Sequence data of the Ganoderma genome is now available to public

Kuala Lumpur, 9 June 2011 – Scientists and research groups can now obtain vital information on the Ganoderma Basal Stem-Rot (BSR) fungal disease following the success of Malaysian Genomics Resource Centre Berhad (MGRC) in completing the sequencing and assembly of the Ganoderma boninense fungus genome.

The latest breakthrough by MGRC was made possible through a joint-effort with Felda Agricultural Services Sdn Bhd (FAS). The sequence data from the Ganoderma genome will be made available to the public at MGRC’s website, www.mgrc.com.my, making it the first company in the world, together with Felda, to offer this information for free to the global scientific community. The cost of sequencing and assembly for the Ganoderma genome was borne by MGRC as part of its corporate responsibility activities.

Ganoderma fungal invasion is one of the most serious biological threats to the oil palm industry and its sustainability in Malaysia and Indonesia. Causing basal stem rot in oil palm trees, the Ganoderma fungus has a massive impact on the life-span of affected trees and dramatically affects both fruit quality and yield.

MGRC Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Stephen Rudd, said, “By sharing the Ganoderma genome with the wider scientific community, we hope to accelerate R&D towards a solution for the oil palm industry. While MGRC will continue to analyse the genome of this deadly fungus to obtain in-depth genetic information, we hope that a community effort will produce faster results than one group of scientists going at it alone.”

“With access to data from the Ganoderma genome, research groups will be empowered with the much-needed information, boosting efforts in finding a remedy for the spread of the disease,” he added.

CEO of FAS, Mr S Palaniappan, said, “The threat of Ganoderma BSR to our oil palm industry is very serious and real. Therefore, it is essential that we have a total understanding of Ganoderma – from how it survives and spreads to its genetic information. Felda is proud to collaborate with MGRC in the hope of accelerating effective solutions for the industry to benefit from.”

Ganoderma BSR is a major concern in Malaysia as palm oil is a major bulk export. In 2010, the export earnings from oil palm products reached RM59.77 billion. With total oil palm area of 4.85 million hectares, a potential 30% to 70% loss of oil palm due to BSR has substantial implications to planting resources and revenue.

In an industry weary from battling the fungus epidemic, the news on the successful sequencing of the Ganoderma genome and its availability to all researchers could not have come at a better time. Researchers remain quietly confident that the answer to the problem will also be found there.