Crop Biotech Update

Breakthrough to Help Coconut Propagation and Conservation

October 20, 2021

Scientists at KU Leuven and the Alliance of Bioversity International and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have developed a method to multiply coconut trees faster and conserve coconut genetic resources more efficiently in gene banks.

Drawing inspiration from banana research, Bart Panis (KU Leuven Laboratory for Tropical Crop Improvement/the Alliance) suspected that a certain plant hormone could also be successful in coconut trees. The research team first extracted the coconut tree embryo from the coconut. Then they applied the plant hormone to the meristem - or growing point - contained in the embryo. They succeeded in having the embryo form not only one shoot, but several side shoots and managed to split these shoot clusters and allow new side shoots to grow on them as well.

The technique allows coconut shoots to be preserved for eternity by cryopreservation, in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196°C. Panis said this is important for the future for when a new disease affects coconut production, there may be a variety in the gene bank that is resistant to the disease and can be planted out in the affected areas.

For more details, read the article in KU Leuven Research News.

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