Lightning strikes coconuts twice (and more)

I’m still in the Philippines, but I’ve moved from rice to coconuts. That’s in terms of what I’m discussing, not what I’m eating. I’m participating in a meeting of the curators of the five different regional components of the International Coconut Genebank, organized by COGENT. There’s a lot of interesting stuff coming out, but what I wanted to share with you now (it’s actually the afternoon tea break) is something that was shown earlier today ((By Roland Bourdeix of CIRAD.)) to illustrate the problems that conservation of coconuts in field genebanks can face.

The image below comes from Google Earth and shows a small piece of one of the largest and most important coconut genebanks in the world, at the Marc Delorme Research Station just outside Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Those large gaps in the otherwise beautifully laid out genebank were caused by lightning strikes! The labourers grow their cassava there now. I’d never heard of this particular threat to ex situ conserved agrobiodiversity. This particular parcel seems to have been particularly unlucky, attracting strikes repeatedly over the years.

4 Replies to “Lightning strikes coconuts twice (and more)”

  1. Reginald Child, who was Director of coconut research in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the 1940s, was writing the first edition of his text book on coconuts for Longmans in the 1960s, when he visited his old stamping ground and was shown the results of the then recent research into prepotent palms. These were a small number of super-selected palms that would transmit their good qualities when used as pollen parents in hybrid production. Noting their age and height, he recommended they be fitted with lightning conductors. About 10 years later, when writing the second edition and visiting the coconut germplasm collection in Jamaica, he offered the same advice on our selections but admitted that it had not been followed in Sri Lanka, where some of the prepotent palms had succumbed. Nor has it been implemented in Jamaica – but losses there have been due to hurricanes and LY disease.

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