Submitted by Dr. Nupur Srivastava
January 22, 2017 - 03:35 PM




Coconut hybrids: An elixir of life

Coconut trees generally are of two types, dwarf and tall varieties. Traditionally farmers used to grow tall varieties which are hardy and yields medium to big size nuts of reasonable quantity ranging from 40 nuts to 120 nuts in a single tree per year and grows to the height of over 60 feet. Coconuts from tall variety trees are good use as mature coconuts and for copra. Whereas the dwarf variety is very delicate and requires greater management care but is capable of yielding around 150 nuts per tree per year with alternate bearing trend. Coconut from dwarf variety trees is generally good with tender coconut water but not capable of giving good copra content.

Names of variaties of coconut trees are the following:

Solomon Islands Tall

Rennel Island Tall

Malaysian Tall

Malaysian Dwarf

Fiji Dwarf

Over the years, research institutes have been developing different new combination of coconut trees by bringing together the genetics of dwarf and tall verities. This process is called hybridization. The process for producing coconut hybrids is quite simple but very labor intensive. The key operation is emasculation i.e. manually picking off the male flowers to prevent self-pollination. Botanically speaking, the coconut is monoecious. The pistils (female) and stamens (male) organs are borne on separate flowers on the same plant. However, because the male flowers are very numerous and are produced all year round, emasculation although easy to do is very time consuming. After the male flowers are plucked out, the female buttons are allowed to develop and be naturally pollinated with pollen of nearby tall coconut trees by wind and by insects. In order to improve seed setting, pollen grains can be collected from nearby tall palms and pollen grains from desirable male parents provided by Philippines Coconut Authority (PCA) can be manually dusted on the stigmas of receptive female buttons. This hybrid coconut from the mother palm is placed in the nursery beds and the seedlings germinated from these nuts are selected to ensure that they are hybrids and supplied for farmers use. The details of the hybridization technique can be found at .

horticulture farming


 Why is the hybridization technique so important for coconut-based farming systems in Philippines?

Of the 3.5 million hectares planted to coconuts, about 30% are over 60 years old and are described by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) as senescent, unproductive and due for replanting. Coconut farmers are poor primarily because of two circumstances: 1) The primary productivity of the coconut palm is low, and 2) 80% of coconut farms are mono- cropped i.e. they depend almost entirely on copra for their income. Not until these two fundamental shortcomings are addressed, coconut farmers and the Philippine coconut industry face an uncertain future. With little to look forward in terms of income, coconut farmers allow their trees to go senile, cut down the coconut trees; generate instant cash from coco lumber, and replace the coconut with more profitable tree crops like coffee, cacao, bananas, citrus, pineapple, papaya and many other fruit crops and other high value vegetables and ornamentals. But that need not be the future scenario for the Philippine rural economy. With the rising sea levels due to global warming, the saline coastal areas in Philippines are expected to further increase and other than coconut nothing grows better. Besides Philippine beaches will lose their allure to tourists without majestic coconut palms framing the horizon. However, there is a better scenario in terms of profitability, equity and ecological sustainability: replanting with high yielding coconut hybrids and intercropping with other high value crops would be agronomically feasible and the farmers can be assured of a market for the produce. Hybrid coconut seedlings have been in demand, particularly the tall x dwarf crossing variety. Cultivating the hybrid varieties requires less manpower and is a boon to the farmers. “Climbing tall coconut trees to pluck coconuts is an impossible task nowadays owing to the lack of adequate climbers. While the normal trees take seven to eight years for flowering, the cross varieties start bearing flowers in four years. This is a huge advantage to the farmers”, an official said In coconut cultivation, farmers should take special care in selecting appropriate coconut hybrids that are ideally suited to the agro-climatic conditions of their area in general. Description of some studied coconut varieties are indicated in Table 1.


Why hybrid coconut farming?

The coconut industry is the source of income of about 3.5 million farmers, providing economic support to the rural communities in Philippines.


Problems in coconut industry


· low productivity of coconuts: low yield, low return

· loss by natural calamities: typhoons and storms

· increased hectarage of senile plantations

· lack of information on appropriate technologies

· decreasing coconut hectarage: urbanization and housing development

· pests and diseases

· indiscriminate cutting of coconut trees

· lack of skilled labour                                                                                    



  · early fruiting (3–4 years versus 6–8 years for  open pollinated, native varieties)

· semi-dwarf growth habit which facilitate easy harvesting

· relatively high content of medium chain fatty acids (6–12 carbon fatty acids) which are more healthful than those from competitive vegetable oils

· high yields and good coconut production would provide farmers incomes above the poverty level


Table 1. Nomenclature and Description of Some Selected Coconut Varieties.








West African


Ivory coast

Nuts are distinctively angular and ridged at equatorial region; high nut producer often exceeding 100 nuts per year; homogenous; good GCA with MYD



Solomon Is.

Very precocious palms with generally pear-shaped nuts; long peduncle and good fruit composition; copra per nut is 300 grams; very homogenous and uniform; good GCA with MYD and MRD.




Copra per nut is quite heavy although nuts do not really look big; very thin husk; homogenous and produces high number of leaves per year; bunches with short peducle and nuts are trapped between leaf axils; stem quite robust and firm; tolerant to FDMT.

San Ramon



Usually bears extra large nuts when young needing 3 to 3.5 nuts per kilo copra.




Produces nuts with good fruit corn position; 350 g copra per nut and very homogenous; good GCA with MRD




High nut producer (116 per year); very heterogeneous and susceptible to leaf spots

Markham Valley


Papua New Guinea

Very robust trunk; big nuts with very thick husk

Gazelle Peninsula Tall


Papua New Guinea





Produces many but small nuts and resistant to FDMT




Produces a fairly large number of nuts; 190 g copra/nut; hybrid cross with CAT green dwarf good

Andaman Giant



A strong and robust palm showing gigantic features. Leaves are long, petioles are long and thick, leaflets are long and wide. Nuts are very large and round with about 190g copra/nut. No toddy yield.




Fruits are large and round, unhusked nuts prominently flat-bottomed with pointed posterior. Copra per nut is 200 to 300g with some having as high as 450g.




Slender palm with slightly curved stem covered with rough leaf scars. Fruits are oblong and large, angular, green or brown with thick husk and shell. Late germinating in the Caribbean Islands and Atlantico Alto.



Sri Lanka

Bears 50 to 100 small nuts per bunch, copra per nut very low at 50g needing 20 nuts for a kilo of copra. Same as Maphrao-Phuang in Thailand.




Husk of nut is streaked, making it look around and tough. Young nuts show black streaks




Similar to West Coast Tall (WCT) except for high oil content (72%). Nuts are medium sized and high yielder of toddy. Flower production and setting percentage are high.




Robust palm with round stem and large bole. The base of the button has a rose-ring which can be seen clearly when perianth is removed. Large spherical fruit has a thin shell, sweet aromatic water and an average of 275g copra.




A mutant form of the Laguna variety, nuts have soft and jelly-like meat. This character is lethal to the embryo which needs to be grown in artificial medium. Naturally occurring palms grown from normal nuts bear about 25%. MAC nuts may give 100% macapuno nuts.

Igoh Dukuh



Nuts have very thin husk and the shape of the shell conforms to the shape of the whole nut all the way. Shows high biennial bearing tendency.





Nuts are medium sized, round with prominent stigmatic tip; copra per nut is about 200 to210g; husk is thick; peduncle and bunch rachis are long; young nuts and petioles are green.




Nuts are very small, oblong and smooth; stem quite thin and high yielder of toddy. Copra per nut seldom exceeds 100g. Coconino is a green dwarf.




Green dwarf, nuts are extra large, robust stem and copra per nut sometimes exceeds 300g; homogeneous.




Nuts are green and round; female flowers, tip of roots and base of shoots of newly germinated seedlings are pink; copra per nut is 100g.




Another green dwarf; spikelets are very short; nuts are medium to large oblong with broad equatorial diameter and pointed stigmatic; and unopened spathes are flat on distal end.




Leaves are short with wide leaflets; male flowers are small and numerous; nuts are deep green when immature; sweet water and meat; mature nuts show a navel at the eye when split-opened.

Brazilian Green dwarf



Very marked dwarfism; good fruit composition; nuts are rounder but much smaller than CAT or TAC nuts

Sri Lanka Green dwarf


Sri Lanka

Nuts small and prominently long with protruding stigmatic tip; strictly autogamous with numerous female flowers.

Malayan Yellow Dwarf



Hybrid cross with WAT called WAWA is high yielding; young nuts and petioles of leaves are yellow; great tendency for alternate bearing; nuts with thin husk and low meat content; autogamous; sensitive to Phytoptora fruit rot

Malayan Red Dwarf



Young nuts and petiole of leaves are bright orange; nuts thicker; self-pollinating; cross with RIT, TAG and BAY are very promising; sensitive to Phytoptora fruit rot




Local green dwarf variety of Fiji with very short internodes and very dense crown; short, rigid leaves with closely-spaced wide leaflet and short stubby spadices. Predominantly cross-pollinating with large fruits.

Chowgat Orange Dwarf



Found in Central kerala, COD is early bearing and produces medium-sized orange colored nuts with 135g copra. This variety retains unfertilized female at spike.




A green dwarf which retains hundred of ripe nuts on the crown due to drying of nuts on the tree. Highly self-pollinating and shows very strict dwarfism.




An intermediate variety which breeds 96% true-to-type although showing a mixture of dwarf and tall characteristics; shows considerable variability in copra per nut ranging from 150 to 230 g with high oil content of 72%.

King Coconut (Gon Thembili)


Sri Lanka

Most famous coconut of Sri Lanka known for its high quality water. Shows a bole and somewhat larger trunk than dwarfs but highly self-pollinating.




Produces unbranched inflorescences with more female flowers than male; may occur in tall or dwarfs and when open-pollinated, some may produce unbranched inflorescence while others may not.




Nuts are long and pointed. Shape of shell and cavity conforms exactly to the shape of in hole nut which has a very thin husk.


Measures considered to improve and maintain the hybrid production of coconut plants

In order to reduce cost of transport of hybrid seed nuts and to insure from catastrophic losses from typhoons and other disasters, the 250 small hybrid seed producers should be strategically dispersed in the major coconut growing areas in Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Eastern Visayas and the six regions of Mindanao, in Philippines. The PCA stations in Zamboanga, Davao, Bohol, and Aurora at best can produce a million hybrid seedlings each year, good for 10,000 hectares per year. At this rate of hybrid availability, it will take approximately 100 years just to replant the current estimated one million hectares of senescent (overaged) coconuts. More problematic at this time is the institutional capability of PCA to field the technical people who will closely supervise the farmer – cooperators to make sure 1) The farmers diligently manually pick off the male flowers to prevent self – pollination, and 2) The farmers dust the male pollen supplied by PCA on the female flowers at the right time (usually mid–morning) to attain very high fruit setting. The obvious solution is to mobilize the small coconut farmers themselves and interested corporate investors to specialize in commercial coconut hybrid seed production.

In the Cocolink International Coconut Conference organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Davao Region Coconut Industry Cluster, Inc. and held at SMX, Davao City in July 2016, a unique paper discussed the emerging expansion of the cultivation of hybrid coconut in India, supported largely by private companies like Deejay Coconut Breeding Farm, with 200 ha. The Deejay Coconut Breeding Farm produces hybrids by crossing the Malayan yellow dwarf and a tall Indian variety. In the process, the farm produces and makes available for sale to Indian farmers two million ready-to-plant hybrid coconut seedlings per year.



A new improved Tall x Tall hybrid variety released in India

An evaluation trial conducted over 30 years on coconut hybrid combinations has resulted in identification of a superior, high yielding Tall x Tall hybrid, released as VPM 5 involving Laccadive Ordinary Tall as female parent and Cochin China as male parent in Tamil Nadu Agricultural University – Coconut Research Station, Veppankulam (TNAU), Tamil Nadu, India. This hybrid is better performing over other hybrids and local check with higher nut yield (161 nuts palm-1year-1), higher copra out turn of 24.1 kg palm-1 year-1 and 4.2 t ha-1 year-1 with an estimated oil recovery of 2.90 t ha-1 under irrigated conditions of Tamil Nadu. The hybrid took on an average of 45 months for initiation of first flowering, possess good tender nut water quality (TSS 5.5° Brix) and with 300 ml of tender nut water. The hybrid recorded 44 percent more nut yield, 48 percent more copra yield and 48.2 percent more oil yield over the released Tall x Dwarf hybrid ‘VHC 1’. The seedlings of the hybrid are more vigorous, producing higher number of leaves within 12 months, having higher leaf area and dry weight indicating precocity in growth and development. The flowering, morphological and fruit component traits of the hybrid were compared with parental palms are found superior. Tall x Tall hybrids also exhibited heterozygotic vigour for nut yield and copra yield as that of Tall x Dwarf and Dwarf x Tall hybrids. and Natarajan et al. [5] Maliwan Pattanapruk et al. [6] reported better performance of Tall x Tall hybrids

Hybrid coconut trees starts yielding at very early stage say from third year of planting and grows in height very slow compared to tall trees but little higher than dwarf trees. Generally hybrid coconut trees grows to the height of between 20 to 25 feet in twenty years depending on whether the tree is used for tender coconut harvest or mature coconut harvest. Hybrid variety coconut trees are gaining more popularity in the recent years due to ease of harvesting from low height and for good productivity year on year. Coconut hybrid farming will further maximize farm productivity when combined with proper fertilization, irrigation, and pest control methods as well as various on farm enhancement schemes and marketing.

Does hybrid coconut seedlings yield better produce, what do you say?

Do you want to be a part of this ongoing discussion at Enhance a Village and contribute towards creating a great cause towards mankind?



yield, agronomical, hybrids, coconut, seedlings, research, monoeciuos

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