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Insights into microbial community structure and diversity in oil palm waste compost


Empty fruit bunch (EFB) and palm oil mill effluent (POME) are the major wastes generated by the oil palm industry in Malaysia. The practice of EFB and POME digester sludge co-composting has shown positive results, both in mitigating otherwise environmentally damaging waste streams and producing a useful product (compost) from these streams. In this study, the bacterial ecosystems of 12-week-old EFB-POME co-compost and POME biogas sludge from Felda Maokil, Johor were analysed using 16S metagenome sequencing. Over ten phyla were detected, with Chloroflexi being the predominant phylum, representing approximately 53% of compost and 23% of the POME microbiome reads. The main bacterial lineage found in the compost and POME was Anaerolinaceae (Chloroflexi) with 30% and 18% of the total gene fragments, respectively. The significant differences between compost and POME communities were abundances of Syntrophobacter, Sulfuricurvum and Coprococcus. No methanogens were identified due to the bias in general 16S primers to eubacteria. The preponderance of anaerobic species in the compost and high abundance of secondary metabolite fermenting bacteria is due to an extended composting time, with anaerobic collapse of the pile due to the tropical heat. Predictive functional profiles of the metagenomes using 16S rRNA marker genes suggest that the presence of enzymes involved in degradation of polysaccharides such as glucoamylase, endoglucanase and arabinofuranosidase, all of which were strongly active in POME. Eubacterial species associated with cellulytic methanogenesis were present in both samples.

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The authors would like to thank Jamal Al Deen Lawton for compost advice. We greatfully acknowledge oil palm mill Felda Maokil, Labis, Johor for providing us with compost and POME samples. This work was financially supported Ministry of Education Malaysia and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) United Kingdom under program of United Kingdom-Southeast Asia Newton Ungku Omar Fund (UK-SEA-NUOF) with project number 4B297 and BB/P027717/1.

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Correspondence to Heera Rajandas or Adibah Yahya.

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On behalf of all the authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Khalid, N.A., Rajandas, H., Parimannan, S. et al. Insights into microbial community structure and diversity in oil palm waste compost. 3 Biotech 9, 364 (2019).

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