Regeneration guidelines for coconut

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The information on this page was extracted from:
Konan J.L., Bourdeix R. and George M.L. 2008. Regeneration guidelines: coconut. In: Dulloo M.E., Thormann I., Jorge M.A. and Hanson J., editors. Crop specific regeneration guidelines [CD-ROM]. CGIAR System-wide Genetic Resource Programme, Rome, Italy. 10 pp.

Before reading the regeneration details for this crop, read the general introduction that gives general guidelines to follow by clicking here.


The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera L.) belongs to the Arecaceae family (Order Arecales) and is the only species of the genus Cocos. The coconut palm is diploid (2n=32). It is woody and perennial with a stem that is erect, unbranched and cylindrical and grows from a single shoot meristem at the apex of the plant. It is anchored by numerous adventitious roots which are produced from the swollen basal part of the stem. The top of the trunk consists of a radiating compact crown with large, thick cuticled pinnate leaves. The fruit is a fibrous drupe with a smooth outside skin (exocarp) which varies in colour.
The two main types of coconut palm are tall and dwarf. Tall coconut palms grow to a height of 20–30 m. They are slow maturing, flower 6–10 years after planting, and have a productive life of 60–70 years. Dwarf coconut palms reach a height of 8–10 m in 20 years. They begin bearing about the third year and have a shorter productive life of 30–40 years. Tall palms are normally cross-pollinating and heterozygous, while dwarf palms are normally self-pollinating and homozygous. The coconut plant is monoecious with inflorescences bearing both male and female flowers. The male flowers, which are on the top portion of spikelets attached to the peduncle, are more numerous than the female flowers, which occupy the base of the spikelets.
Coconut varieties are classified into four groups according to their mode of reproduction:

Coconuts are conserved ex situ in field genebanks, but are propagated from seed. There should be at least 45 palms per dwarf accession and 90 palms per tall accession and they must have been generated from at least 10 parent palms for dwarf accessions and 40 parent palms for tall accessions. Accessions are generally planted close to each other and surrounded by palms of many varieties.

The following regeneration guidelines are based mainly on the manual prepared by Santos et al. (1996).

Choice of environment and planting season

Coconuts (photo: EM Dulloo)

Limits of adaptation (minimum and maximum)

Optimum recommended

Planting season

Seedlings (8–10 months old) should be transplanted at the onset of the rainy season or anytime when irrigation facilities are available.

Preparation for regeneration

When to regenerate

Nursery site selection

Field selection

Preparation of planting material

Propagule type, size and amount

Method of regeneration

For most talls and some dwarf cultivars, a high rate of natural pollination between accessions results in seed nuts that are not true to type. Where the accessions are planted in isolation (for instance, a unique accession planted in an isolated valley or on a small island at a distance of at least 600 m from other coconut palms), seed nuts from open pollination provide true-to-type seed nuts and can be used to regenerate accessions.
Natural pollination can be used to regenerate a few dwarf accessions. For example, 95% of yellow and red dwarfs are autogamous (self-pollinating) and the yellow or red colour of the sprout of the germinated seed nuts can be used as a genetic marker to eliminate off-types.
For all other varieties (all tall types and the green dwarfs), use controlled pollination, with the requisite isolation, bagging and pollination of the inflorescences. Controlled pollination, in which an individual identified palm is crossed with designated individual female palms, is a labour-intensive and costly technique, requiring a well-organized and trained team of technicians, a well-equipped laboratory for pollen processing and supervision by an experienced researcher.

Pollination mechanism

Selection of male and female parents

Pollen collection

Drying coconut pollen. (photo: Fonana Youssouf)

Conditioning coconut pollen in a freezer. (photo: Fonana Youssouf)

Isolation of female and male flowers:

Hand pollinating a female coconut flower. (photo: Fonana Youssouf)

Controlled pollination

Harvested coconut seednuts (photo: Fonana Youssouf)



The seedbed

A polybag nursery. (photo: ML George)

The polybag nursery

Land preparation

Planting layout, density and distance

Planting method

Crop management

Weed management



Pest and disease control


Monitoring accession identity

Many errors can occur with crosses from controlled pollinations and so the following controls should be put in place:

References and further reading

Batugal PA, Ramanatha RV, Oliver J, editors. 2005. Coconut Genetic Resources. IPGRI–Regional Office for Asia, the Pacific and Oceania (IPGRI-APO), Serdang, Selangor DE, Malaysia. Available here (4.4 MB).

Bioversity International, CIRAD. 2009. Key access and utilization descriptors for coconut genetic resources. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy; French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development, Montpellier, France. Available here.

CIRAD, COGENT, IPGRI. 2000. Coconut Data Management (CDM) manual, version 3.

Konan J-L, Bourdeix R, Batugal P. 2005. Production and provision of hybrid seednuts. Coconut hybrids for smallholders. CFC Technical Paper No. 42. pp. 12–25.

Nuce de Lamothe M de, Rognon F. 1975. Pollinisation assistée et contamination par des pollens indésirables [Assisted pollination and contamination by undesirable pollen]. Oléagineux 30:8–9, 359–364.

Nuce de Lamothe M de, Wuidart W, Rognon F, Sangare A. 1980. La fécondation artificielle du cocotier [The controlled pollination of coconut]. Oléagineux 35:193–205.

Rognon F. 1976. Biologie florale du cocotier. Durée et succession des phases mâles et femelles chez divers types de cocotiers. Oléagineux 31:13–18.

Sangare A, Rognon F, Nuce de Lamothe M de. 1978. Les phases mâles et femelles de l’inflorescence du cocotier. Influence sur le mode de reproduction [The male and female phases of the coconut inflorescence. Influence of the reproduction system]. Oléagineux 33:609–617.

Santos GA, Batugal PA, Othman A, Baudouin L, Labouisse JP, editors. 1996. Manual on Standardized Research Techniques in Coconut Breeding. IPGRI, Rome, Italy. The web version is available from: URL: Date accessed: 20 July 2010.


These guidelines have been peer reviewed by V. Ramanatha Rao, India, and Gerardo A. Santos, Philippines.

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The 11 CGIAR genebanks currently conserve 730,000 of cereals and grain legumes, forage crops, tree species, root and tuber crops, bananas and crop wild relatives.