• Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI)
– MARI was established in March 1996 to sustain and
institutionalize coconut research and development activities
in Tanzania conducted by then National Coconut
Development Programme (NCDP)
Most important perennial oil crop in the
- > 265,000 ha along the coastal belt
- 3-4 nuts consumed per household
- Supports >300,000 households
- Important agro-forestry crop
- Known as the “Tree of Life” due to
its multipurpose use
declining production that became more
apparent during the late 1960s and early
TREE OF LIFE USES – SOME EXAMPLES
Young fruit- coconut water
Coconut Meat :coco flour, desiccated coconut chips,
Coconut Oil : soap, lard,, pomade, shampoo,
margarine, butter and cooking oil.
Coconut leaves: quality paper pulp, midrib brooms,
hats and mats, fruit trays, waste baskets, fans,, lamp
shades, placemats, bags and roofing materials.
Coconut roots: dyes, medicine
1. Drought due to low rainfall and bad distribution
Annual average rain fall =1100mm
Temp (deg. C)
2. Lack of improved and adapted planting materials
3. Poor crop husbandry practices
Use of fire bush to
practice no soil
4. Presence of serious pests
Aceria Mite attack on nuts
Coconut bug (mbu wa mnazi
Attack of nutlets
COCONUT BUG /mbu wa minazi
RHINOCEROUS BEETLE /Chonga
Leaf damage by
5. Presence of Lethal Disease - LD
• Pathogen: Phytoplasmas
– Transmitted by insects (leaf
• Yellowing of leaves
• Blackening of inflorescence
• Premature nut fall
• Death within 2-3 months
Blackening of the
Coconut palms killed by Lethal Disease
• National Coconut Development Programme (NCDP) .
In 1979/80 was established by Government of the
United Republic of Tanzania to reverse the status of
• This document covers in work in breeding and
agronomy research activities from 1979 to 2004.
major constraints to coconut production in Tanzania
• a lack of high yielding coconut varieties that are adapted to the prevailing local
conditions of drought and lethal disease.
– before establishment of National Coconut Development Programme some
work to breed for improved coconut varieties in Tanzania included:
• Selection of East African Tanzania (EAT) in Zanzibar and Chambezi Research
Station in 1930’s and 1960’s
• Investigation of general combining ability of EAT and Pemba Red Dwarf (PRD)
at Livestock Breeding station (LBS) in Tanga. EAT x PRD cross was found to
be the best.
– however, these efforts were not sustained. With the establishment of the
NCDP, a Seed Multiplication and Breeding Section was set up with the
objective to breed for higher yield, resistance to lethal disease and tolerance
to drought stress.
to breed high yielding planting materials
that are resistant to lethal disease and
tolerant to drought or moisture stress.
The main activities of the breeding section over the
past twenty-five years(1979/80-2004) were:
A. Germplasm maintenance, characterization and
B. Introduction of exotic germplasm to widen the
coconut genetic base.
C. Establishment of seed farms.
D. Improvement of EAT through selection.
E. Production and evaluation of breeder’s test materials
F. Embryo culture
A. Germplasm maintenance, characterization and evaluation
Main coconut varieties grown in Tanzania: EAT & PRD
– EAT is a wild type similar to coconuts on the Indian sub-continent, have
thick-husked and slow germinating coconuts.
– EAT cross pollination, fruit wt 750-1450g, fruit is oval shaped with thick husk
shows differences in morphological traits like colour(red, yellow, green and
brown; but most of palms bear green or brown) fruits, size, and fruit shape;
– Nuts are oblong, thick shell
– 1st bearing comes 6-8 years after field planting.
– yield per year ranges between 40-80 nuts under rain fed conditions, higher
yields can be obtained under more favourable moisture regimes.
– The palm is relatively drought tolerant.
• The palm can grow up to 30m tall.
• Crown shapes are variable, semi-circle or Circular. Peduncles are
long taking the fruit and petiole colour.
• The EAT has numerous sub-populations. Has a close
resemblance to the Mozambique Tall (MZT) and to some other
tall varieties from the Indian Ocean Islands such as Madagascar,
Comoros and Mauritius.
• The distinctive identity of EAT is the fruit shape and fruit
components is Figure 1.
Fig. 1 East African tall and fruits characteristics
II. Pemba Red Dwarf (PRD)
– local name of Kitamli suggesting it was introduced by the Tamil traders to
– PRD occurs everywhere along the Tanzanian and Kenyan coastal area,
also in Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros and Mauritius under the same
– PRD bears no bole, has a thin stem measuring 15cm in diameter at 20cm
above ground level, and 20 cm at 1 m above ground level. The stem is
narrow at the base and the diameter increases slightly as you go higher
towards the girth.
– Top leaves are erect and straight,
– Reproductive system is self pollinated.
– PRD produces medium size oval shaped fruits. The husk is thin and the
average fruit weight is 690g.
Description of PRD contd..
• PRD palms have a close resemblance to some varieties, such as
the Cameroon Red Dwarf from West Africa, the Papua New
Guinea Red Dwarf, or the King Coconut from Sri Lanka.
• The fruits are oval and fruit colour is golden. The bunch stalks
are long, holding the fruits of all ages at the same distance from
• Molecular DNA studies have shown that the Pemba Red
Dwarf and the Cameroon Red Dwarf are closely related.
However, according to the observations made in Tanzania,
where the two varieties are available, PRD fronds do not droop
as those of CRD. Peduncles are longer than other red or yellow
dwarfs but shorter than those of CRD.
Description of PRD contd..
• The nut is oval in shape and weighs about 500g.
• Under favourable edaphic and climatic conditions, PRD is highly
precocious coming to first bearing in 2-3 years after field
planting. Produces 30-70 fruits/palm/year under rain fed
• Mainly grown for its sweet and tasty liquid endosperm. The low
oil and sugar content in the solid endosperm makes it of low
importance in copra production. It is a very good ornamental
• PRD is sensitive to drought and this may be the reason that it is
mostly found around homesteads. Pemba Island (its primary
source in Eastern Africa) provides optimal growing conditions
for the dwarf in Tanzania.
Figure 2. Pemba Red dwarf (PRD) and fruits characteristics
Use of molecular markers in germplasm characterization
• One limitation of using morphological parameters for germplasm
characterization is that they are influenced by the environment.
• Through participation of institute in various projects research networks in
biotechnology. The coconut germplasm in Tanzania has been characterized
using molecular markers. The results are:• Validation of the genetic similarity of West African Tall (WAT) from Côte
d’Ivoire, Laccadive micro(LCM) from India and the EAT from the East
Coast of Africa.
• Confirmation of the Pemba Red Dwarf (PRD), collected from Pemba, is
more related to the Asia-Pacific coconuts.
• Collection s showed 2 clusters of local EAT sub-populations i.e., Bagamoyo
(central part of the coastal belt) and those from the southern districts of Lindi
and Mtwara regions and while the second one consisted of the subpopulations from the Tanga region only (northern part of the coastal belt)
B. Introduction of exotic germplasm to widen the coconut
• at beginning of the NCDP a survey wad done on existing coconut
genetic base results showed coconut genetic base in the country was
• Based results, and that coconut breeding is a long-term (30yrs) and
costly activity, it was recommended to take advantage of technologies
developed in other countries.
• Importation of different genetic materials (dwarfs, talls and hybrids),
most of which came from Côte d’Ivoire. A total of 9 dwarfs, 14 talls
and 22 hybrids were imported
• Besides the imported germplasm, 30 EAT sub-populations and five
dwarfs were collected locally. The germplasm collection has been
established at Chambezi (Bagamoyo) and Kidichi (Zanzibar) 29 ha
C. Establishment of seed farms
• Long-term nature of coconut breeding, a decision was made at
the beginning of NCDP to adapt technologies that had been
developed else where in order to minimize costs and time
required for research. It was assumed that some of the
introduced hybrids would perform better than the local East
African Tall (EAT) coconut population.
• While the performance of these hybrids was being evaluated in
the field under Agronomy Section, seed farms for hybrid
production were also established in Mafia and Zanzibar islands.
These sites were selected because of their higher and better
rainfall pattern and absence of the lethal disease.
D. Chambezi EAT Improvement
• Between April 1991 and November 1992 a 54 ha EAT seed farm
was established at Chambezi Research Station seednuts for the
establishment came from six localities in Tanga Region: (, Vuo,
Boma, Mwambani, Boza and Madanga)
• these sub-populations chosen based on the history of planting
and the lethal disease, and early performance in disease resistance
trials where they expressed tolerance/resistance to LD and
associated with the longer history of coconut cultivation in areas
north of Pangani as compared to the southern part.
E. Production and Evaluation of Breeder’s Test Materials
• Introduced hybrids did not perform well under local conditions. Following
the disappointing performance, emphasis was put on EAT selection and
breeding for resistance to LD and drought tolerance. The strategy was to use
the survivors from the disease resistance trials in a cross breeding programme
and to test the general combining ability of the resulting crosses with respect
to yield, LD resistance and drought tolerance.
• BTMs were produced between 1991 and 1994 by controlled hand pollination
techniques. The basis of selecting the crossing partners was the percentage of
palms that had so far survived lethal disease at Kifumangao, Chambezi and
Pongwe where disease incidence is very high. In Zanzibar the main objective
was to impart the good characteristics (adaptability to local conditions) of
EAT by crossing EAT with other tall and dwarf varieties.
• The BTM trials were planted at Chambezi, Kifumangao which are Lethal
Disease (LD) infested areas), Mkuranga and Selem (LD-free) and in a number
of on-farm trials in Tanga, Dar es Salaam and Coast regions between 1992/93
and 1994/95 to evaluate their performance with respect to yield, resistance to
lethal disease and tolerance to drought.
Figure Status of Bearing and number of nut set /tree at Chambezi and
Mkuranga at 61
(MYD=Malayan Yellow Dwarf, MGD= Malayan Green Dwarf,
MRD=Malayan Red Dwarf,, CRD= Cameron Red Dwarf, PRD Pemba
• 61months after planting
(MAP), the results showed
varieties performed differently
from each other with respect
bearing percentage and
number of nuts harvested at
Mkuranga and Chambezi
Disease incidences of EAT crosses
• All breeders’ test materials produced by crossing
survivors of Lethal Disease (LD) sustained heavy losses
to the disease
• at Kifumangao (93.7-100%)
• while at Chambezi losses were lower, ranging from
4.2% to 49.9 %.
• It can therefore be concluded that the strategy of
breeding for resistance to LD by screening and crossing
survivors of the disease with each other was not
successful, probably because the survivors were not
resistant but had rather escaped the disease
F. Coconut Embryo Culture
use of in-vitro techniques are one of the most appropriate
procedures for germplasm collection and exchange.
For this reason, MARI collaborated with other COGENT member
countries to evaluate different protocols used by different
institutions in coconut embryo culture procedures and
acclimatization with the view to improve the efficiency of in-vitro
culture of zygotic coconut embryos.
Agronomy research aimed at addressing agronomic
problems facing the coconut farmer by developing
improved and sustainable coconut based farming
systems that are appropriate for the small scale farmer
in Tanzania. The main activities included:
Intercropping and crop rotation trials;
Soil moisture conservation trials.
• To achieve this, extensive on-station and on-farm agronomy trials were
conducted in different agro-ecological zones to determine the effect of
fertilizer, spacing, intercropping, crop rotation, mulching and weeding
on the growth and yield of different coconut varieties.
– Experiments were carried out at seven sites representing major coconut
soils (Chambezi for coastal sands, Mkuranga for red brown sandy loams,
Maramba and Mlingano for red brown, Selem for white sands, Bambi for
red brown clay loam over limestone(Zanzibar) and Ng’apa in Lindifor
– Recommendations on improved crop husbandry practices were made and
disseminated to farmers through the extension services.
– the major conclusions and recommendations include
• Intercropping and crop rotation;
• Soil fertility (fertilizer rates recommendation for coconuts) ,
improvement and maintenance
• Soil moisture conservation techniques.
• Varieties: hybrid PB 121 and EAT other hybrids were
represented at the sites.
The varieties were planted at a space of 9m x 9m triangular (143 trees/ha)
The following vegetative and reproductive measurements were made:
rate of leaf production, Flowering /precocity, nut set, yield.
Variety Trials: Results contd.
Bunches/tree by Dec 1987 (71 MAP)
Nut set per palm , June 1987 (63 MAP)
Variety Trials: Results contd.
Bunches/tree by Dec 1987 (71 MAP)
Harvested nuts/palm/year 1990/91 (99MAP)
Variety trials I: Yield and drought effects contd.
Yield comparison of varieties at
Drought effects (% of palms with wilting
symptoms/plot) at different dates
F1 hybrid at 4.5yrs after planting
Drought affected palms