Micropropagation: Propagating Coconut through Tissue Culture

The era of trade liberalization opens an opportunity for the Philippine coconut industry to become a dominant player in the world market, as the country ranks as the third largest producer of coconut products such as coconut oil and desiccated coconut. However, low production output and the high incidence of pests and diseases impede on the industry’s ability to assume this role.

In a bid to arrest these problems, or at least lessen its impact, a study on the “micropropagation of coconut from epicotyl tissues” was conducted in the Philippine Coconut Authority – Albay Research Center.

Micropopagation through tissue culture remains as the only means to asexually propagate coconut, according to Ms. Erlinda P. Rillo, lead researcher of the study. This technology involves multiplying selected individuals with desirable characteristics such as high-yielding capacity, high tolerance to important pest and diseases and adaptability to adverse growing conditions.

Micropropagation is a series of inoculating processes wherein tissues excised from the epicotyl of coconut are subjected to a medium containing growth-inducing hormones. These hormones, technically known as auxin, trigger the multiplication of cells which subsequently initiates the development of embryoids. These embryos are then placed in a regeneration media containing some hormones to further develop and germinate the embryos. Germinated embryos are maintained in a medium and incubated in a lighted growth room until these embryos develop into plantlets. Rooted plantlets are then transferred to teh screenhouse.

Proponents of the study confirmed that micropropagation from epicotyl tissues is relatively more efficient than micropropagation from inflorescence tissues because the former is more responsive to in-vitro.

One disadvantage of this technology, as observed by the researchers, is that individuals produced from the culture are genetically heterogeneous. However, cloned individuals from identified elite parents are likely to show many – but not all – of the desired characteristics of the parents.
The use of this technology to mass produce Makapuno coconut , a high value coconut in the Philippines , was nonetheless recommended by the researchers.

Source: BAR TODAY July-September 2000, Mary Charlotte O. Fresco
For more information contact Ms. Erlinda P. Rillo et al, Philippine Coconut Authority ALbay research Center Guinobatan Albay.

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