Friday, March 14, 2014

Walla patta seed germination trials - A success after many attempts

After two unsuccessful attempts, Dr. Upul Subasinghe and his team managed to germinate Walla patta seeds under the nursery conditions. The initial attempts were failed due to the use of poor quality seeds collected from the mother trees and medium used which was not very much supportive for the germination of the seeds. Although still the germination rate is below 10%, the last attempt was considered as successful because these results lead to the next set of trials of germination rate enhancement. The germinated seedlings were transferred to the poly-pots of seedling medium and were kept inside the nursery. With the upcoming rains, those seedlings will be used for plantation established and different planting models will be tested in those trials.

The following pictures show the germination beds and the seedlings raised. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Taking Walla patta to the international communinty

Dr. Upul Subasinghe and his research team managed to take Walla patta (Gyrinops walla) to the international community through some scientific publications on the research findings. Up to now, two full papers were published in two reputed scientific journals and those can be viewed by the following links.

1. Title: "Agarwood type resin from Gyrinops walla: A new discovery"

2. Title "Agarwood resin production and resin quality of Gyrinops walla"

In addition to that Dr. Subasinghe presented a paper on "Agarwood resin production of Gyrinops walla" at the International Scientific Symposium held in the University Putra Malaysia from 4 to 7 September 2013. The abstract of that presentation is given below.

Gyrinops walla, a member of the agarwood family Thymelaeaceae is recorded in the wet zone of Sri Lanka has not been previously studied to identify its ability of producing agarwood. Therefore the present study was the first ever to conduct to identify the production of agarwood resins in G. walla and its resin quality.

Three distinctive areas of the low country wet zone of Sri Lanka were selected for this study and 22 G. walla trees were used for sample collection. Since there were no artificial resin induction methods applied earlier, all selected trees had natural wounds occurred sometime before the sample collection due to natural injuries. The dark coloured tissues of the affected areas were collected without felling the trees and the resins were extracted by a solvent extraction method. The diameter and height of the sampled trees were measured and the geographical positions were also recorded. The extracted resins were further analysed by using gas chromatography technique to identify the different compounds and to compare those compounds with that of selected Aquilaria species.

Dr. Subasinghe presenting his research findings at the Malaysian Symposium

Thursday, June 6, 2013

14,000 kg of smuggled Walla patta caught in Sri Lanka worth of US$ 1.6 Million - The value is a lie

In last may, all Sri Lanka media had a hit news in catching 14,000 kg of smuggled Walla patta scientifically known as Gyrinops walla by the Police and the Special Task Force. The price was given as US$ 1.6 million. According to the images showed in the electronic media, those tree samples appeared to be white, which means, there was no or very little agarwood formed in the trees. According to the experiments conducted by Dr. Upul Subasinghe and his team from 2010, about 95% wild-grown Walla patta trees do not produce Agarwood resins. Even if the resin is formed, it is due to natural reasons and therefore it does not evenly spread in the stem.

On the 31st of the same month, China Custom's Department has caught 8.145 kg of Agarwood formed in Aquilaria sinensis trees and the images shown below contain the real "Black Colour" Agarwood. According to the China Custom's sources, those Agarwood pieces are Class II in quality and even not Class I.

Therefore the person or persons valued the smuggled Sri Lankan Walla patta trees as US$ 1,143 per kilo has made another crime by lying to the public and showing the lack of knowledge in the trade. Further, this type of irresponsible behaviour leads to destroy the valuable Walla patta resource in Sri Lanka.

The Agarwood resins have to be artificially formed in the correct size of trees and in the next 6 to 12 month of time, Dr. Upul Subasinghe and his team will be able to come up with the best methods of forming resins in Walla patta under the research grant awarded to them worth about US$ 93,000 by the Government and the Private Sector.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dr. Upul Subasinghe was awarded SLR 11.6 million to conduct further research on Walla patta

Under the Public-Private-Partnership Programme of the National Research Council (NRC) of Sri Lanka, it has awarded SLR 11.6 million Dr. Upul Subasinghe for conducting further research on Walla patta (Gyrinops walla). Sadaharitha Plantations Limited jointly funds this three year research programme with the NRC.

The Public-Private-Partnership programme is a result of the budget proposals over the past few years to strengthen the economy by scientific and technological findings. Moreover, the present proposal, which was among the 6 selected ones for funding by the NRC over 60 applications, is in line with the Green Economy concept of the Sri Lanka Government.

It is expected to obtain the following information by conducting the proposed research project .
1. The seed germination methods
2. Most effective agarwood resin induction methods
3. Agarwood quantity and quality variations with tree size, age and climatic conditions
4. Optimum resin extraction methods

The findings will definitely contribute to the national economy of Sri Lanka by providing silvicultrual, chemical and technological information that are required for large and medium scale Walla patta plantation development in the country. In addition, the results will benefit the villagers living in the low country wet zone of Sri Lanka by providing the correct information on planting methods, resin formation and harvesting times of this precious tree currently exploited without having a proper knowledge on its value.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ministry of Economic Development accepted the name Sri Lankan Agar for Walla Patta

Due to the proven high Agarwood resinous value of the Walla patta (Gyrinops walla) trees, Dr. Upul Subasinghe who is a committee member of popularising Walla patta tree cultivation among villagers and other relevant bodies, suggested the name "Sri Lankan Agar" for this species in order to make a Brand Name in the international market. The Ministry accepted the name based on the reasons provided by Dr. Subasinghe and decided to use the name Sri Lankan Agar from now on.

According to the results over three year research, Dr. Subasinghe believes the quality of Sri Lankan Agar matches with the other Agarwood products coming to the international market from the South Asian countries. Therefore the Agarwood production of Walla patta, if properly developed, can be used to earn a significant foreign income contributing to the poverty alleviation of the rural community in the low country wet zone.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Misleading figures about walla on news: Please be aware

Catching the smugglers of walla patta (Gyrinops walla) has become a frequent event in Sri Lanka and it has been given a huge publicity by both electronic and printed media. Even today, there was a news on Divaina (Island) paper about arresting a person carrying 28 kg of walla tree stems in Bibila area of the country. However, the facts given in most of such media articles are very much misleading and forcing the poor people to cut the trees for nothing.

Different media mentioned the price of walla kilogram with very lucrative prices. Today's news mentioned it as Rs. 80,000 (about USD 650). This figure can be true for the walla stems with full of Agarwood resins. For my two and half years research on all aspects of this species, I can guarantee that no walla trees can be found with full of resins in Sri Lanka. In the news, it may be a collection of many trees. However, due to the nature of resin formation, it has to be impossible to collect the "right trees" in large scale.

What valuable is the resin or the stem tissues with resin compounds and not just the walla trees. Please note that, walla trees do not naturally produce the resins in the stem. There are methods of enhancing the agarwood resin formation in walla trees and I am working on such methods at the moment. In addition, with the Ministry of Economic Development, the Sri Lanka government is stepping forward to promote growing this species in homegardens and as plantations under scientific guidelines for commercial use. Therefore I would like to make an appeal from the public to preserve the trees growing in the wild and homegardens and not to be mislead by the media.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

First every study on Agarwood resin quality of Walla patta

The first ever research publication to compere the Agarwood production ability and Agarwood quality of Gyrinops walla (Walla patta) was done by Dr. Upul Subasinghe and his colleague Mr. Dhanushka Hettiarachchi in the Journal of Tropical Forestry and Environment in October 2011. The full article is available in the following link.

The abstract is given below

Agarwood is an expensive resinous product extracted from some members of Aquilaria and Gyrinops species of the family Thymalaeaceae. Agarwood essential oil is a highly valued perfumery product in modern cosmetics and traditional Attar. Agarwood extraction from the above species and product manufacturing are done in India and Southeast Asian countries. However, over harvesting, low natural regeneration, and legal restrictions at present, have limited the supply of this product. Gyrinops walla is recorded in the wet zone of Sri Lanka, and it had been very rarely recorded in extreme Southwest India. However, recent reports of the abundance of G. walla in India are hard to find. Studies were not conducted in the past for G. walla on its ability of agarwood resin production and the quality of that resin. This study is the first to identify the agarwood resin formation and the quality of G. walla which can be used as a substitute for that of Aquilaria and other species of Gyrinops. Resinous tissues were extracted from six G. walla trees for the present study from two different areas, i.e., Labugama and Yagirala of the wet zone of Sri Lanka. The resins were solvent extracted in the laboratory and the resin quality was tested using gas chromatography analysis. The results indicated an extreme similarity of the compounds of G. walla resin with that of commercially available agarwood resins. However, further studies should be conducted to identify G. walla distribution and formation of agarwood.