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Coconut Gene Bank Threatened

A deadly bacterial disease is knocking at the door of a crucial collection of coconut palms in Papua New Guinea.

By | November 13, 2012

A coconut palm in the Florida KeysWikimedia, Dominika DurtanOne of the planet's few collections of coconut palms is under serious threat from a bacterial disease afflicting trees close to the Southeast Asian facility where the trees are housed. The coconut collection, maintained as a genetic repository, contains 3,200 plants representing 57 different varieties of the species, Cocos nucifera, and sits in the country of Papua New Guinea. The disease, Bogia Coconut Syndrome, has essentially halted activities at the gene bank, with export of coconuts and coconut palms from the regions stopped and roadblocks set up to enforce the ban.

“We hope to rescue the collection,” Roland Bourdeix, coordinator of the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network, told Nature. “We'll relocate it if there's a safe way to move the plants. We are also planning to duplicate [the gene bank] in another country.”

The bacterium that causes Bogia Coconut Syndrome and the dynamics of the disease is at present poorly understood. The threatened gene bank was established in 1990 and was built in Papua New Guinea because at the time the country was relatively disease-free.

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