Validation of a coconut embryo culture protocol for the international exchange of germplasm

Published on 9 September 2010

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Start Date: 15 October 2009 | End Date: 15 April 2011


Globally, coconuts support more than 10 million sustainable livelihoods, providing materials for food and shelter; helping stabilize farming-systems, and generating income and employment. Benefits from better access to improved planting materials and management, post-harvest technologies and new marketing opportunities are likely to accrue to the poorest of rural populations, providing project strategies are explicit in this regard. Coconut is often the most viable cash crop, especially in Asia-Pacific countries such as India and the Philippines, and partly owing to its non-perishability and product-diversity. Coconut systems also allow for other cash crops to be intercropped, generating additional income. Global demand for coconut oil, and copra/ coconut oil prices have recently increased although price volatility remains a constraint.

Harnessing and conserving agro-biodiversity is critical to coconut production and its future. 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 for the short, medium and long term.

Because of its large, recalcitrant seeds that exhibit no dormancy, coconut diversity is conserved in field genebanks.  Collections that represent coconut diversity are located in national and regional (5) genebanks, and in the multi-site International Coconut Genebank. The regional field genebanks are established, maintained and managed by national programmes with guidance from the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT). This was founded by Bioversity International in 1992, as a global network of coconut producing countries, aimed at improving the production and use of coconut and the conservation of its diversity.

Until recently, the only practical method for coconut ex situ conservation has been in such field genebanks, requiring a large area and substantial resources to maintain, and are subject to many risks. Many countries also lack the capacity and financial resources to maintain their collections.

To ensure long-term conservation, accessions can now also be ‘cryo-preserved’, that is frozen to the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196C). Cryopreservation arrests both the growth of plant cells and all processes of biological deterioration, so that the material can be preserved indefinitely 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.

Funded by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the overall aim of this project is to optimize, validate and apply a standard embryo culture protocol for wide application under a variety of genotypes and conditions. The specific objectives are:

  • To test and optimize the embryo culture through the transfer of embryos from the ICG-AIO in Côte d’Ivoire to the Philippines, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Sri Lanka.
  • To assess the feasibility of shipping embryos as compared to hand-carrying embryos.
  • To produce technical guidelines for the successful exchange of coconut germplasm as embryos.
  • To duplicate 11 threatened accessions in the ICG-AIO in other genebanks using the validated protocol to transfer embryos.

An international workshop was held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in which participants agreed on a flexible coconut embryo culture protocol. This will help ensure greater consistency and effectiveness of future embryo culture work. Validation work and the preparation of a manual detailing a standard embryo transfer protocol are underway. As well as the safeguarding the intrinsic biodiversity value of such germplasm conservation, ultimately those depending on coconut production are likely to enjoy greater food and livelihoods’ security.

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3 Responses to “Validation of a coconut embryo culture protocol for the international exchange of germplasm”

  1. Grateful if I could be provided with a rapid protocol for multiplication of coconut in vitro. and could you please advise on the explant to be used for rapid multiplication.

    • Vincent Johnson says:

      Thanks for your interest in in vitro culture of coconut…

      We are working on clonal propagation of coconut and are using immature flowers, immature embryos and plumular tissues (from mature zygotic embryos) as sources of explants. We have demonstrated that we could get clones from these explants, however, we are still in the process of standardizing the protocol. The regeneration success is still low and moreover, it is not a rapid protocol. It normally takes us two years (at most) to obtain cloned coconut plantlets. The repeatability of the results is a big challenge for us. the respond of the cultures is highly variable…

      If you want, can provide you a copy of our paper on clonal propagation of coconut using immature flowers.

      By the way, have you started your work in coconut tissue culture? how is it going?

  2. Jose says:

    Dear Sir/ Madam
    I am interested in coconut tissue culture for a M Sc seminar preparation. Can I have some guidance in this regard please.

    Thank you so much

    Jose K

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