MGRC, Felda create breakthrough on oil palm fungal disease

POTENTIAL LOSS: According to MGRC, with total oil palm area of 4.85 million hectares, a potential 30 per cent to 70 per cent loss of oil palm due to BSR has substantial implications to planting resources and revenue in Malaysia.

KUCHING: Scientists and research groups can now obtain vital information on the Ganoderma Basal Stem-Rot (BSR) fungal disease following the success of Malaysian Genomics Resource Centre Bhd (MGRC) in completing the sequencing and assembly of the Ganoderma boninense fungus genome.

The latest breakthrough by MGRC was made possible through a joint-effort with Felda Agricultural Services Sdn Bhd (FAS).

Ganoderma BSR is a major concern in Malaysia as palm oil is a major bulk export. In 2010, the export earnings from oil palm products reached RM59.77 billion.

With total oil palm area of 4.85 million hectares, a potential 30 to 70 per cent loss of oil palm due to BSR has substantial implications to planting resources and revenue.

The sequence data from the Ganoderma genome will be made available to the public at MGRC’s website, — making it the first company in the world, together with Felda, to offer this information for free to the global scientific community.

The cost of sequencing and assembly for the Ganoderma genome was borne by MGRC as part of its corporate responsibility activities.

Ganoderma fungal invasion is one of the most serious biological threats to the oil palm industry and its sustainability in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Causing basal stem rot in oil palm trees, the Ganoderma fungus has a massive impact on the life-span of affected trees and dramatically affects both fruit quality and yield.

MGRC chief scientific officer Dr Stephen Rudd said, “By sharing the Ganoderma genome with the wider scientific community, we hope to accelerate R&D towards a solution for the oil palm industry. While MGRC will continue to analyse the genome of this deadly fungus to obtain in-depth genetic information, we hope that a community effort will produce faster results than one group of scientists going at it alone.

“With access to data from the Ganoderma genome, research groups will be empowered with the much-needed information, boosting efforts in finding a remedy for the spread of the disease,” he added.

The CEO of FAS, S Palaniappan added, “It is essential that we have a total understanding of Ganoderma – from how it survives and spreads to its genetic information. Felda is proud to collaborate with MGRC in the hope of accelerating effective solutions for the industry to benefit from.”

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