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Optimising tissue culture of coconut in support of saving the Pacific regional genebank

This Small Research Activity will optimise the embryo culture methods needed to move the Pacific Regional Coconut Gene Bank from Madang to far eastern Papua New Guinea and to set up a duplicate collection in Fiji and Samoa, during a series of research activities, and to re-invigorate the laboratory facilities required to do this. It will provide guidance and methodology to create the duplicate collections in Fiji and Samoa; and strengthen the methodology needed to collect new coconut accessions in the field.
The copra industry in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands has declined, but coastal communities still depend on coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) for income and ecosystem services. Access to genetic diversity ensures the resilience of this livelihood system - but an insect-borne phytoplasma, Bogia Coconut Disease, threatens the Pacific Regional Coconut Gene Bank at Madang in Papua New Guinea (the guardian and principal source of this diversity). The collection must be moved immediately.
An ACIAR-funded scoping study, led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, identified a strategy to save some disease-free accessions and collect new material of others, and use the material to re-establish the gene bank in the far-east of Papua New Guinea, with back-up collections in Fiji and Samoa. Moving the accessions that can be saved, collecting new disease-free materials, and their safe conservation depend on embryo culture and other tissue culture approaches developed for coconut.
ACIAR-funded research established these basic techniques several years ago by in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and at the University of Queensland, whose team remains a global leader in this field. The methods need to be optimised for different genotypes and to guarantee higher rates of survival, especially when transferring plants from tissue culture back to the field. The UK's Darwin Initiative is funding some of the work required to move the gene bank, via Bioversity International. The Papua New Guinea Government has also promised a major contribution.
Co-funding of this vital tissue culture component would complement the international effort, maintaining biosecurity and contributing enormously to the likelihood of success.