JIS News

Chairman of the Coconut Industry Board, Dr. Richard Jones, has pointed to a number of efforts and initiatives being undertaken by industry stakeholders to combat the Lethal Yellowing Disease.
These initiatives have been made possible by way of the Sustainable Coconut Production Through Control of Coconut Lethal Yellowing Disease project, which is being funded through a US$2.4 million grant from the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and US$2.3 million from the governments of Jamaica, Mexico and Honduras.
Dr. Jones, who was addressing an inception meeting for the project held at the Courtleigh Hotel on Wednesday (August 10), explained that in 2001, various representatives of the commodity board in Jamaica were invited by Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke to meet with the CFC and a plan was formulated to fast track an international conference on Lethal Yellowing based on the outcome of that meeting.
The conference, which was held in 2002, saw 17 countries participating. “From that conference, a proposal to seek funding from the CFC for a project for sustainable coconut production through the control of lethal yellowing was developed and formalized,” Dr. Jones told the gathering.
He added, “the FAO was very helpful. It has been a long journey, but I am pleased to report that the scientists and the organizations that gathered for that conference have been striving earnestly to defeat lethal yellowing in the interim”.
Highlighting the advancements since then, Dr. Jones mentioned the development and commissioning of a micro satellite kit by the Coconut Industry Research and Development Institute (CIRAD) and the Coconut Industry Board. This process, Dr. Jones explained, had facilitated applied fieldwork to identify the pure genetic genotypes within the Malayan dwarf coconut population, “for it seems that in our commercial breeding, we have diluted the Malayan dwarf genetically and perhaps affected its resistance.”
In addition, molecular work has continued which has increased the knowledge of the genome and also established many characteristics of the phytoplasma that causes Lethal Yellowing. Thirdly, Dr. Jones said work in the field of entomology had identified 12 common weeds in Jamaica, which could be alternate or alternative hosts to the phytoplasma. “And this may be our lead as to what causes the continuity,” he noted.
Also, in the area of entomology, other insects besides the myndus crudus (the vector of the Lethal Yellowing phytoplasma) have been shown to have the phytoplasmas in their bodies, the chairman said, although transmission had not been proven. He also cited a project formulated with the University of Georgia to see if terpenes could provide the prophylaxis or the cure for the phytoplasma in coconuts. Terpenes are a group of unsaturated aliphatic cyclic hydrocarbons, which are derived from plants.
The coconut was introduced to Jamaica in the middle of the 16th century at coastal settlements such as Rio Bueno, Seville, and Port Royal. Coconuts were brought on sailing ships as a source of uncontaminated water. In 1793 Captain Blight brought the breadfruit and a few coconut plants to Jamaica and in the mid 19th century, the importance of coconut as a plantational crop became apparent when it was used as raw material for the production of soaps and oil.
Later in 1930, the Jamaica Coconut Producers Association Limited was formed and used members’ coconuts to produce copra and oil and then soaps in 1937. In 1939, the Malayan dwarf variety was introduced to Jamaica and in 1964, the Maypan hybrid was developed by the Coconut Board, by crossing the Malayan dwarf with the Panama Tall.
The inception meeting, which was held on August 10 and 11, covered topics such as components of the project and work plan; financing arrangements and budget and execution of the project.

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