Shortfall in global coconut production cracked by scientists

23 May 2018

A potential shortfall in global coconut production has inspired University of Queensland scientists to develop advanced propagation techniques to assist production in Australia and the Pacific Islands

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences researchers led by Professor Steve Adkins have pioneered cloning and tissue culture techniques to assist production, while  Dr Julianne Biddle is developing  Australia’s commercial production capability.

Dr Biddle said the coconut (Cocos nucifera) was an important palm crop, cultivated and consumed in more than 90 countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Mexico, Thailand and Malaysia.

 “Lower global productivity due to disease, insect problems, environmental events, human activities and ageing palms, cannot be quickly addressed by conventional breeding,” she said.

”Demand for coconut products is booming in Australia, and last year we imported more than $35 million worth of coconut oil, as well beverages, fresh kernels and extracted milk”.

She said the timing might be right for developing an Australian commercial coconut industry.

“A number of producers contacted us who are interested in planting coconuts commercially in northern Australia,” she said.

UQ researchers were applying promising clonal techniques to produce plants bearing nuts more quickly, coinciding with higher consumer demand, good prices and the development of new harvesting machinery, like coconut climbing robots and drones.

She said crop diversity was the key to global food security but current global seed saving facilities located in Norway could not store crops such as breadfruit, cassava, potato, sweet potato, banana, plantain, yams, coffee, cacao and coconut, so their diversity was at risk.

Dr Biddle has researched the potential for Australian commercial production in a pre-accelerator  program assisting researchers to validate discoveries and test intellectual property paths for new products.

Media: julianne.biddle@uq.edu.au, +61 (0) 4397 44382

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