Elaeis guineensis

Elaeis guineensis

The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) Is an arboreal species belonging to the Arecaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Domain Eukaryota,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Liliopsida,
Order Arecales,
Family Arecaceae,
Subfamily Arecoideae,
Tribe Cocoseae,
Subtribe Elaeidinae,
Genus Elaeis,
Species E. guineensis.
The terms are synonymous:
– Elaeis dybowskii Hua;
– Elaeis macrophylla A.Chev. (nom. inval.);
– Elaeis madagascariensis (Jum. & H. Perrier) Becc .;
. Elaeis melanococca Gaertn .;
– Elaeis nigrescens (A.Chev.) Prain (nom. Inval.);
– Elaeis virescens (A.Chev.) Prain;
– Mill oily palm.

Etymology –
The term Elaeis comes from the Greek ἐλαία elaia olive, for fruits rich in oils from the Greek ἐλαία elaia olive, for fruits rich in oils.
The specific guineensis epithet refers to its possible geographical origins in Guinea.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The oil palm is believed to originate in a large area of ​​Africa, in the tropical rainforest region of West Africa in a region about 200-300 km wide along the coastal strip from Liberia to Angola. The palm has extended from latitude 16 ° N in Senegal to 15 ° S in Angola and east into the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar and Malagasy.
In recent times it has been introduced and cultivated in all the tropics between latitudes 16 ° N and S. It is also cultivated as an ornamental plant, as in southern Florida.
The species has naturalized in Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Central America, Cambodia, West Indies, and several islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Its habitat is that of the warm and humid lowlands close to the equator, as it requires an average annual temperature between 24 ° and 27 °, without seasonal fluctuations, so much so that already at the latitude of the tropics it is no longer sufficiently productive. It also needs a constant humid environment, since it draws water from the soil but also from the surrounding environment.

Description –
The oil palm is a plant that can grow to 20 – 30 m tall.
The leaves are pinnate and reach 3-5 m in length. A young palm produces about 30 leaves per year. Palm trees, in the stationary phase, in 10 years produce about 20 leaves per year.
The flowers are carried in dense clusters; each flower is small, with three sepals and three petals.
The fruit, which is a drupa, takes 5-6 months to develop from pollination to maturity. It is reddish in color, with the size of a large plum and grows in large clusters. Each fruit consists of an oily and fleshy outer layer (the pericarp), with only one seed (the palm kernel), also rich in oil. When ripe, each bunch of fruit weighs between 5 and 30 kg depending on the age of the palm.
Each fruit cluster may contain 2,000 fruits.

Cultivation –
For every hectare of oil palm cultivation, which is harvested all year round, the annual production is, on average, around 20 tons, with yields of 4,000 kg of palm oil.
Furthermore, the flour obtained from the kernels is processed to be used as feed for livestock.
All modern and commercial planting material consists of tender palms or DxP hybrids, which are obtained by crossing the thick-shelled hard variety with the shellless pisifera. Although the common germinated commercial seed has the thick shell of the hard mother palm, the resulting palm will produce tender, thin-shelled fruit. An alternative to germinated seed, once mass production constraints are overcome, are tissue-grown or “clonal” palms, which provide identical individuals to high-yielding DxP palms.
As far as propagation is concerned, unlike other plants of the genus, oil palms do not produce offshoots; propagation occurs by sowing.
Different varieties and forms of Elaeis guineensis have been selected for cultivation, which have different characteristics.
– E. guineensis dura;
– E. guineensis pisifera;
– E, guineensis tender.

Customs and Traditions –
The oil palm today is widespread and cultivated in vast tropical areas also in the American continent and especially in Southeast Asia.
The name by which it is more known its fruit is dendè, of Portuguese derivation. In Angola it is called dendem (hence the name of the vernacular).
Elaeis guineensis is the main source of palm oil.
The human use of oil palms dates back to 5,000 years ago in Western Africa; In the late 1800s, archaeologists discovered palm oil in a tomb in Abydos, dating back to 3000 BC. Arab traders are thought to have brought the oil palm to Egypt.
The first Westerner to describe it and report the seeds was the French naturalist Michel Adanson.
Oil palms were introduced to Java by the Dutch in 1848 and to Malaysia (then a British colony of Malaya) in 1910 by the Scotsman William Sime and the English banker Henry Darby. The Elaeis guineensis species was brought to Malaysia from eastern Nigeria in 1961. The southern coast of Nigeria was originally called the palm oil coast by the first Europeans who arrived there and began trading in it.
This area was later renamed Ansa del Biafra.
The oil is extracted from both the pulp of the fruit (palm oil, an edible oil) and from the kernel (palm kernel oil, used in food and for the production of soap).
The high oil yield of oil palms (up to 7,250 liters per hectare per year) has made them a common cooking ingredient in Southeast Asia and the tropical belt of Africa. Its growing use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is supported by the lower price, the high oxidative stability of the refined product and the high levels of natural antioxidants.
Since the oil is rich in carotene, it can be used in place of cod liver oil to correct vitamin A deficiency.Per 100g, the fruit contains 540 calories, 26.2g H2O, 1.9g of protein, 58.4g fat, 12.5g total carbohydrates, 3.2g fiber, 1.0g ash, 82mg Ca, 47mg P, 4.5mg Fe, 42,420g beta-carotene equivalent, 0.20 mg of thiamine, 0.10 mg of riboflavin, 1.4 mg of niacin and 12 mg of ascorbic acid.
The oil contains, per 100 g, 878 calories, 0.5% H2O, 0.0% protein, 99.1% fat, 0.4 g of total carbohydrates, 7 mg of Ca, 8 mg of P, 5.5 mg of Fe, 27.280 ug of ß-carotene equivalent, 0.03 mg of riboflavin and a trace of thiamine.
The fat composition of the oil is 0.5-5.9% myristic oil, 32.3-47.0 palmitic oil, 1.0-8.5 stearic oil, 39.8-52.4 oleic oil and 2.0-11.3 of linoleic oil. The component glycerides are oleodipalmitins (45%), palmitodioleins (30%), oleopalmatostearins (10%), linoleodioleins (6-8%) and completely saturated glycerides, tripalmatin and diapalmitostearin (6-8%).
In traditional African medicine different parts of the plant are used as a laxative and diuretic, as a poison antidote, as a cure for gonorrhea, menorrhagia and bronchitis, to treat headaches and rheumatism, to promote the healing of fresh wounds and to treat skin infections.
As for its world production, in 1995, Malaysia was the largest producer, with 51% of the world share, but as of 2007 Indonesia is the largest world producer, supplying about 50% of the world volume of oil. of palm.
World palm oil production for the 2011/2012 season was 50.3 million tons, increasing to 52.3 million tons for 2012/13. In 2010/2011, the total palm seed production was 12.6 million tons. In 2019 total production was 75.7 million tons.
However, these extensive crops correspond to high environmental and social impacts.
The social and environmental impact of oil palm cultivation is a highly controversial topic. The oil palm is a valuable economic crop and provides an important source of employment. However, there are instances where land planted with indigenous crops has been replaced with oil palm plantations without any form of consultation or compensation, leading to social conflicts between plantations and local residents. In some cases, oil palm plantations depend on imported labor or illegal immigrants, with some concerns about working conditions and the social impacts of these practices.
The loss of biodiversity (including the potential extinction of charismatic species) is one of the most serious negative effects of oil palm cultivation. Large areas of already threatened tropical rainforest are often cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, especially in Southeast Asia, where forest protection laws are lacking. In some states where palm oil is established, lax enforcement of environmental legislation leads to invasion of plantations in protected areas, invasion of riparian belts, open burning of plantation waste and the release of pollutants.
Some of these states have recognized the need for greater environmental protection, which results in more environmentally friendly practices. Among these approaches is the anaerobic treatment POME (treatment of waste obtained from palm oil (Palm oil mill effluent) that produces gas for boilers. The sustainable energy obtained from biomass residues is able to represent a valid source of income for plantation and mill owners, which can be a good source for biogas (methane) production and electricity generation. POME anaerobic treatment has been practiced in Malaysia and Indonesia. Like most wastewater sludge, the anaerobic treatment with the POME system determines the dominance of Methanosaeta concilii It plays an important role in the production of methane from acetate and the optimal condition for its growth should be considered to collect biogas as a renewable fuel.
It should be noted that the demand for palm oil has increased in recent years due to its use as a biofuel, but the recognition of the fact that this increases the environmental impact of cultivation, as well as causing a problem of antagonism between production of fuel instead of of food, has forced some developed nations to reconsider their biofuel policies to improve standards and ensure sustainability.
However, it must be emphasized that even the companies registered in the round table on sustainable palm oil continue to engage in practices that are harmful to the environment and that the use of palm oil as a biofuel is a perverse cycle because it encourages the conversion of natural habitats such as forests and peatlands, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases.
Scientists and companies are going beyond just using oil and proposing to convert fronds, empty fruit clusters and palm kernel shells harvested from oil palm plantations into renewable electricity, cellulosic ethanol, biogas, biohydrogen and bioplastic.
In this way, using both plantation biomass and palm oil production residues (fibers, kernel shells, oil mill effluents), the bioenergy of palm plantations can have an effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. . Examples of these production techniques have been registered as projects under the Kyoto Protocol.
Using palm biomass to generate renewable energy, fuels and biodegradable products, enhances both the energy balance and the greenhouse gas emissions balance for palm biodiesel. Some oil palm plantations incinerate biomass to generate energy for palm mills. Other oil palm plantations produce a large amount of biomass that can be recycled into medium density fiberboards and lightweight furniture. In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scientists process the effluents from palm mills to extract biogas. After purification, biogas can replace natural gas for use in factories.
In the face of all this, according to some calculations from official studies, the production of palm oil has harmful effects on the environment and is not considered a sustainable biofuel. The deforestation that has occurred in Malaysia and Indonesia due to the growing demand for this plant has made natural habitats for orangutans and other rainforest dwellers increasingly sparse. During the life cycle of a palm oil plant more carbon is released for its use as a biofuel than is emitted from the same volume of fossil fuels.
The fact is that oil palms can produce much more oil per unit area than other oil plants (about nine times more than soybeans and 4.5 times more than canola) and this commercial fallout runs counter to principles. of ecology.

Preparation Method –
The fruits of the palm, easily perishable, are sterilized by steam after harvesting, then pitted to separate them from the pulp and cooked, pressed and filtered.
The oil that is obtained is reddish in color due to the high content of beta-carotene, solid at room temperature and has a characteristic odor; the taste can be sweet.
After a further refining process it can take a yellow white color.
This product is used as an edible oil, to make margarine and as an ingredient in many processed foods, especially in the food industry and is one of the few vegetable oils with a relatively high content of saturated fat (as well as coconut oil) and, hence, semi-solid at room temperature.
Another product is palm kernel oil, obtained from the seeds of the fruit, without pulp, of the plant.
The seeds, once separated from the fruit in the palm oil production phase, are dried and ground; then they are pressed to obtain a solid block that contains a high percentage of lauric acid, similar to coconut oil. The unrefined product has a brownish-yellow color that after refining becomes yellowish-white: the palm kernel oil melts at a temperature of 26 ° -28 ° C; from it are obtained particular fats used in the confectionery industry for icings, candying and cocoa-based fillings.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
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– Treben M., 2000. La Salute dal Farmacia del Lad, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Caution: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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