The Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (TTM), a state-owned enterprise within the Ministry of Finance, has established an experimental project in cooperation with Singapore's Gold Dragon Investment that aims to boost the immunity of tobacco plants to viral disease
The project, designed specifically around the Virginia, Burley and Turkish tobacco strains, marks the first time that tobacco has been used in an experiment that aims to increase production yields through improved resistance to viral infections.
The process may end up having a wide application to other plants and agricultural products, and directly improve the well-being of farmers through sustainable development, TTM managing director Torsak Chotimongkol said.
Viral diseases in tobacco have been a major problem for farmers, resulting in production losses of up to 30 per cent.
Gold Dragon Investment was chosen as the prime consulting partner for the effort. The company employs several specialists in viral diseases and has undertaken a number of important research projects focusing on plant and animal viruses.
It chairman, Chatchaval Jiaravanon, said the project would be undertaken in two parts.
The first will be conducted in Indonesia’s virology laboratory and the experimental nursery of TTM’s Maejo Tobacco Experimental Station and will involve viral samples being collected and analysed.
The second part will involve the planting of tobacco in a greenhouse, where in a controlled climate the plants will be continuously monitored through cultivation and harvest to assess the quality improvements.
TTM says it hopes the joint effort will be a significant factor in revolutionising the Thai agricultural industry, helping to streamline the value chain by allowing farmers to boost yields and produce higher-quality products.
It is designed with real-world commercial applications in mind, with the ultimate goal the production of the world’s first tobacco seeds with enhanced viral immunity that would be exported around the world.