Under the European Union (EU)/CARIFORUM funded Alliances for Coconut Industry Development project, CARDI established 7 coconut seed gardens to boost the supply of planting material to farmers in Trinidad and Tobago. Four seed gardens were established at: The Chaguaramas National Seed Bank, Rio Claro Demonstration Station, Research Station Centeno and Marper Farms Propagation Station. These sites, in Trinidad are managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF). In Tobago, 1 seed garden was established at the Kendall Farm School. Two gardens were also established on private holdings.
Twenty seven superior mother palms for the dwarf and tall varieties were identified and characterised across coconut growing areas in Trinidad and Tobago. The criteria used for selection of the mother palms included: high water content (at least 500 ml per nut), more than 15 nuts per bunch with each tree producing at least 12 bunches per year. For the tall varieties in particular, large kernel size was important. From these trees a total of 1,400 seed nuts were collected and germinated in 2 coconut nurseries established under the project at the MALF’s National Seed Bank, Chaguaramas and Blue Waters Farm, Trincity. From these nurseries 1,000 superior seedlings were selected and transplanted onto 7 one acre germplasm seed gardens.
This initiative supports MALF’s coconut rehabilitation and replanting development programme. Coconut cultivation not only allows farmers and processors to tap into the growing lucrative markets for fresh coconut and coconut based products, it is also of tremendous environmental value. Along the Caribbean’s coastline coconut trees are usually the first line of defence against strong winds and storm surges. They are critical to protecting against soil erosion and recognised as an important crop for climate mitigation.
By 2026, it is estimated that approximately 35,000 seed nuts/year will be produced from these 7 seed gardens – sufficient to establish approximately 350 acres of superior germplasm.