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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Building a Better Coconut

Authors
item Meerow, Alan
item Ayala-Silva, Tomas

Submitted to: Ornamental Outlook
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 10, 2005
Publication Date: February 1, 2006
Citation: Meerow, A.W., Ayala-Silva, T. 2006. Building a Better Coconut. Ornamental Outlook. 15(2):22,24

Interpretive Summary: In the United States, the coconut is, with minor exception, exclusively a tropical ornamental, much in demand as a signature tropical landscape element. In the 1970’s, the Lethal Yellowing (LY) phytoplasma devastated the coconut canopy of south Florida. The variety ‘Niu Leka’, better known in this country as ‘Fiji Dwarf’, is particular horticultural interest because of its heavy, dense crown of short, dark leaves that is very ornamental. We have been working at at the USDA-ARS-SHRS National Germplasm Repository since 2001 to investigate the genetics of the ‘Fiji Dwarf’ and other coconut varieties using molecular tools. These data were used in a parentage analysis of the ‘Fiji Dwarf’ progeny at both USDA and UF. We were interested in answering several questions. Is susceptibility to LY in Florida ‘Fiji Dwarf’ coconuts restricted to recognizable off-phenotypes (presumably out-crossed)? What can parentage analysis tell us about breeding behavior in a small stand of open-pollinated ‘Fiji Dwarf’ individuals surrounded by a diverse assemblage of potential pollen parents, and how can this information then be adapted to managing a seed production grove of ‘Fiji Dwarf’ coconuts to supply the tropical landscape plant industry? Finally, we wished to ascertain if ‘Malayan Dwarf’ off-types, recognized phenotypically by trunk and fruit characteristics, could also be identified using molecular markers. We describe our plans to develop seed orchards of this variety in South Florida that can become sources for the tropical nursery industry.

Technical Abstract: In the United States, the coconut is, with minor exception, exclusively a tropical ornamental, much in demand as a signature tropical landscape element. In the 1970’s, the Lethal Yellowing (LY) phytoplasma devastated the coconut canopy of south Florida. The variety ‘Niu Leka’, better known in this country as ‘Fiji Dwarf’, is particular horticultural interest because of its heavy, dense crown of short, dark leaves that is very ornamental. We have been working at at the USDA-ARS-SHRS National Germplasm Repository since 2001 to investigate the genetics of the ‘Fiji Dwarf’ and other coconut varieties using molecular tools. These data were used in a parentage analysis of the ‘Fiji Dwarf’ progeny at both USDA and UF. We were interested in answering several questions. Is susceptibility to LY in Florida ‘Fiji Dwarf’ coconuts restricted to recognizable off-phenotypes (presumably out-crossed)? What can parentage analysis tell us about breeding behavior in a small stand of open-pollinated ‘Fiji Dwarf’ individuals surrounded by a diverse assemblage of potential pollen parents, and how can this information then be adapted to managing a seed production grove of ‘Fiji Dwarf’ coconuts to supply the tropical landscape plant industry? Finally, we wished to ascertain if ‘Malayan Dwarf’ off-types, recognized phenotypically by trunk and fruit characteristics, could also be identified using molecular markers. We describe our plans to develop seed orchards of this variety in South Florida that can become sources for the tropical nursery industry.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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