On 5 March 2018, Dr. Narong Sirilertworakul, NSTDA President, and Mr. Naing Kyi Win, Director General of the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), Myanmar, signed an MOU for the collaboration on agricultural technology between the two organizations. The signing ceremony was held in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar, with the attendance of Dr. Somvong Trangoonrung, BIOTEC Executive Director, Dr. Theerayut Toojinda, Director of BIOTEC Plant Biotechnology Research Unit and Mr. Thant Lwin Oo, Deputy Director General of DAR. The MOU provides a framework for researchers from Thailand and Myanmar to carry out collaborative research, capacity building activities and technology transfer in order to strengthen agricultural science and technology of both countries and the region.
BIOTEC-NSTDA has long been engaging in the collaboration with Myanmar through two important regional programs initiated by BIOTEC in the early 2000s, namely the Human Resource Development Program in Biotechnology for Neighboring Countries and the Molecular Rice Breeding Program for the Mekong Region. The HRD Program in Biotechnology for Neighboring Countries was conceptualized in 2001 to address the need for human resource development in science and technology in neighboring countries and ASEAN as a region by using BIOTEC laboratories as a training hub for young talents in ASEAN member countries. Every year, the program invites 10-15 young researchers from ASEAN to work on interesting research projects in BIOTEC laboratories under the mentorship of BIOTEC researchers for 3-6 months. So far, 179 fellowships have been handed out and many of the alumni went on to further their education through other scholarship programs and returned to work in their home countries, continuing research collaboration with BIOTEC researchers. The Molecular Rice Breeding Program for the Mekong Region was launched in 2004 with the aim to promote the implementation of marker aided selection (MAS) into the current rice breeding program in the Mekong region, particularly Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar through a comprehensive capacity building program, sharing of genomic information (genetic data for several traits and the molecular markers for several genes) and upgrading research facilities.
A number of researchers and rice breeders from DAR have actively participated in these two programs. With the MAS, DAR has successfully developed and registered three new rice varieties based on popular varieties grown in Myanmar. These three new varieties include ThuKha Hmwe (a basmati-like Manawthukha), Saltol Sin Thwe Latt (a salt-tolerant Sin Thwe Latt) and Yemyokekhan-3 (an improved variety that is resilient to water level changes with more fragrance and better cooking quality). In 2017, two tons of rice seed of new varieties were produced and distributed to local farmers in Myanmar.
In addition to the current collaboration on rice breeding, both BIOTEC and DAR will embark on new research topics such as improving disease tolerance and quality of maize, using MAS to develop disease-tolerant wheat, germplasm collection and evaluation of rice, maize and other economically-important crops of Thailand and Myanmar.
Posted on 14 March 2018.