Agarwood - Bioprospecting on Indonesian Agarwood: Innovative Biotechnological Strategies to produce high value Indonesian Agarwood and olfactoric active compounds
Current and global developments pose a challenge for modern plant breeding and crop production that can only be approached by innovative solutions and by pooling expertise beyond traditional cooperation networks.
Agarwood is a high quality, resinous wood of tropical tree species of the family Mezereum (Thymelaeaceae). The natural habitat of Agarwood trees are the evergreen tropical rain forests of South-East Asia with a distribution of North-East India to Papua New Guinea. Because of sensory and medically valuable secondary ingredients, to this day Agarwood is used in Asian and Arab countries for the production of ceremonial incense products, the perfume and cosmetics industries, as well as in traditional medicine. Agarwood is not naturally produced in the healthy plant, but is formed by wounding the plant as well as by the influence of other factors such as fire and wind damage in combination with subsequent opportunistic infection by fungi. The main source of Agarwood traded is the aromatic resinous wood of several species of two genera Aquilaria and Gyrinops.
The world's last natural resources of Agarwood are in Indonesia, particularly in Borneo and West Papua. Because of this, 80 % of world traded Agarwood derives from the natural populations of Indonesia. The valuable resin is harvested randomly and thus, the non-sustainable exploitation led to a significant reduction in population density worldwide. Meanwhile, all Agarwood-producing species are listed on the red list of threatened species. The WWF calculations assume that the natural resources will be exhausted by the continuing high demand for Agarwood in the next 10 years.
The research and development of a sustainable and high-quality Agarwood production would contribute to the protection of Agarwood trees, and ensure the market availability of Agarwood products. Therefore, together with our Indonesian partners we work on bilateral research project strategies and methods to allow production of high-quality sustainably produced Agarwood. At the same time modern biotechnology methods for plants are used to generate single, economical and sensory quality ingredients from the Agarwood-forming genera Aquilaria and Gyrinops.
Within a bilateral German-Indonesian project and with the relevant joint project partners following investigations are carried out:
- phytochemical and sensory tests using GC-MS to assess the quality of conventional and sustainably produced Agarwood
- Characterization of high-quality individual components using LC-NMR/high resolution spectroscopy to develop a quality-controlled, sustainable production technology for high-quality Agarwood
- Establishment of a sterile plant-fungal system with special consideration of sensory-demanding plant and fungal substances
- Development of processes for the biotechnological production of high quality secondary plant metabolites from Aquilaria / Gyrinops spp. with the use of cell and tissue culture techniques for crops.