MALAYSIA: New clones to boost upstream rubber operations

Rubber, which is a strategic commodity for Malaysia, will see its upstream activities being revolutionised with the introduction of high-yielding 1Malaysia rubber clones and latex timber clones (LTCs) by the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB).

According to MRB director-general Datuk Dr Ms Salmiah Ahmad, the board was planning to set up more new MRB research stations and Malaysian rubber budwood centres (MRBC) nationwide to facilitate in the development and production of the superior clones and LTCs.

On 28 Jan. 2011, MRB's first 1,180 ha Rubber Research Institute Malaysia (RRIM) Similajau research station and 45 ha MRBC in Bintulu, Sarawak was officially launched by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Giluk Dompok.

Salmiah said: "Many of the new RRIM research stations and MRBCs will be located in strategic locations whereby it will be within the reach of smallholders, which are the major contributors (about 94%) to the country's total rubber production.”

It is believed that another new rubber research station and MRBC would be set up in Sarawak while three new research stations and MRBCs namely Kota Tinggi (Johor), Sg Sari (Kedah) and Bukit Kuantan (Pahang) in Peninsular Malaysia this year.

"The rationale for the research stations and MRBCs is to ensure only selected high-yielding and quality clones were distributed for the rubber planters which would guarantee and increase the yield and productivity in line with the MRB Strategy and Malaysia Rubber Industry Strategy launched in May last year,” added Salmiah.

The MRB Similajau for example would have rubber seed production area, rubber budwood nursery, polybag nursery, special management zone, commercial plantation, germplasm research facility, office and residence.

The station is aimed at providing technology transfer of new clones and agronomic practices through exhibitions, training and research and development to smallholders, private agencies and the Government.

In addition, it will provide high-quality planting materials to government and private agencies involved in the industry.

The MRBC in Similajau meanwhile would produce 3.24 million rubber budwoods per year. Its focus will be in the production of high-yielding and quality latex clones like RRIM 3001, RRIM 928, RRIM 929 and PB 350. The centre will also produce timber clones such as RRIM 2023 and RRIM 2025.

Salmiah said: "MRB's vision for the RRIM Similajau research station is to transform it into a role model for rubber plantation forest and a successful natural habitat conservatory for potential investors.

"Its existing location is also fit for an eco-tourism development given the surrounding caves, waterfall, natural lakes and conservation area under the special management zone.”

By 2020, the targetted plan was to plant some 500,000 ha of rubber in Sarawak and 300,000 ha in Sabah.

"The establishment of the budwood centre would be more appropriate for Sarawak and Sabah, which still have ample agriculture land compared with Peninsular Malaysia's limited land for new rubber planting.”

She said smallholders in the peninsula were widely encouraged to undertake replanting activities due to the limited landbank but those in Sarawak and Sabah should undertake new planting via budwoods. "Sarawak and Sabah rubber planters are encouraged to undertake more planting of high-quality clones such as the 1Malaysia clones.”

In 2009, MRB introduced the 1Malaysia clone the RRIM 3001. "This clone has a potential latex production of more than 3,000 kg per hectare per year and is suitable for planting on a commercial basis including for the rubber forest plantation programmes especially in Sabah and Sarawak,” Salmiah added.(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)