Sharie Al-Faiha A. Lubang

The research team with DOST-PCAARRD representatives and technical evaluators during the Inception Meeting on Coconut Genomics Phase 2 held at the Council’s Headquarters. In the photo (foreground, from the left) are UP Diliman Professor Dr. Ma. Anita M. Bautista; UP Los Baños (UPLB) Professor Dr. Antonio C. Laurena; PCAARRD-Crops Research Division Director Dr. Jocelyn E. Eusebio; PCAARRD-Crops Research Division Assistant Director Dr. Edna A. Anit; UPLB Professor Emeritus Dr. Dolores A. Ramirez; Biotech Coalition President and CEO Dr. Benigno D. Peczon. Standing behind are other PCAARRD representatives and research program team from UPD and UPLB, with Ramon L. Rivera, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Deputy Administrator for Research Development and Extension (top center) (Image credit: Crops Research Division)

Two spin-off projects on coconut genetic and varietal improvement are expected to boost the country’s coconut industry. 

The two projects kicked off following the success of the Industry Strategic S&T Program (ISP) for Coconut, particularly the use of genomics, genetics, and molecular marker assisted breeding for a competitive and sustainable Philippine Coconut Industry. 

The two projects will be implemented by the National Institute for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMDB), University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), and Institute of Plant Breeding, UP Los Baños (IPB-UPLB). 

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD), which prioritizes coconut among other   commodities, funds the projects. 

The first project, “Curation, validation and utilization of coconut transcriptome sequences for gene-based marker development” aims to generate accurate and consistent transcriptomes of seven Philippine coconut varieties and use their sequences for the development of gene-based markers. 

The gene-based markers will be used for coconut genetic and varietal improvement. Coconut breeders are expected to benefit in utilizing these markers to target desired traits such as high nut yield and high coco water quality, among many other characteristics. 

With 20 years of continued research and development, the project hopes that breeders could introduce a range of new coconut varieties to farmers. 

The second project focuses on evaluating a coconut gene expression and its effect on oil biosynthesis. Like the first project, it also pursues higher coconut productivity by validating the expression of a coconut gene in an experimental model system.

The generation of gene-based markers with target traits is expected to boost the competitive edge of the local supply in the international market. This will ultimately help the industry, especially the local farmers, in achieving a more sustainable source of livelihood. 

These two projects were reviewed in an inception meeting held recently at the Council’s headquarters. In attendance were Dr. Dolores A. Ramirez, national scientist, and Dr. Benigno D. Peczon, who both served as technical evaluators as well as Crops Research Division (CRD) staff members led by its Assistant Director Dr. Edna A. Anit.