Stakeholders attend course to identify risks and threats of diseases to forest plantations

Course participants pose for a group photo.

BINTULU, July 16: Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) together with Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), Sarawak Timber Association (STA) and Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) organised a course on risks and threats of diseases to forest plantations in Sarawak.

The course was conducted to provide hands-on training on properly identifying diseases based on signs and symptoms, methods in conducting disease survey and establishment of disease assessment plots for long term monitoring, principles of disease management and control as well as tree breeding strategies in developing resistant clones.

“Forest plantations’ regional status per se are facing new and increasing threats from pest and disease. Ceratocystis wilt and canker disease, as we are all well aware, has severely compromised the profitability of Acacia species plantations in Southeast Asia, including A. auricliformis, A. crassicarpa and especially A. mangium. Presently, A. mangium dominates about 63 per cent or approximately 264,726 ha as the main species planted here in Sarawak and is still the preferred species planted thus so far,” according to FDS deputy director of forests Jack Liam in a statement

He added, in the context of research and development (R&D) the lack of technical or even management knowledge and research information that includes pest and disease control in tree plantations was one of the issues highlighted by the Licence for Planted Forest (LPF) holders affecting the overall performance in achieving 1 million hectares as targeted before 2020 and now 2025.

Liam also pointed it out that effective management and control of any disease depends on prompt and accurate diagnosis and identifications of the pest or pathogen.

He said this when delivering his speech before the course commenced.

According to him, the capacity and ability to recognise diseases and pathogens quickly and accurately are limited not only by lack of personnel but also lack of personnel with suitable training in forest protection, particularly forest pathology.

“Sarawak in this case, with Forest Department Sarawak and Sarawak Forestry Corporation combined, we have only two forest pathologists and one entomologist, and this is inadequate to tackle the existing and emerging pest and disease problem.

“We realised that actually the field supervisors of respective LPF holders here are basically the first to observe symptoms of pest and disease on trees but this is only possible provided adequately trained field supervisors which are well-versed in the knowledge of pests and disease are available or in place.

“Collaboration between the industry players and scientists from research institutions are much needed in the future for intensifying R&D in areas of common interests to spur growth of forest plantations in the state. That’s why Forest Department Sarawak looks to establish closer ties with FRIM and the respective LPF holders through joint R&D projects, training, workshops and whatever necessary avenues in further strengthening our knowledge and capacity building to the betterment of our forest plantations,” said Liam .

The course gathered some 50 representatives from FDS, SFC, STA and Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) as well as LPF holders.

Head of Licence for Planted Forest Division Azhari Omar and Bintulu Divisional Forest Officer Liam Dibor were also present at the event. — DayakDaily