Development of Plants Tolerant of Drought and Soil Salinity
More than 70% of the world’s population is still employed in the agriculture sector. However, agriculture is confronted with several constrains which are major impediments to agricultural production, such as soil salinity and drought. Plant tissue culture under environmental control systems has been developed to help improve the quality of agricultural production. Plants with high tolerance to soil salinity and drought are developed and distributed to the public and private agricultural sectors. Plant tissue culture has been used as a tool in understanding plant physiology and the biochemistry of cell osmoregulation and has been applied to create new processes and develop improved products. To overcome salinity and drought problems in agricultural production, salt and drought tolerance mechanisms have been studied using osmoregulation related to proline, glycein-betaine and carbohydrate functions. Relationships between osmoregulation and osmoprotectance have been found, resulting in salt tolerant trees being classifi ed in vitro and grown at a saline area in Borabu district, Mahasarakram province and in a dehydrated salt fi eld at the Phimai salt industry company, Nakornrashasrima province, resulting in the decrease of salt concentrations from 10% NaCl to 0.5% NaCl in 4 years and from 4% NaCl to 0.8% NaCl in 1 year, respectively.
The production of rice grain in areas with high soil salinity results in yields that are 50 percent lower than those expected from normal soil conditions. It is imperative that Thai farmers produce rice which is high both in quality (in terms of aroma and cooking properties) and quantity (i.e. yields), which means that new strains of fragrant rice are urgently required. The laboratory aims to identify Thai fragrant rice strains that are tolerant to such severe conditions, and to determine their resistance mechanisms. The program has classifi ed fragrant rice into several levels of salt and drought tolerance using physiological and biochemical markers under an osmoregulation mechanism and there are now plans to study the relationship between the expression of salt-tolerant genes and the osmoregulation mechanism. The new aromatic rice with the highest salt-tolerant ability (1.0 - 1.5% salt) produced high yields. This salt tolerant rice will be distributed to farmers in areas affected by salinity and drought.
In vitro Rapid Multiplication of Oil Palm
The 21st century could see global temperatures rise between 3 and 8 degrees Celsius. To help overcome this problem, PBL has a strong interest in the application of information from academic achievements of research into osmoregulation in oil palm trees. Oil palm trees are environmental friendly. They remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen into the atmosphere and can “sequester” up to 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for each hectare planted, thus contributing to the mitigation of the greenhouse effect. This biomass is also a potential source of renewable energy that has yet to be exploited effi ciently. The intensive use of biomass as a renewable energy source could reduce dependency on fossil fuels signifi cantly, and also reduce net carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, leading to a reduction of the greenhouse effect. However, the continued cultivation of elite clones is a limiting factor in the development of oil palm plantations. Increased competitiveness will require advances in technologies for rapid clonal propagation, especially in environmental control engineering for large scale production. A better understanding of cell osmoregulation will be applied to develop new processes and produce more varieties, improving the oil palm’s drought-tolerance. This will increase the area of oil palm production, which in turn will help to decrease the global greenhouse effect.