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New coconut descriptors

by Cogent Coordinator - 22 Jun 2024 6392 Views 0 Comment

Authors: R. Bourdeix (Bioversity, CIRAD Umr CEFE) and J.L. Konan Konan (CNRA, Côte d'Ivoire)

Estimated total budget: 30,000 USD

Budget requested from donors: 15,000 USD

Duration: 18 months

Location and potential partners: any of the International Coconut Genebanks,  in association with Bioversity and/or CIRAD.

Potential donor(s): to be identified.

Project background and rationale

Collaborative work by Bioversity International and numerous crop research establishments  aims to improve the documentation of plant genetic resources by providing a uniform series of crop descriptors.

The last revision of coconut descriptors dates back to 1992 (IBPGR, 1992). According to Laliberté & al. (1999), on average, each set of descriptors is revised approximately every 10 years.

There is a real need to refine descriptors. In the case of coconut, the observation of organs is a complex process, because the palms are large, organs are not easy to collect and compare, and significant variability linked to both environment and seasons. In fact, there has never been a proper botanical analysis of the descriptors to effectively differentiate coconut varieties.


There is a huge variation of the shape and size of the three coconut "eyes" 
and no associated international descriptors.
(Image: R. Bourdeix)

The present descriptors for coconut are not sufficient to comprehensively identify most of the allogamous Tall coconut cultivars. These descriptors facilitate differentiation of dwarf cultivars, because autogamous dwarfs are more homogeneous, and smaller in size (so easier to observe) than the tall varieties.There are no coconut descriptors for roots, the morphology and size of female and male flowers, the morphology of pollen, the upper part of the fruit, the 3 eyes of the nut, and the top of the canopy.

This work could be conducted in an International Coconut Genebank using a technique of comparing standardized digital photographs. From a broader perspective, this project could study how digital imaging and dedicated software can be used to facilitate gathering characterization data for coconut palm varieties. 


To develop new descriptors in order to facilitate the identification of coconut cultivars

Project management and organization (to be refined)

The study  will concern: 

  • 20 Coconut cultivars (both Dwarf and Tall types)
  • 6 palms per cultivar
  • photography over 2 seasons
  • 3 photos of each organ per palm during each season (for example, 3 photos of 3 staminodes from the same inflorescence)
  • 10 organs pictured

So a total of 7200 standardized digital photographs
Measurements made on these photographs (for instance: length and with of the embryos).

List of organs to be pictured (to be refined)

  1. Male flower
  2. Staminode
  3. Top of female flower when receptive
  4. Bottom of female flower
  5. Tip of the roots
  6. Insertion of spikelets on the rachis
  7. Insertion of leaflets on the petiole
  8. Insertion of the spikelet on the mature fruit
  9. Insertion of the embryo in the albumen
  10. 3 eyes of the coconut


  • New coconut descriptors facilitating the varietal identification.
  • Definition of guidelines for standardized pictures of the concerned organs for the coconut palm.
  • Publications of 2 scientific papers on journals orientated towards biodiversity research.
  • All standardized photographs and related data available on internet in a comprehensive format (either on Cogent Web site or on another dedicated Web site)


IBPGR. 1992. Descriptors for coconut. International Board for Plant Genetic
Resources, Rome. 61pp.
Laliberté, B., L. Withers, A. Alercia and T. Hazekamp. 1999. Adoption of crop descriptors in IPGRI. In A synthesis of findings concerning CGIAR case studies on the adoption of technological innovations (L. Sechrest, M. Stewart and T. Stickle, eds.). CGIAR Impact Assessment and Evaluation Group Secretariat, Rome, Italy.

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