Coconut is planted in over 11 million hectares in more than 85 countries with 96% of this hectarage in the hands of smallholders cultivating 0.4-5.0 hectares. World yields have been declining in recent years from 710 kg copra per hectare in 1976 to 430 kg in 1984 and 400 kg in 1992. Farm productivity has also declined, decreasing the competitiveness of the coconut and the incomes of millions of coconut farmers.
One of the ways to increase farm productivity and competitiveness of this important smallholder crop is to develop improved varieties that possess the capacity for high productivity, resistance to pathogens and adaptation to specific growing environments. It is also important to conserve coconut genetic resources which could serve as the fundamental basis for a strong breeding programme. Admittedly, these are big tasks because of the perennial nature of the coconut research and the lack of well-trained researchers.
To overcome the above constraints, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), upon the recommendation of 15 coconut-growing countries, established the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) to coordinate research activities of national, regional and global significance particularly in germplasm exploration, collecting, conservation and enhancement and to establish a basis for collaboration on the broader aspects of coconut research and development.
One of the first activities of COGENT was a workshop to standardize coconut breeding research techniques. This was held at the Station Marc Delorme Cocotier, IDEFOR in Côte d'Ivoire on 20-25 June 1992 through the support of GTZ, BUROTROP and IPGRI. During this workshop, coconut breeders from 16 coconut-producing countries and experts from CIRAD and IPGRI formulated the first draft of this manual. The draft was pre-tested and revised during the Trainers' Course on Coconut Breeding Research Techniques which was held at the Research Institute for Coconut and Palmae, in Manado, Indonesia which was attended by 21 coconut researchers through the support of the Asian Development Bank. The manuscript was then edited and forwarded to IPGRI for review and publication.
The STANTECH Manual, as this document has been called, will enable coconut breeders and germplasm researchers worldwide to use standardized techniques as guidelines in breeding and germplasm conservation. It is hoped that this manual will help coconut researchers to obtain better and comparable results to accelerate the development of improved varieties for millions of coconut farmers.
COGENT is indebted to the GTZ, BUROTROP and ADB for providing financial support in the formulation of this manual, to the ODA for funding its publication and to CIRAD, IPGRI and the researchers in the Côte d'Ivoire workshop and Indonesia trainers' course (Appendix 1) for their technical inputs. Finally, COGENT wishes to thank the editing team for executing a difficult task, Mr. F. Bonnot of CIRAD for advice on the statistical content of the manual and Dr. V. Ramanatha Rao of IPGRI, who critically reviewed the manuscript.
Chair, COGENT Steering Committee