Issue
Cah. Agric.
Volume 31, 2022
Oil palm in Mexico and in the Americas / Le palmier à huile au Mexique et en Amérique latine Coordonnateurs : Laurène Feintrenie, Cesar J. Vázquez Navarrete, Luz del Carmen Lagunes Espinoza
Article Number 3
Number of page(s) 7
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/cagri/2021038
Published online 17 January 2022

© L.d.C. Lagunes-Espinoza et al., Hosted by EDP Sciences 2022

Licence Creative CommonsThis is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CC-BY-NC (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, except for commercial purposes, provided the original work is properly cited.

1 Introduction

The global consumption of crude palm oil (CPO) has increased based on the high population growth rates since the 1960s; it surpassed that of soybean oil in 2007 and became the global dominant vegetable oil. CPO demand is expected to increase by different driving forces, e.g., food consumption patterns, energy policies, and improved quality of life. A consensus has been reached that this demand can be met by improving yields, increasing sustainable production practices, and expanding plantations that prevent the conversion of high conservation value areas. Scientific knowledge plays a fundamental role in addressing this global challenge by improving our understanding of interactions between oil palm (OP) and surrounding landscapes and developing technology and better practices for several different locations (Hoffmann et al., 2017; Murphy, 2014).

OP expansion occurs in humid tropical regions in Asia, Africa, and America; more than 50% of the available and suitable area could be located in South America, Central America, and Mexico (Furumo and Aide, 2017).

Mexican domestic consumption of palm oil was 650 thousand tons in 2018. Although 80% was supplied from imports, domestic cropped area increased over the last 20 years from 10 000 to 77 000 hectares. Mexico has a potential of 8.9 million hectares for OP production, and most could be established on grassland (SAGARPA, 2017; SIAP, 2019). This potential expansion requires strategic information based on scientific knowledge to achieve sustainable production. OP expansion should develop successfully in areas where scientific knowledge is available to overcome most of the limiting production factors and meet environmental criteria, food chain accessibility, and local development demands.

This study aims to identify the relationship between the historical production of oil palm and the spatial dynamics of development and knowledge production. Some questions have arisen from OP expansion at a global scale, specifically in Latin America and Mexico: i.e., a) what countries are generating research and development (R&D) on this crop, b) what topics are being studied, c) how are these topics changing, d) what institutions are carrying out this R&D, and e) where does Mexico fit in comparison to Latin American countries and other producing countries. A review of scientific publications was carried out to respond to these core questions and was used to analyse the knowledge created in this specific research area (Pare et al., 2015); a historical and geographical approach was used to link knowledge creation to agricultural development dynamics. A comprehensive understanding of this baseline information by considering different disciplines, such as agronomical, processing, social and environmental disciplines, is a key starting point (Padfield et al., 2019; Woittiez et al., 2017).

2 Methodology

To achieve our research goal, we reviewed the existing literature from different contexts (Cooper et al., 2009; Hood and Wilson, 2001; Pare et al., 2015; Wyborn et al., 2018) and developed an approach that included 9 phases.

  1. Search strategy: this search was performed in Web of Science (WoS), and all databases were consulted. In WoS, three keywords related to OP, “oil palm” OR “Elaeis guineensis” OR “African palm”, were selected by using the TOPIC field. OP-related publications were selected between 1960 and 2017.

  2. Revision of the preliminary dataset: a revision of the preliminary results by identifying the main research categories of OP knowledge using WoS analyzing tools.

  3. Criteria selection: Three criteria to select publications were used: i) papers that were classified as Agriculture according to the WoS classification system; ii) papers that had an abstract or general description; and iii) papers that had basic information related to the main research topics.

  4. Main research topics: Based on our research objectives, two sets of keywords related to core performance indicators classified into three category levels were proposed (Tab. 1).

  5. Algorithm selection: Considering the main research topics, publications were classified by using the following decision tree (Fig. 1). For publications with several research topics that were classified based on their relation to a yield-oriented indicator of OP, the classification was carried out in an Excel program.

  6. Analysis unit: A dataset of publications related to OP was generated. A total of 863 publications were not considered in the analysis since they were duplicated and had missing information. The final dataset based on agricultural research areas consisted of 3948 bibliography references and seven tag fields for analysis: title, abstract, authors, keywords, country, author information (e.g., institution, country), and year of publication.

  7. Exploratory analysis: The analysis of OP knowledge was exploratory, and descriptive statistics were used to analyze topics and indicators of the agronomic management of OP, and the results were summarized in figures. Series analyses were also performed to identify changes and tendencies in the different topics during the studied period. Some associations were tested to shed light on the interactions between outcomes and OP knowledge results.

  8. Results outline: The results were organized based on the research questions.

  9. Recommendations for decision-making: A “storyline” was provided for decision-makers to clarify the problems and opportunities identified based on OP agronomic practices designed to improve yield and other important topics.

Table 1

Keywords used for classification of R&D publications.

Mots clés utilisés pour la classification des publications de R&D.

thumbnail Fig. 1

Tree decision for classifying publications by performance indicator.

Arbre de décision pour classer les publications par indicateur de performance.

3 Results

3.1 Description of the dataset

In total, 9886 publications were identified in the preliminary revision phase, of which 2201 were patents. Considering the research area classification system of WoS, 4731 publications were identified in agriculture, 3296 were identified in plant science, 432 were identified in biodiversity and conservation and 651 were identified in environmental science and ecology. Between categories, 2439 publications were repeated. In 1960, a total of 2 publications were registered, while in 2017, 2284 publications were registered. From a total of 476 universities, research centres, and private corporations, OP has been researched on a global scale, with six institutions generating more than 100 publications each from 1960–2017 and only three generating the most significant number of publications: Putra Malaysia University, French Agricultural Research Center for Development (CIRAD) and the Malaysian Palm Board.

In the agriculture category, 4731 publications were used in the analysis. A typical evolution was observed for publications within all categories: an increment of the number of publications started from 2010, with the number shifting from 150 publications/year to more than 400 publications in 2017.

In total, 547 patents were registered; they consisted of different themes, such as processed oil palm fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) (Ng et al., 2017), fertilizer and soil amelioration agents based on dried-empty-bunch ashes (Abdullah et al., 2017), pesticides (Fan et al., 2017), or yield prediction (Ong et al., 2017).

3.2 Which countries are generating R&D on OP?

On a global scale, OP site studies are mainly concentrated in three countries: Malaysia and Indonesia in Southeast Asia, and Nigeria in Africa. In Latin America, most OP knowledge is produced in Brazil and Colombia (Fig. 2).

thumbnail Fig. 2

Oil Palm Crop acreage and number of publications on oil palm crop by country in 2017 (with a zoom on Mexico).

Surfaces cultivées en palmier à huile et nombre de publications sur cette culture par pays en 2017 (avec un zoom sur le Mexique).

3.3 Which research themes are being studied worldwide?

There are many publications on OP physiology (18.3%), covering physiological and metabolic functions. Also important are basic genetic research and applied research by classic and molecular genetic improvement (18.9%); another critical group of publications focus on the causal relationships among pests, diseases, and OP productivity (14.8%). Since 2005, a greater understanding of our complex and interconnected world has led to an increase in publications on the impacts of OP and sustainability (13.9%), the effect of OP on biodiversity and conservation (9.2%), the use of OP as an energy feedstock (3.2%), and the impact of palm oil products on health issues (2.8%) (Fig. 3).

Since 2010, many studies have been performed on the effect of OP expansion on the biodiversity and conservation of forest areas, grasslands, and soils and the impact of OP consumption, the development of new products, the sustainable management of OP, its use as a bioenergy feedstock, and its impacts on human health (Fig. 4).

thumbnail Fig. 3

Frequency (%) of main research themes on OP during 1960–2017.

Fréquence (%) des principaux thèmes de recherche sur le palmier à huile entre 1960 et 2017.

thumbnail Fig. 4

Evolution of research themes on OP during 1960–2018.

Évolution des thèmes de recherche sur le palmier à huile entre 1960 et 2018.

3.4 What R&D has been generated in Latin America?

This study identified 339 publications and 15 patents in the Latin American region. Brazil and Colombia accounted for the most extensive acreage of OP and the primary number of publications referred to study sites in their territories (>60), followed by Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, and Panama (Fig. 2). Recently, environmental studies have increased in this region (19.7%), and some research subjects have been based on OP production and the challenge of including the agroecology concept for environmental impact reduction, not only for OP used as food but also as bioenergy feedstock (Castellanos-Navarrete and Jansen, 2017). Other research themes focused on the impacts and interactions, such as the expansion of OP and its social and economic effects (14.1%) (Bennett et al., 2018; Gonzalez-Salazar et al., 2017), the impact of fertilization (8.1%) (Bastos de Matos et al., 2017) and genetic improvements (7.0%) (De Farias Neto et al., 2013; Moreno-Caicedo and Bastidas-Pérez, 2017; Sousa et al., 2016), the response of physiological parameters to abiotic factors (gas exchange, water use, and foliar area) (3.5%) (Murugesan et al., 2017; Rivera Mendez et al., 2012), the effect of irrigation and drainage (1.7%), yield of FFB (0.2%) (Contreras et al., 2012; De Farias Neto et al., 2013), the use of OP as a bioenergy feedstock (7.6%) (Aristizabal et al., 2016; Cardoso et al., 2017), and the impacts on biodiversity (2.6%) (Alonso-Rodriguez et al., 2017; Knowlton et al., 2017) and ecosystem services (2.0%) (Frazão et al., 2013; Lavelle et al., 2014). Other studies also focused on the impact of palm oil on human consumption by characterizing oil products and health conditions (3.8%) (Irias-Mata et al., 2017, Sandoval-Garcia et al., 2016) (Fig. 5).

thumbnail Fig. 5

Frequency (%) of the main research themes on OP in Latin America during 1960–2018.

Fréquence (%) des principaux thèmes de recherche sur le palmier à huile en Amérique latine entre 1960 et 2018.

3.5 What is the OP R&D baseline in Mexico?

The introduction of OP in Mexico started in 1980 and recently accounted for 90 118 ha distributed in four states: Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Veracruz (SIAP, 2019) (Fig. 2). Most of the production is used for food, and 32% is associated with other industrial uses (FAO, 2018). The number of publications found in the WoS databases is limited (10 papers), and the research subjects are disconnected. Publications dealing with the social impacts of OPs (Castellanos-Navarrete and Jansen, 2018), the effect of the production and expansion of OPs on land-use change and biodiversity (Aguilar-Gallegos et al., 2015; Castellanos-Navarrete and Jansen, 2015; Furumo and Aide, 2017; Lin et al., 2012), and the use of environmentally friendly and less impacting practices in Chiapas have been published (Castellanos-Navarrete and Jansen, 2018). One article on methods of using palm oil as a biofuel (Sandoval-Garcia et al., 2016) and two papers on pests and diseases, Raoiella indica Hirst (Otero-Colina et al., 2016) and Calyptocephala gerstaeckeri Boheman (Cordova-Ballona and Sanchez-Soto, 2008), were published.

3.6 Which institutions have carried out R&D on OP in Mexico?

Mexican institutions found in the WoS that have performed research on OP include the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agricolas and Pecuarias (INIFAP) and Colegio de Postgraduados, Campus Tabasco. Other institutions that have carried out social and environmental research on OP in Mexico include the Universidad Autonoma Chapingo, Universidad Autonoma de Chiapas, el Colegio de la Frontera Sur and Universidad Juarez Autonoma de Tabasco. Most of these institutions are publicly funded and the performed OP research was based on their location.

4 Discussion

The global R&D of OP is associated with different scientific knowledge platforms, and such platforms allow researchers to determine the current state of a particular research subject at any temporal and spatial scale, which was confirmed in this study and in other research (Bartol et al., 2014; Scherm et al., 2014; Wyborn et al., 2018).

This study highlighted the relationship between the number of publications/year and the expansion of oil palm plantations in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico, as brought to light by Abrizah (2012).

As argued by other scholars, such as Castellanos-Navarrete and Jansen (2017), this study also showed a change in the patterns in thematic research areas, based on issues raised regarding oil palm development and its responsible consumption, such as the certification and creation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), production of biofuel, etc.

Based on the analysis of previous research, this study also provided practical knowledge to estimate research performance indicators, such as the number of publications per country, per scientific staff, and per core research subject. Future studies could implement this strategic knowledge to foster a decision-making process based on evidence.

5 Conclusions

The analysis of global and Latin American scientific knowledge on the R&D of OP and the comparison with the knowledge from Mexico revealed a R&D gap on agronomic and socioecological topics and very few scientific products generated (number of articles and patents), which might be explained by the few research institutions involved in these research areas in Mexico. These results are inconsistent with those concerning leading OP countries. Although several research areas were identified and are similar to the ones found in other studies (Abrizah, 2012), Mexican R&D is focused on three areas. Thus, it is recommended to foster agronomy, technological innovation, and socioecological issues. To encourage OP R&D in Mexico, effective public policies are required to incentivize cooperation between key stakeholders, i.e., producers, industry and retailers, to achieve sustainable production and improve the well-being across the food supply chain.

References

Cite this article as: Lagunes-Espinoza LdC, Vazquez-Navarrete CJ, Rincón-Ramirez JA, Halvorsen KE. 2022. Oil palm crop: state and gaps of research and technological development at global scale, Latin America and Mexico. Cah. Agric. 31: 3.

All Tables

Table 1

Keywords used for classification of R&D publications.

Mots clés utilisés pour la classification des publications de R&D.

All Figures

thumbnail Fig. 1

Tree decision for classifying publications by performance indicator.

Arbre de décision pour classer les publications par indicateur de performance.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 2

Oil Palm Crop acreage and number of publications on oil palm crop by country in 2017 (with a zoom on Mexico).

Surfaces cultivées en palmier à huile et nombre de publications sur cette culture par pays en 2017 (avec un zoom sur le Mexique).

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 3

Frequency (%) of main research themes on OP during 1960–2017.

Fréquence (%) des principaux thèmes de recherche sur le palmier à huile entre 1960 et 2017.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 4

Evolution of research themes on OP during 1960–2018.

Évolution des thèmes de recherche sur le palmier à huile entre 1960 et 2018.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 5

Frequency (%) of the main research themes on OP in Latin America during 1960–2018.

Fréquence (%) des principaux thèmes de recherche sur le palmier à huile en Amérique latine entre 1960 et 2018.

In the text

Current usage metrics show cumulative count of Article Views (full-text article views including HTML views, PDF and ePub downloads, according to the available data) and Abstracts Views on Vision4Press platform.

Data correspond to usage on the plateform after 2015. The current usage metrics is available 48-96 hours after online publication and is updated daily on week days.

Initial download of the metrics may take a while.