Eng. Abdulaziz Bin Mansoor Ghalib Al-Shanfari
Eng. Anwar Ahmed Amur Bait Fadhil
Sultanate of Oman
The Sultanate of Oman is a Middle Eastern country and one of the Global Plan of Action (GPA) on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) members. It has a contrasting landscape; from mountains to sea, from desert to greenery. The Dhofar plain is located in the corner of Oman’s southwest; it comprises fertile lands and surrounding mountains affected annually by the Indian monsoon during June to September. The moderate climate all year round (20°C – 33°C and 70% - 90% RH) of this plain makes it suitable for growing trees and other tropical fruits. Coconut trees are mainly concentrated in these lands, particularly in Salalah city. They are mostly grown under small-holding farms (not more than 2.5 ha per farm) and depend on ground well-irrigation system.
Coconut research and organization
The Salalah Agricultural Research Station (SARS) was launched in 1982 with 9 specific laboratories/units in plant production and protection applications. It relies on the support of the ministry of agriculture and fisheries and is dedicated to plant production and protection.
Oman’s current main trial is linked to the integrated management project on coconut mite (Aceria guerreronis). This program includes a research protocol for the conservation and enrichment of the coconut germplasm in Dhofar. It consists of identifying local coconut varieties, introduce new coconut varieties and screening for resistance of coconut varieties to the coconut mite. The Omani strategy for conserving traditional tall varieties involves avoiding contamination by imported varieties, providing good quality coconut seed nuts for Omani farmers and enriching germplasm, leading to breeding new varieties.
The history of coconut germplasm in Oman
In Oman, coconut has a centuries-long history linked with the socio-economic concerns of communities resident in the Dhofar governorate, therefore there are several agricultural authorities dealing with coconut development services in Oman. Indeed (Cocos nucifera) is an economically important crop in the Sultanate of Oman.
This country contains about 200,000 coconut palms and around 91% of these are located on the Dhofar plain. Between 1983 and 1988 several new coconut varieties were imported from Sri Lanka and Malaysia via the ministry of agriculture and fisheries. The number of imported seed-nuts and seedlings reached about 40 000. The most identified varieties were: Sri Lanka Green Dwarfs, Sri Lanka yellow Dwarf, Kalim Bahim (dwarf x tall hybrids) MAWA hybrid, Malaysia Yellow Dwarf, King Coconut, CRIC65 (Tall x Green Dwarf) CRIC65 (Tall x Yellow Dwarf). These varieties have been re-identified and confirmed later on by Dr Roland Bourdeix and Lalith Perera in 2009.
The Oman strategy for conservation of traditional tall varieties involves: avoiding contamination of imported varieties, provide good quality coconut seed nuts to Omani farmers and enrichment of germplasm leading to breeding of new varieties.
The strategy plan was launched in 2009 with the assistance of Dr Roland Bourdeix and Lalith Perera with the implementation of the following activities:
- Identification of local and exotic varieties in farms and research station farms.
- Physical description of 470 trees (i.e. Botanical characteristics and morphometric measurements) and around 175 of indigenous coconut subjected to DNA analysis. The remaining trees are awaiting further DNA analysis.
- Eleven of new coconut varieties were introduced and planted in 2010 – 2011 from the international genebank of Côte d’Ivoire, as 7 dwarf varieties, 2 tall varieties and 2 hybrid varieties.
- Establishing good international cooperation with centres such as COGENT in order to exchange common interests in the scope of coconut development, leading to the establishment of a genebank in Salalah where coconut trees become a common concern, especially for private and indigenous uses in households and tourist resources extending to the Middle Eastern coast and countries of the Arabian Gulf in particular.