Research Program Increases Available Makapuno Seedlings

Makapuno is a special kind of coconut that is in big demand at a higher price than the ordinary coconut. It used to be that this special coconut was only available from trees that produced just a few makapuno nuts per bunch.

The trouble was that the makapuno nut would not germinate without any intervention so that it was difficult to produce trees that would produce almost one hundred percent, or even one hundred percent, makapuno nuts.

Thanks, however, to the pioneering research of the late Dr. Emerita de Guzman of Los Banos, the embryo of the makapuno nut was rescued and grown in the laboratory. Since then, other researchers have improved the technology so that production of one hundred percent coconut seedlings could be produced.

Today, more and more makapuno seedlings are being made available to farmers who want to plant this high-value crop. Last year, a total of 11,529 embryo-cultured makapuno (ECM) seedlings were produced to augment the usually limited supply of this coconut that bears almost 100 percent makapuno nuts.

This is a tremendous increase compared to the production of only 2,433 seedlings per year from 1996 to 2008. The increase could be attributed in a large measure to the Makapuno Comprehensive Technology Development and Commercialization Program (MCTDCP) supported by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) and implemented by the Philippine Coconut Authority from 1996 to March 2004.

The big increase in makapuno planting materials could also be attributed to new technology, particularly the new embryo culture technology which makes it possible to produce several plants from just one embryo. Before, only one coconut seedling can be produced from one embryo.

The embryo culture was first developed by the late Dr. Emerita de Guzman of UP Los Banos. The technique has undergone a lot of improvements and that is the reason why the supply is fast increasing although it cannot yet fully meet the big demand. We still know some people who can’t get enough supply of planting materials.

The project was assessed by UP Los Banos for its economic and social impacts and the conclusion is that it has significantly increased seedling production as well as nut production. For 2010 nut production, according to PCARRD, was estimated at 107,000. That’s a big jump from the average yearly production of 33,080 nuts from 1996 to 2008.

The beauty about the embryo-cultured makapuno is that the resulting trees bear almost 100 percent makapuno nuts. That is in great contrast to the old makapuno trees where only a few makapuno nuts are obtained from some bunches of regular bearing trees. And there are just a few of those trees that bear makapuno nut.

The makapuno development project consisted of two phases. The first phase is a survey of makapuno population in the Philippines while the second part concerned the establishment of satellite makapuno embryo culture laboratories and demonstration farms in selected sites for mass propagation of makapuno seedlings.

The makapuno survey generated a list of growers of makapuno trees (both the so-called ‘kabuwig’ and embryo-cultured) together with the report of individual capacities of these farmers to supply makapuno to food processors and embryos to EC laboratories.

Under the second project, six embryo culture laboratories were established in Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan; Cavite State University in Indang; PCA Research Center in Legaspi City, Albay; Tacloban City; Zamboanga City and Davao City.

Aside from the six laboratories, the program established nurseries and makapuno demonstration farms. Technical staff were trained on embryo culture technology and seedling nursery and tree farm management.

The program produced some 17,311 ECM seedlings between June 1996 and March 2004 and raised an additional 19,219 seedlings after the program (April 2004 to December 2008). Some 19,709 were dispersed from the total seedlings produced.

Promotion of ECM seedlings was done through technology awareness seminars, participation in and organization of agricultural trade fairs, distribution of flyers and other printed materials, and promotion of the makapuno demo farms to schools and other institutions.

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