CONSERVATION OF COCONUT GENETIC RESOURCES IN SRI LANKA
Coconut has been recognized as a crop with tremendous potential for alleviatingpoverty in the third world. Its' importance however, as an oil crop and a source ofincome generation for poor farmers' incomes. The low productivity constraintsneed to be identified accurately and dealt appropriately to gain maximum benefitsof coconut and hence proper identification, collection, evaluation andconservation of coconut genetic resources in the country was recognized as anessential step towards developing strategies for enhancing incomes of smallholder. On the other hand the genetic erosion of coconut has reached anunprecedented ark due to natural disasters, land fragmentation and competitionfrom other crops.
A search for coconut genetic resources was initiated in 1984 with emphasis oncollecting drought tolerant germplasm and subsequently for random collecting tocapture a more genetically representative sample. These collections are conservedex-situ in 11 CRISL gene banks. To date, the number of collections has reached100, constituting 7 drought tolerant, 51 random, 7 seed palm (plus palm), 8 exoticand 17 distinct phenotypes Data (standard morphological descriptors) are beingconstantly gathered from these ex-situ accessions for their genetic evaluation.Descriptor-data and DNA polymorphisms have been assessed in a samplepopulation and a narrow genetic base was observed among most common tallcoconuts of the country. Molecular data unveiled a gamut of information onpopulation's structure of the coconut in Sri Lanka and their roots of origin.
Utilisation of coconut germplasm was looked in two dimensions, use of desirablecharacters, such as jelly-like endosperm of dikiri coconut for confectionery andsmall bodiri nut as a beverage, for income generation of poor-farmer families anduse of genetically diverse accessions for production of new hybrids. Importationof germplasm was envisaged as a high priority for enrichment of coconutgermplasm in the country.