The country’s coconut industry is the source of income of 3.5 million farmers, providing important economic support to the rural communities.

However, low productivity (46 nuts/palm/year) from old and senile palms is one of the challenges facing the industry.

In addition, a significant number of damaged palms require immediate replanting due to the devastation of recent strong typhoons in Visayas and Mindanao and coconut scale insect infestation in CALABARZON.

To address these challenges,, the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) funded the project on coconut somatic embryogenesis technology (CSet).

CSet is a tool for rapid mass propagation of superior genetic stocks for high yield, pest and disease resistance, and high value products. It is an alternative technique, which involves the use of immature flowers, immature embryos, and plumule or the young shoot that grows from the seed of the plant.

The CSet project is tested and evaluated by a group of researchers from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), University of the Philippines (UP), Bicol University (BU), and Visayas State University (VSU).

“In response to the challenge, the government, as stewards of the nation’s S&T agenda, have continuously strengthened our S&T ecosystem, through funding support for R&D programs and facilities, enhanced S&T policies, and capacity building,” said DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo. “We shifted our focus from traditional academic and technical research to S&T in response to the need of society to benefit Aling Maria and Mang Juan.”

To date, more than 12,000 plumules have been removed and started with tissue culture with 56% efficienc yadopting the enhanced PCA-CSet protocol in seven upgraded/equipped laboratories: PCA-Albay Research Center, PCA-Zamboanga Research Center, UPLB, UP Mindanao, Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry, and VSU.

The protocol is currently being enhanced to attain as much as 1,000 seedlings per plumule by using explants from high yielding tall and dwarf coconut varieties.

By using planting materials derived from CSet, the existing old and senile coconut trees, typhoon-damaged, and insect-infested palms will be replaced with more productive trees.

The technology is expected to benefit the farmers in coconut growing areas and suitable coastal areas in Regions 4A, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, and ARMM.

To date, the highest multiplication rate that could be attained is 80–120 seedlings per plumule. This result is considered very promising when compared to traditional propagation techniques.

Somatic embryogenesis is one of the technologies showcased in PCAARRD’s ongoing SIPAG FIESTA from March 2-4, 2016 at its headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna.

Plantlets in the screenhouseof PCA, Albay Research Center (Photo from Dr. Cristeta A. Cueto, PCA – Albay Research Center)

A laboratory technician shows the excision of coconut plumules (Photo by Dr. Maria Lourdes Cedo, University of the Philippines Los Baños)

Mature somatic embryos (left) and the formation of shootlets (right) (Photo from Dr. Cristeta A. Cueto, PCA – Albay Research Center)

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