Surat Thani Province is one of the provinces in the upper southern region of Thailand on the Andaman Coast with the abundance of forest, plant, and animal. It is a province that people make a living from agriculture mainly. The main plants arerubber tree, palm oil, and many types of economic fruit tree, such as durian, Nasan Rambutan, mangosteen, Gros Michel banana, langsat, and longan. Island areas, like Samui Island and Pa-Ngan Island, are the main coconut cultivating area, including Macapuno, aromatic coconut, and tall coconut. There is also Chaiya fragrance rice, which is a local uniqueness that is currently receiving an interest from academicians. There was a study to select the species with fragrant and softness, suitability for consumption, and the area that is located in the significant strategic area of Surat Thani Province, which can be seen from the budget support that the government has given to Surat Thani Province to proceed in many important projects. For example: Large-Plot Fruit Tree Production Project; Integrated Palm Oil Production Project; and Integrated Herbal City Project of Surat Thani Province. Moreover, the epidemic of coconut black-headed caterpillar on Samui Island and Pa-Ngan Island, which are the main production area of Macapuno of the province, causes the agricultural agencies of Surat Thani Province to proceed with the controlling of coconut black-headed caterpillar by emphasizing on the use of biological control because the coconut grove owner does not want to use chemicals to get rid of insects due to the awareness in terms of environment and consumer. Some areas even produce organic coconut. In these operations, the faculty of teachers from Prince of Songkhla University, Surat Thani Campus has taken part in the driving of operation with Surat Thani Provincial Office and all relevant agencies in the research and development in order to push those projects to become successful. Apart from various types of economic plants of Surat Thani Province, the biological control of pests, such as predatory insects and parasitic insects, to reduce the use of chemical insecticide in agricultural plot is one of the knowledge in the economic development of the area.
According to the problem of low price in rubber and palm oil, the research for the development of other types of economic plant of Surat Thani Province might be another way to increase a revenue to farmers. The establishment of Economic Plant Research Unit of Surat Thani Province with the faculty of teachers from Faculty of Science and Industrial Technology of Prince of Songkhla University, Surat Thani Campus as an operator is an important part that can support the research that is relevant with economic plants of the province and the elimination of main pests by not using chemical insecticide in order to obtain the safe products according to food security principle, which is a current director for agriculture. Moreover, it can create the new knowledge and further the previous knowledge to strengthen the economy of Thailand. The operation of research unit can also support the production of university students in graduate school level with efficiency because it can provide the scholarship for university students to work in a research and learn about complete research process, which is the main target of the study in graduate school level.
Vision The Economic Plant Research Unit of Surat Thani Province emphasizes on making a research that create benefits and returns to the community that is in accordance with the strategic area and the context of Surat Thani community. The research direction is laid with 3 main parts, which are:
1) The study of variety of plants of Surat Thani Province and the selection of potential specifies that can be developed into economic plants in the future.
2) The research to develop the productivity and the value adding of products. For example: The study of production of off-season fruit, the study of impact from the change of weather and nutrient against the growth and the plant products, the study of recipe that is appropriate with the tissue culture of important economic plants, including the precise plant production system, the worthy use of water and fertilizer in terms of production cost and returns, and the research to develop the guideline for plant breeding and plant protection.
Moreover, there is the direction of operations in terms of research and development of processing for value adding that is linked with the community, which is an important part that can support the operation of the university. For example: The study of usability of wood from rubber tree and other woods in southern region for highest benefit, including processing all parts of wood to add value, such as the study of how to use each type of economic wood to produce wood cement board and particle board, the wood preservation by using natural substance, and the use of wood scraps to produce charcoal with the transfer of knowledge about the production to the community.
Faculty of Science & Industrial Technology, Prince of Songkla University,