Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI)
Dr George V. Thomas
Andaman Giant Tall (AGT)
India is the seventh-largest country by geographical area and the second-most populous. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east, India has a coastline of 7517 kilometers. It is bordered by Pakistan to the west, China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east.
With a crop area of almost 1.9 million hectares, India is the world’s third largest coconut producer, growing the crop in 4 of its southern states: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Crop management varies from monocropping with sophisticated drip irrigation, to mixed gardening in home gardens to wild stands in uninhabited islands. Planting densities vary from wide spacing of 150 palms per ha in some parts of Karnataka to high-density stands of nearly 400 palms per ha in the Lakshadweep islands.
The country’s coconut industry suffers from two main problems: Root (wilt) disease (in Kerala) and drought, as the crop is mainly grown as a rain-fed crop or with limited irrigation. In addition, Eriophyid mite has become a serious threat to coconut cultivation in recent years. Price fluctuation for coconut and its products is also another
threat to coconut farmers.
India has a relatively well-developed coconut Research and Development network (Rajagopal et al. 2005). The Central Plantations Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) and many state agricultural universities concentrate on research at the national and regional levels. An All India Coordinated Research Project on Palms (AICRPP) plays a crucial role in networking these organizations. The Coconut Development Coir Board helps in implementing developmental programmes on coconut and coir, in collaboration with the state departments of agriculture, horticulture and oilseeds. Genetic enhancement for crop productivity is an important activity of the concerned research organizations, particularly by the CPCRI, which spearheads coconut research and development in the country. The new field genebank in Kidu Farm, Karnataka, which became the International Coconut Genebank for South Asia, is supported technically by the laboratory facilities at CPCRI, Kasaragod (Rajagopal et al. 2005).
Collaborative Activities between BIOVERSITY/COGENT and India
1. Capacity Building
a) Technical assistance/expert advice
Seven coconut specialists were sent to India from 1995 to 1999 to identify a suitable site for the International Coconut Genebank for South Asia (ICG-SA); evaluate COGENT’s collecting strategies; and conduct a pest-risk assessment for the ICG in three countries.
b) Training and human resources development
In 2000, a regional training course on In Vitro Conservation and Cryopreservation on PGR was conducted by NBPGR with seven participants from five countries. The training course was sponsored by ADB.
11 local staff from various collaborating institutions and NARS were trained on various topics including use of the STANTECH manual, embryo in vitro and cryopreservation culture techniques as well as the use of the microsatellite kit and dedicated statistical software, production of Coconut-based Food Products (Bokayo, Buko Pie, Sugar, Candies); Socioeconomics and Participatory Approaches to Reduce Poverty in Coconut Growing Communities; Markets and Market Development; and Coconut embryo culture to improve collecting and safe movement of germplasm.
c) COGENT meetings/workshops
From 1995 to 2005, seven meetings/conferences/workshops were held in the country, including the 9th and 14th COGENT Steering Committee Meeting held in Kasaragod and Mangalore, respectively.
2. Research Projects
A total of 32 projects have been conducted in the country by the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) and the Peekay Tree Crops Development Foundation (Peekay).
3. Financial Support and Funding
Funding support for coconut PGR-related projects in the country amounted to a total of US$ 392,600 out of which US$ 215,975 was provided by ADB, APCC, DFID and IFAD, while US$ 176,625 came from counterpart financing by India’s national government and Peekay Foundation.