The Research Department of the Board boasts a Botanist/Plant Breeder, a Plant Pathologist and an Agronomist/Crop Physiologist.
✓ Dr. Millicent Wallace – Botanist/Plant Breeder
✓ Dr. Wayne Myrie – Plant Pathologist
✓ Miss Sanya Steen – Agronomist/Crop Physiologist
The main focus of the coconut breeding programme is to produce new coconut varieties with good disease resistance and high yield. Over the years promising hybrids such as the Maypan, Maybraz and Brapan have been developed.
Some activities undertaken by the Botanist/Plant Breeder are:
a) Establishing new field genebanks from recently introduced material to ensure genetic diversity in the island: Over fifteen coconut varieties (not planted in Jamaica before) were introduced from the Ivory Coast Genebank since 2009 and are being assessed.
b) Construction of molecular probes from candidate markers: A total of six candidate markers for lethal yellowing disease resistance/susceptibility have been obtained and the sequences were analyzed with a view to developing molecular probes for testing.
c) Further field testing of newer hybrids (such as Brapan and Maybraz varieties).
The Plant Pathologist works on diseases and pests of coconut and their management, with continued emphasis on the lethal yellowing , budrot and leaf spot diseases.
Some activities being conducted by the Pathologist with respect to lethal yellowing are:
a) Identifying DNA regions of lethal yellowing phytoplasmas which confer differences.
b) Identifying areas within the island where different “strain variants’ of lethal yellowing disease are most prevalent.
c) Monitoring the “Special Malayan Dwarfs” planted in research plots at various locations in the island, for their continued resistance against lethal yellowing disease. This variety was identified via microsatellite technique as having characteristics of a true-to-type Malayan Dwarf and has been found to be resistant to lethal yellowing disease.
d) Continuing the development of simple, accurate and efficient diagnostic tools for easy confirmation of the presence of the lethal yellowing phytoplasma.
e) Continuing to assess the impact of the “Michael Black Approach” on lethal yellowing disease.
The Agronomist’s main function is the development and implementation of improved plant management systems (agronomic best practices) for existing and any new cultivars.
Work is ongoing in the following areas:
a) Refinement of weed control systems
b) Investigation of the usefulness of crop covers
c) Examination of levels of germination with a view to improving same
d) Soil testing and testing the effectiveness of different blends of fertilizer
e) Implementation of soil conservation measures (soil erosion preventative measures)
Coconut growers are encouraged to play your part in the fight against lethal yellowing disease by cutting and burning your trees at the first sign of infection. The symptoms of lethal yellowing disease are: premature nut fall, blackened (necrosis) of the inflorescences (male and female flowers), yellowing or browning of the leaves and finally the falling of the canopies leaving behind only the tree trunk.
You may contact the Board or the Advisory Officer in your area if you require assistance in identifying the disease or in cutting and burning infected trees.
Tissue culture is a reliable method of producing large numbers of coconut plants. This method of propagation is specifically desired by the Board because there is a consistent need to replace trees which succumb to lethal yellowing disease.
The Board has partnered with the University of the West Indies, under which embryo culture of elite coconut germplasm has been initiated at the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Centre situated at the University. To date embryo cultured in vitro has been successful but the process produces only one palm from one nut. Work is ongoing to develop the protocol for micro propagation and the recovery of multiple plants from a single embryo (Somatic embryogenesis).
The Advisory Division of the Research Department consists of six officers. The Chief Advisory Officer is Mr. Hugh Matthews.
✓ Mr. Leroy McIntyre – Portland
✓ Mr. Ralvin Moore – St. Thomas
✓ Ms. Lydia Tucker – St. Catherine, Clarendon
✓ Mr. Easton Fraser – Manchester,Hanover, St. James, Trelawny, St. Elizabeth
✓ Mr. Othniel Minott – St. Mary, St. Ann
The main function of the Advisory Officers is to keep the coconut growers informed of techniques in coconut farming and offer advice on site selection, land preparation, methods of planting, identification and control of weed, pest and disease fertilizer usage, methods of reaping coconuts and marketing of produce.