November 2012. A member of Bioversity International sent an article from SciDevNet http://www.scidev.net/en/south-east-asia/news/south-pacific-coconut-gene-bank-under-threat.html that informed the reader of the meeting in Samoa 31 October-1 November convened by SPC, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and ACIAR, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.Bogia coconut syndrome is a mere 35 km from an international collection of coconut varieties maintained at the Stewart Research Centre, Medang, PNG. The collection there holds 57 varieties totaling 3200 palms.
The Bogia disease is associated with a phytoplasma (see The Centre for Information on Coconut Lethal Yellowing (CICLY) at for more information on this group of coconuts diseases), and has already been responsible for the death of 5000 palms. Road blocks are now in place to prevent the movement of coconuts and seedlings from the genebank. there are hopes to resue the collection and to plant it somewhere else. There is also a desire to find out how the disease spreads, and its host range.
After this post, there were many other emails commenting on the disease and the situation in general.
Field collections, especially of long-lived palms such as coconuts are always going to be vulnerable to pests and diseases. There should be further work on cryopreservation, if the ACIAR sponsored research has yet to perfect methods for all varieties (http://aciar.gov.au/project/HORT/1998/061).
Screening varieties for resistance
If the collection if safeguarded by moving it elsewhere, will the remainder at the Stewart Research Centre be screened for resistance to Bogia syndrome? Resistance to lethal yellowing has been discussed, particularly the resistance of the Malayan Dwarf and Fiji Dwarf in Florida. It was discussed by the CICLY group in 2000 and a summary appears at The original can be found at . There have been suggestions that molecular screening can help in the identification of resistance in varieties (see, ).
It has been suggested that banana is an alternative host of the Bogia phytoplasma. A new wilt disease of banana has been recently identified which is “every bit as devastating in the places where we have seen it as Fusarium or bacterial wilt”. See, Davis RI, Kokoa P, Jones LM, Mackie J, Constable FE, Rodoni BC, Gunua TG, Rossel JB (2012) A new banana wilt disease associated with phytoplasmas in Papua New Guinea. Australasian Plant Disease Notes. See, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13314-012-0056-8/fulltext.html.
These too have high priority, perhaps undertaken as part of PhD studies.
There is a very good radio interview with Richard Markham, ACIAR, about the disease and the recent cause of concern, for a disease which has been known for 20 years. See, http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/pacific-beat/disease-threatens-pacific-coconut-gene-bank/1045808. It is likely that there will be a visit from an expert group to look at the disease situation in Papua New Guinea (see, http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/1487661/2138899509/name/COGENT_recommendation_8.pdf).
Also mentioned were other diseases of unknown aetiology in the Pacific island countties that might be included in future research, for instance, the death of betel nuts in the Markham Valley and in the Reef Islands of Solomon Islands, and the death of sago palm in Bougainville. (Tests on the betel nuts in the Markham Valley for phytoplasma were negative).
An indexing centre with SPC CePACT was suggested, but thought to have little chance of success considering how many times similar recommendations have been made in other parts of the world.