 2000s, which could swiftly lead to certification of the sector that assures good practices.
It is based on the scientific and technological information acquired by CIRAD researchers and specialists.
This book examines all facets of the plant and its products, including market, morphology and biology, creation and operation of a palm grove with an analysis of its socioeconomic and environmental effects, extraction and use of products and byproducts, and occupational safety and health.
It also addresses the effects of palm oil consumption on human health.
This technical manual is written in straightforward language and is primarily targeted at a large group of industry specialists. It will also serve as a resource for academics and scholars interested in learning more about this species.
Description of oil palm
Elaeis guineensis is a palm with a single, straight stipe of the same thickness throughout its height. It can reach 20 to 30 m in height for a thickness of 60 cm. Its growth is relatively rapid for a palm tree, especially when it is young. It wears a rounded regular crown.
Its leaves, long and pinnate, measure from 3 to 7 m. The rachis and petioles are spiny. The petioles are particularly thick and robust, they stay on the trunk for a while while the palms are dried and cut before falling to leave a smoother barter.
The hollows between these very robust petioles and the stipe are very suitable for the habitat of epiphytic plants (ferns, orchids, bromeliads) or small animals: when it is not in monoculture, nor abundantly treated, the oil palm is good for biodiversity.
The inflorescences develop from the axils of the leaves, the species is monoecious, but the male flowers and the female flowers are on different scapes. These flowers are off-white.
The fruits are fleshy, orange drupes containing a hard seed: seeds and fruit are rich in lipids. These palms produce quantities. The seeds, kernels or kernels are called palm kernels.
In a tropical zone with a regular climate, Olaeis guineensis produces twice a month, all year round, which gives it extreme profitability.
How to grow oil palm?
Olaeis guineensis is not hardy: its leaves are damaged as soon as the temperature approaches zero degrees Celsius. Its cultivation in the ground is therefore reserved for a non-frost-prone climate.
It is tolerant on the nature of the soil that it supports from very acid to neutral, even slightly alkaline, it accepts sandy, gravelly soil, but also heavy clay. However, it needs a substrate that is always moist.
In rich soil, it grows rapidly. The oil palm needs sunshine, a sunny exposure to partial shade, but young individuals tolerate shade more.
This palm does not develop a large hairy root, which is why it is sometimes grown at the edge of the vegetable patch. However, this makes it susceptible to uprooting by the wind, but on the other hand, allows it to be grown more easily in pots. It is because of these short roots that the soil must test cool to moist all the time.
As a young plant with a short trunk, Elaeis guineensis makes a beautiful ornamental palm, with fine and flexible foliage, of relatively rapid growth, to be cultivated either in a frost-free climate zone, or in a veranda, in a tropical greenhouse or in a large commercial hall.
The variegated forms or the Idolatrica variety, with undivided palms, are highly sought after. On the other hand in the greenhouse, the hollow of its petioles is ideal for growing orchids or other epiphytes.
Use of oil palm
Palm oil, refined, is made from the flesh of the fruit which contains 50% fat; it is widely used in food as a vegetable oil: to make frying oil, margarine, ice cream, in baking fat.
This oil contains saturated fatty acids. Palm kernel oil, the palm kernel being the kernel or seed, has different properties, similar to those of coconut oil. It also has many food uses.
Residual oils from refining are used in cosmetology, also to produce soaps and detergents. Palm kernel oil makes a high quality soap. In industry, it is used as a lubricant and in the plastics industry. The oils of Elaeis guineensis can be transformed into methanol, a substitute for diesel.
hearts of palm
The palm hearts of Elaeis guineensis are eaten as a vegetable; harvesting them leads to the death of this palm tree. The sap collected in quantity during slaughter is rich in sugar, it makes a cold drink or is transformed into strong alcohol.
Traditional medicinal uses are quite numerous in Africa: palm oil is an emollient, commonly used in ointments. The roots are used as analgesics. The palms are used in thatch or basketry.
Agroforestry: Elaeis guineensis is used for the remediation of degraded areas, or cultivated in mixture with lower crops.
How to sow oil palm?
Apart from in vitro propagation, sowing is the only way to propagate this palm. The seeds germinate in heat (between 22 and 30°C) and humidity, but in 3 to 6 months. Which requires patience. Each will be sown in an individual pot, which must be high (cut bottles can be used).
The earth will be rich, fertile and flexible, so that the root sinks without resistance. To avoid monitoring the watering of this pot of seedlings for 6 months, it will be covered or kept smothered.
Did you know ?
If Elaeis guineensis is a formidable plant species particularly useful for humans, its industrial exploitation is completely disastrous, both humanly and from the point of view of biodiversity.
The high productivity of the oil palm has led to extensive intensive agriculture which unfortunately destroys hectares and hectares of tropical forests in America, Africa and Asia, it is moreover a culture imposed most often without respect for human rights. the man. The human and ecological consequences are catastrophic.