GardenDrumSouth Pacific coconut gene bank under threat

A new, deadly disease of coconut palms is threatening the survival of Papua New Guinea’s gene bank of 57 varieties of the economically vital Cocus nucifera.

Photo Calvin Teo

Bogia Coconut Syndrome is a bacterium similar to Lethal Yellowing disease that also attacks palm species. Movement of coconuts and coconut palms in the affected Madang region has been restricted in an effort to quarantine the disease. The International Coconut Genetic Resources Network still hopes to either safely relocate the plants, or duplicate the gene bank in another country. PNG was originally chosen to host the collection as it was a relatively disease-free site. The CGRN is also considering setting up ‘polymotu’ sites on small islands, where only one or two varieties are planted, the isolation keeping them pure.

Richard Markham, research programme manager for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, said: “At present, both the pathogen and its epidemiology are poorly understood”.

Read the full story at SciDevNet

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