A coconut killer returns to Papua New Guinea
A disease outbreak killing coconut palms in Papua New Guinea also poses a threat to the sector's gene bank.
A disease outbreak killing coconuts in Papua New Guinea also poses a threat for the sector's gene bank.
The only coconut gene bank is a just few kilometres from a renewed outbreak of Bogia Syndrome in Madang province.
A manager from the Coconut Industry Corporation, Allan Aku, says to ensure certain varieties aren't lost, experts are duplicating the gene bank so there is a lifeline for those who rely on coconuts for their nutrition and income.
He told Lucy Smith how the disease could wipe out whole crops of coconut, so creating a safety net like a gene bank is vital.
ALLAN AKU: Bogia coconut syndrome affects the stem of the coconut. But it begins by infecting the leaves, they go yellow first then the tips go brown, the lower leaves will start drooping, and turn brown the young green coconuts will fall from the tree. On average in three months the crown will fall off from the tree. The current problem is we have bio security issues. We have an international coconut gene bank for the South Pacific based here in Papua New Guinea and it's currently attacked by a disease called Bogia coconut syndrome which is a phytoplasma and so in order to preserve the accessions in the gene bank we have to duplicate the gene bank and so we are duplicating in PNG, in another location in PNG, one in Fiji and one in Samoa just to preserve the accessions for the South Pacific.
LUCY SMITH: The Disease it infects the coconut why is it important that you duplicate the gene sets, if this continues eventually would all coconuts die out?
AA: You have to duplicate somewhere, the gene bank has to be removed because its threatened by the Phytoplasma so we have to move the accessions in order to preserve. The Phytoplasma is actually in one province which is in Madang. It hasn't gone out to other provinces but it's based in Madang, but the gene bank for the South Pacific is in Madang, so we have to move it, there's no other place that this disease it's in it's only in one province.
LS: But you need to repair the whole genetic resources?
AA:The gene bank is not yet affected it's about a few kilometres from the gene bank, it hasn't been affected yet.
LS: Because the gene bank is in the province there is a chance it could be impacted by the disease?
AA: Definitely so we are taking precaution measures in order to preserve the accessions that are in - let's say we have atolls in other Pacific Islands well in PNG too, we have atolls that have coconut accessions that are there with the sea level rise and climate change some of them are threatened. We could lose this diversity places like Tuvalu and Kiribati if sea level rises and they keep washing them away then eventually they'll become non-existent, these are the kind of things that are threatening not only the coconut industry but other agriculture cash crops in order to save the diversity you can look at in two fronts whether they are threatened by disease or climate change.
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