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The Origin and Establishment of RRIM

Rubber Research Institute of Malaya During the early period, prior to the establishment of Rubber Research Institute of Malaya, there was complete lack of coordination of research on rubber. The Botanic Gardens at Singapore produced some valuable contributions to most of the research work then. The few research workers and the facilities available in the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States had also made some contributions to a better knowledge of the industry during the initial period on the introduction of commercial planting of rubber in Malaya.

Early Organisation of the Rubber Research Institute of Malaya.

Rubber Research Institute of Malaya Laboratory The first enactment of the Rubber Research Institute of Malaya provided for the principal functions of the Institute for the purpose of research into and investigation of all problems and matters relating to rubber and the provision of information in this connection. The scientific work of the Institute was thus directed towards establishing the facts underlying the cultivation and preparation of rubber and the discovery and application of fundamental principles for the benefit of the industry. The Institute also undertook the supply of scientific and technical information and provided for the dissemination and utilisation in the industry of such new knowledge as it acquired.

Although the Bill to incorporate the Institute was passed at the Federal Council meeting held on 29 June 1925., it was not until 26 September 1926 that Dr G. Bryce who was appointed the first Director of the Institute commenced duty. Before that Dr Bryce worked on the Ceylon Government's Agricultural Department and the New Guinea.

From 1 November 1926 the Institute took over the Rubber Growers’ Association scientific equipment, and its laboratory at Petaling Estate was closed down on 31 October 1926. The research and scientific work on behalf of the rubber industry was transferred to the Institute from the Agricultural Department. At the same time the non-official research stations in Malaya were closed down.

Early Accommodation for the Institute

Early in 1926 a request was made to the Government of the Federated Malay States for a Public Works Department Bunglow on bungsar Estate in Damansara Road, Kuala Lumpur as the temporary laboratory accommodation of the Institute. The Government agreed to lease the buildings to the Institute for a period of five years from 1 March 1926. However, as early as 1929 it was felt that the buildings occupied by the Institute were inadequate as a permanent home for its activities and in consequence discussions took place during that time for a more permanent site. The institute was subsequently relocated at 260 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur in the heart of the national capital, on 19 May, 1937.

Introduction of Research Activities

In the organisation of the scientific work of the Institute it was considered essential that adequate provision should be made for investigations into crop improvement and soil management as the central functions of the Institute. An important process on rubber production and one on which the market value of the rubber closely depended was that of the preparation of rubber from the latex. To provide for the investigation and information required by the industry and to examine new method of preparation, the necessary staff was required.

In the years about the time of the establishment of the Institute, the tendency in the tropics, both among scientific workers and practical planters had been towards a deeper realisation of the fundamental importance of problems of crop improvement and soil management. In the rubber growing industry these matters were the burning issues of the day, and so urgent was the demand for information from the industry that it was at all times necessary to emphasise the tentative nature of much of the existing information and to stress the need for investigation to establish the facts.

In the early period of the establishment of the Institute, plant diseases had been kept under constant observation and as new factors appeared or new data were obtained, control practices needed to be modified and more efficient were then investigated upon. However, a true conception of the pathological work included all the causal factors producing diseases directly or indirectly. This called for a very thorough investigation into the pathology of the rubber trees.

It was also during this period that there was a realisation within the Institute and amongst the planting community of the general lack of knowledge of tropical crops, of providing a team of workers capable of attacking the control problems simultaneously from different aspects, and it was important that provision had to be made for work to be maintained in the different branches of the Institute’s activities at the same time.

With these matters in view provisions were made for the appointment of research staff to the four main divisions of the Institute which were established to study the different aspects of the research activities of the Institute. The four divisions were the Botanical, Chemical, Pathological and Soils Divisions. The first main task of the Institute during this period was to acquire a knowledge of the rubber planting industry on which to base the programme of work which was a matter of difficulty where the industry covered a stretch of country some 500 miles long with a considerable diversity of soils and site conditions. Programme of work was begun to be drawn up and the programmes were sufficiently comprehensive to be regarded as a survey of the whole field of work and experience was indicating the directions in which work was almost urgently required.

Experiment Station

The farm or experiment station must be regarded as an integral part of any agricultural research station. Since rubber was grown as a perennial crop and as, in its cultivation, an acre of land was made to carry only some eighty to hundred individual trees, it was evident from the beginning that an experiment station for research work on rubber, if it was to subserve this purpose adequately, must have at its disposal a considerably larger area of land than was usually devoted to annual crops in the temperate zone. In addition to the plots, on which basic experiments were to be conducted, it was of some importance that larger areas should be available on which results obtained from small experiments could be tried out on a larger scale. A large area was also necessary for the plant breeder to try out results of his selection work.

In 1927 the Institute established an Experiment Station on the Sungei Buloh Reserve, the Government having agreed to alienate 2000 acres in phases for this purpose. The establishment of the Experiment Station required a considerable outlay of capital and an equal annual outlay on maintenance. However, it was anticipated that revenue should accrue from the Experiment Station when the rubber came into bearing. The early progress of the Station was both rapid and substantial. In late 1928 the whole area of 2000 acres was alienated to the Institute.

General Administration and Review of Progress

The Institute in the initial period of its work was confronted with special needs and demands. Scientific staff were recruited in the United Kingdom and officers were new to the crop which was to be the subject of their investigations and to tropical conditions. During the first year or so a fairly heavy lecture programme in different parts of Malaya was undertaken with a view of preparing the staff to meet members of the planting community and thus to become acquainted at first hand with planting problems and to present planters the available information on problems of practical importance pending the issue of publications by the Institute for the dissemination of this information. For similar reasons the Institute had undertaken a large volume of routine consultative and advisory work both by correspondence and visits to estates.

The period of 1926-28 was essential one of construction. Salary scales had been drawn up, scientific staff had to be recruited and bunglows provided for their accommodation. A building suitable for use as a laboratory had to be modified and extended. The laboratory had to be equipped and apparatus and chemicals for the various divisions had to be obtained. A gas plant and a steam boiler had to be installed and water supply provided. The laboratory had to be installed and fitted with gas, steam and water pipes. A supply of electricity had to be specially arranged as the laboratory building was at some distance from the nearest supply point. A generator had to be installed to supply the direct current and this and the switchboard had to be obtained from England.

A system of accounts and the form of the estimated had to be drawn up. The Library had to be built up from the beginning, books and periodicals had to be acquired and exchanges sought. The experimental rubber factory, smokehouse and drying room had to be installed, and so on with many other matters incidental to the inauguration of a new institution.

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