Sarawak CM officiates first plant cloning lab in Sarawak
18 Nov 2021
Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg today officiated the opening of the first plant cloning laboratory in Sarawak, which cultivates tissue cultures, to produce RT-Paulownia clones.
The clones, he said, once planted, will go on to become RT-Paulownia trees, which have fast-growing properties, and capability of producing desirable wood qualities.
He said RT-Paulownia wood was a lightweight timber under the hard-wood category, which is suitable for industries such as construction, building materials, musical instruments, and furniture.
“The local-bred variant is proven to be growing (adapting) well in our tropical climate. Hence, we can plant it in our degraded forest, to ensure the sustainability of raw materials for various industries and timber downstream activities.”
“If the price (of the timber) is not too high, we can even consider using it to build and support our various affordable housing projects,” he said.
Apart from that, Abang Johari said the species can absorb more carbon dioxide than trees, hence, reducing carbon emissions, which is in line with the country’s efforts to achieve carbon neutral status by 2050, through the introduction of carbon pricing and tax.
He said the leaves of the tree would be used as animal feed or organic fertiliser to support the state’s agriculture sector to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Abang Johari was speaking at a press conference after the tree planting ceremony at TSG Green Nursery and Research and Development (R&D) centre in Kota Samarahan and officiating the opening of TSG Green RT- Paulownia tissue culture laboratory at Titanium Tower, Brighton Square at Jalan Song here today.
Meanwhile, TSG Green’s Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Datuk Chris Chung said the unique species of tree, also known as the Empress tree, or the Kiri tree in Japan, is one of the fastest growing trees in the world, and produces high quality timber with fine grain.
He said it could grow up to 50 feet, and be harvested as early as three years from planting while the balance of the tree stump is able to regenerate up to six cycles.
“Through a thorough process taken in the lab, we make sure that this variant is sterile, and does not produce flowers or seeds. It will not cause any adverse impact on our existing forestry systems,” he said.
Chung said the federal and state governments could also consider the tree species as a way forward for global policies on climate change to achieve carbon neutral status by 2050.
On average, he said, RT-Paulownia trees planted in one acre of land, can absorb 103 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere, per annum.
“This is 10 times more than what most tree species can absorb, ranging from 1.1 to 9.5 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, per annum.”
He said through the tried and tested approach, the company intends to sell and supply the RT-Paulownia seedlings throughout Sarawak.
“We have mastered the tissue culture Biotechnology and our tissue culture lab currently produces, an average of 1.8 million clones on an annual basis,” he said, adding the fine grain and wide appeal of RT-Paulownia give rise to potential international markets, such as Japan, Korea, North America, Europe, and Australia.
Chung also welcomed the upstream segment, such as Licensed Planted Forest (LPH) holders and major land owners, to explore the possibilities offered by RT-Paulownia.
It was also one of the Malaysian Timber Industry Board’s 11 approved species of trees under the Forest Plantation Development Loan Programme.
“We aspire to supply at least 10 per cent of the state government’s efforts on planting 35 million trees by 2025, by working together with LPF holders to plant RT Paulownia trees for reforestation and afforestation projects.
“We are also looking forward to collaborating with small holders such as the local communities as now they can have the option to plant the RT-Paulownia instead of other crops such as palm oil trees,” he added.
Chung said the company hoped to grow in line with the direction of this plan to formulate a sustainable RT-Paulownia timber industry not just for Sarawak, but for the whole of Malaysia by planting an environment friendly and economically significant timber tree.