CoGent Network

Ongoing projects

Upgrading and broadening the new South-Pacific International Coconut Genebank


Project title

Darwin Initiative "Upgrading and broadening the new South-Pacific International Coconut Genebank"

Project duration

Start Date: 01 April 2016 | End Date: 31 March 2019

Funding agency

Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs - Defra - UK Government


Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa.

 Fiji Samoa PNG

Research Partners

  • APCC
  • Bioversity International (COGENT coordination)
  • CIRAD- Département des Systèmes Biologiques (Cirad-Bios), France
  • The Crop Trust
  • The Government of Fiji (Ministry of Agriculture)
  • The Government of Samoa (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries)
  • KIK (Kokonas Indastri Korporesen, Papua New Guinea)
  • SPC (Pacific Community)
  • ITPGRFA (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture)

Coordinating agency

Bioversity International

Project Co-leaders

Mr Vincent Johnson (Bioversity)

Dr Luc Baudouin (CIRAD)


Legal Experts

Key Partner Skateholders

  • Alan AKu
  • Macanawai Apaitia
  • Jan Helsen
  • James V Kaiulo
  • Uron N. Salum

Project documents

Inception report

 Prospecting Guidelines

Background, overview and objectives

Coconut and its genetic diversity provide significant income and nutrition for more than 8 million Asia-Pacific households, yet there is scant support for conserving its endangered genetic resources. In many Pacific Islands, diversity is seriously threatened by climate change, potential sea-level rise and soil salinization, as well as other challenges such as pests and diseases. COGENT’s Global Strategy for Conservation and Use of Coconut Genetic Resources highlights the need to conserve Asia-Pacific diversity, as not all representative coconut diversity is adequately conserved in the International Coconut Genebank-South Pacific (ICG-SP) in Papua New Guinea (PNG).Moreover, the existing PNG genebank is currently threatened by a lethal disease ( It is being transferred to a safe site in PNG), with eventual duplication back-up planned in new satellite genebanks in Fiji and Samoa.

This ongoing Darwin Initiative-funded project (2016-2019) is complementing this transfer with prospecting missions in the three countries to identify key unconserved diversity and building capacity for the three new Pacific genebanks.

The aim of the project:

The project aims to identify those areas of Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Samoa where coconut biodiversity is threatened and to ensure threatened coconut germplasm is conserved by: (i) developing the associated listing, (ii) characterizing its diversity and (iii) preparing for prioritized germplasm transfer to the ICG-SP, (part of COGENT), and placed under the protection of the international Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). For more information, please have a look at the inception meeting report.

A germplasm collection methodology is also being developed, and arrangements for managing and sharing the germplasm being developed. Selected threatened coconut germplasm will be listed for introduction into the International Coconut Genebank of the South Pacific (ICG-SP) and in the international Coconut Genetic Resources Database (CGRD), available for future generations of researchers, farmers, consumers and other users. Prioritized new accessions will be characterized taking in account local uses, and resistance to cyclones and diseases. In parallel, partners in both Fiji and Samoa will establish new genebank satellite-sites to receive the local new accessions, and eventually backups of the already conserved accessions in PNG.

Research Areas-Tags

Crops, Accessions, Coconut, Genebank, Genetic Resources, Regeneration

External links

Alternative approaches for cryopreservation of coconut, sweet potato and selected indigenous crops in the Asia Pacific (AP) region

Project title

Alternative approaches for cryopreservation of coconut, sweet potato and selected indigenous crops in the Asia Pacific (AP) region

Project duration

Three years: 1st December 2011 to 30th November 2014

Funding agency

 RDA Korea


Asia Pacific region

Research Partners

Coordinating agency

Korean scientist seconded to Bioversity International

Project leader

Dr. Hyung-Jin Baek


Purpose of Research

  • To optimise the coconut cryopreservation protocol for large-scale implementation of coconut germplasm conservation
  • To test suitable cryopreservation for sweet potato and selected indigenous crops in AP region
  • To upscale the developed protocol for application in the conservation of coconut and other genetic resources
  • To develop the capacity of national and international coconut genebanks to use cryopreservation in conserving coconut


Rationale and Background

The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera L.) is an important livelihood crop for millions across Southeast Asia, the Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America. Fully developed and strategically used, coconuts could increase food production, improve nutrition, create employment opportunities, enhance equity and help conserve the environment. The future of global coconut production and livelihoods critically depends on the availability of genetic diversity and the sustainable use of this broad genetic base to breed improved varieties.

Harnessing and conserving agrobiodiversity are critical to sustainably boosting productivity and livelihoods, and addressing important challenges including those posed by climate change or pest and disease epidemics. Bioversity International continues to support the development of a progressive global strategy for conserving coconut germplasm. It aims to cost-effectively optimize conservation of as much representative diversity as possible.

Because of its large, recalcitrant seed that exhibits no dormancy, coconut diversity is conserved in field genebanks, which until recently has been the only practical method for coconut ex situ conservation. They however require a large area and substantial resources to maintain, and are subject to many risks such as exposure to pests, diseases, abiotic stresses and natural and man-made calamities. Many countries also lack the capacity and financial resources to maintain their collections.

Currently, coconut embryo transfer offers a feasible means of safely sharing and conserving coconut germplasm. This includes ensuring optimal embryo (or plug) selection and transfer, according to strictly observed protocols.

Bioversity has recently produced the ‘Technical guidelines for the safe movement and duplication of coconut germplasm using embryo culture transfer protocols’ as the main output of project work producing a protocol adapted from previously existing coconut embryo culture protocols . The project aimed to validate and apply the adapted protocol to provide users with an up-to-date, reliable method for effectively transferring coconut germplasm. Most importantly, the unique accessions housed in certain coconut genebanks need to be duplicated in other genebanks to minimise the risk of losing them. Embryo transfer offers an important facility for such duplication. This duplication work is now underway. For those countries lacking embryo-management capacity, the transfer of embryo-cultured seedlings offers a more viable alternative means of sharing germplasm, and Bioversity aims to coordinate further research in this area.

As another potential means of ensuring long-term conservation, accessions can now also be cryo-preserved, that is frozen to the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196°C). Cryopreservation arrests both the growth of plant cells and all processes of biological deterioration, so that the material can be preserved for extended periods and resuscitated into fully viable plants. The one-off cost of cryo-preserving accessions is expected to pay off against the recurrent costs of in vitro or in field maintenance over a number of years.

A robust cryopreservation protocol needs to be developed and validated. The factors governing protocol success need to be carefully identified and controlled to obtain favourable results. Recognizing this need, Korea RDA and Bioversity International, as part of their partnership to enhance the sustainable use and conservation of genetic resources in the Asia Pacific region signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2009 that included an Rand D partnership for coconut cryopreservation. Following the MOU, the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) proposed a partnership with RDA for creating a global coconut cryobank to provide a safety duplicate of the coconut virtual collection. An expert consultation was also organised in Suwon in 2009 to assess the developments of coconut in vitro culture and cryopreservation.

Studies have indicated that mature coconut embryos are safest for their cryopreservation. The project aims to optimise existing protocols and make these more efficient for cryopreservation. Amongst the cryopreservation techniques that have been widely tested, the proposed project will emphasise on the use of vacuum assisted procedures involving physical and chemical dehydration and the droplet-vitrification method of coconut embryos. A systematic study using these alternative approaches is required to provide a solid basis for understanding the various factors leading to the success in long term storage of materials under cryogenic temperatures.

The Asia Pacific contains mega-biodiversity and is the centre of origin for many crops. Therefore, development of applicable cryopreservation protocols for those vegetatively propagated and recalcitrant seed species is needed for long-term safety backup of such genetic resources in this region. A droplet-vitrification protocol using a systematic approach, developed at RDA can be useful to develop the cryopreservation protocol for some species. There is an urgent need for improving communication between cryopreservation researchers, and it is suggested to establish an informal network among researchers at national genebanks and universities. It will facilitate information exchange and developing the cryopreservation activities in the region.


Expected Outputs

  • Optimised cryopreservation protocol for coconut, sweet potato and selected indigenous crops.
  • A robust cryopreservation protocol adopted for wider applicability to other coconut genotypes
  • Enhanced national capacities in cryopreservation of coconut, sweet potato and indigenous crops.
  • Publication of technical guidelines and scientific journals on development of droplet-vitrification protocols.


Workplan/Schedule of Activities

The activities described below will be under the responsibility of the Korean scientist seconded to Bioversity. These activities will include the following:

 A. Optimisation of cryopreservation protocols for coconut

 B. Enhancing national capacities and upscaling of cryopreservation techniques for sweet potato and other APO originated species



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