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DOST-PCAARRD @ I-CONVERGED: Discovering sustainable solutions for coconut germplasm conservation, inspiring innovation in agriculture

DOST-PCAARRD @ I-CONVERGED: Discovering sustainable solutions for coconut germplasm conservation, inspiring innovation in agriculture

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) co-sponsored the holding of the 1st International Scientific Conference on Coconut. 

Themed, “Unity in the Scientific Community to Protect Coconut Diversity and Boost Coconut Linked Livelihoods,” the International Conference on Coconut Conservation, Valorization, and Exchange of Resources and Germplasm for Economic Development (I-CONVERGED) was held at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) College, Los Baños, Laguna on November 27–30, 2023.

It was hosted by the International Coconut Community (ICC) and the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) in collaboration with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Department of Agriculture (DA), SEARCA, and French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD-France). The conference brought together over 300 people composed of scientists, researchers, experts, students, and the private sector to explore sustainable solutions for coconut germplasm conservation and development.

Moreover, I-CONVERGED is a forthright attempt to pool efforts and establish the global advancement of research initiatives. It hopes to open up the coconut research arena to promising works and generate innovations that will strengthen the foundation of science-based support to conservation, exchange, and use of the coconut genetic resources and the technologies as tools in modernizing coconut farming.

The Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu-Laurel delivered a message emphasizing the need to modernize coconut R&D to improve productivity,  while DOST-PCAARRD Executive Director Reynaldo V. Ebora presented the Council's Strategic S&T Program for Coconut, which aims to enhance the sustainability and productivity of the industry. 

Dr. Ebora discussed the program’s initiatives on genetic analysis, crop management, pest management, postharvest, and mechanization technology development. He emphasized the importance of research on genetic analysis and crop management, particularly in analyzing the genetic traits of high-yielding coconut varieties. 

Dr. Ebora also discussed the importance of fertilization and crop-livestock diversification to augment farmers' income. The program's comprehensive approach includes the development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for coconut insect pests and diseases, as well as the improvement of production processes and value addition. He also stressed the importance of collaboration among various regional consortia and partnerships to drive innovation and development in the coconut sector. 

Other presentations were given by organizations such as the ICC, PCA, ICC-COGENT, ACIAR, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR), Food and Agriculture Organization-International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO-ITGRFA), CROP TRUST Germany, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), CHEREZ, Franklin Baker Company-Philippines, United Coconut Association of the Philippines (UCAP), French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD-France), Indian Council for Agricultural Research – Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (ICAR -CPCRI), and Institute of Crop Science (ICS)-UPLB.

Furthermore, the presentations during the Plenary focused on research related to conservation, exchange, and utilization of the vast coconut genetic diversity as well as management of coconut genebanks including the climate change mitigation and the socioeconomics considerations. This marks the commencement of a new era, where outputs of the conference will eventually sustain and reinvigorate the initiatives and efforts to significantly contribute to the coconut diversity preservation, uses, resiliency of the industry, and livelihood alleviation for the farmers.

DOST-PCAARRD's support to I-CONVERGED aligns with the Council's priorities and programs on coconut research under the Harmonized National Research and Development Agenda (HNRDA) for the agriculture, aquatic, and natural resources (AANR) sector. It is also in line with the target outcome of DOST-PCAARRD's Industry Strategic S&T Program (ISP) for coconut. Ultimately, this collaboration contributes to sustainable growth and development of the coconut industry.

The Council has also been providing augmentation funds to qualified professional, scientific, and academic organizations that pursue activities in support of the Council’s advocacies, banner programs, and goals.