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

   Meeting embryo

 

Coconut green shoots
(Image: V. Johnson,
Bioversity International)

The coconut palm is an integral part of the culture in many countries and over a range of agro-ecologies. Coconut supports more than 10 million sustainable livelihoods worldwide, and associated coconut-growing communities face several challenges from genetic erosion, climate-change and coconut diseases.In recent years, these economic threats have prompted shifts in coconut farming-systems, and hence the rich and bio-diverse coconut heritage in many countries is under threat.

Providing access to improved germplasm, technology and market opportunities is likely to benefit even the poorest of rural populations dependent on coconut.
Coconut is not easy to conserve because its seednuts are large to store, and traditional conservation techniques, such as drying, do not work. In addition, moving seednuts carries the risk of also spreading associated diseases.
 
As a means of enhancing coconut production, Bioversity International and the Coconut Research Institute (CRI), have been refining and validating a protocol for managing, culturing and moving coconut embryos through the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT). This research has been carried out with the critical support of the Global Crop Diversity Trust (Trust). The project has refined guidelines for the safe international movement of coconut genetic diversity, and under these new guidelines promotes moving embryos rather than seeds, as it reduces the risk of infection.

 

 

The management and movement of such delicate embryos needs to be done according to a strict protocol as developed and refined in the above-mentioned research program, which ends in February 2012. A wide application of such a standard embryo culture protocol is critical. Furthermore, part of the purpose of this validated protocol is to duplicate threatened accessions.

For these reasons, Bioversity (with COGENT) and the CRI have organized an end of project workshop in Lunuwila, Sri Lanka from the 13th to 16th February 2012. The meeting will present and finalize the findings arising from the project.  The main objectives are to prepare a draft of the terminal report to be submitted to the Trust, and a draft of the protocol for using embryo culture in coconut germplasm exchange. The protocol will be published in the near future.