Coconut Palms on the Edge of the Desert: Genetic Diversity of Cocos nucifera L. in Oman

  • Lalith Perera
Keywords: coconut, conservation, Dhofar, genetic resources, Oman, Salalah


In the Gulf region, coconuts are almost exclusively produced from palms growing in the Sultanate of Oman, particularly in the extreme south-eastern coastal plain of the Dhofar Governorate, and specifically within the city limits of Salalah, between the Jebel and the sea. The importance of these coconuts is not only agricultural; historically, the Dhofar palms provided the basic materials to build boats for fishermen and traders on, around and eventually beyond the Indian Ocean. Coconut palms are now one of the main symbols of Salalah city and play a role in both the tourist industry and urban landscaping. In early 2009, twenty-nine sites, representing Oman coconuts on beaches and cultivated lands were chosen from the Dhofar region. COGENT descriptors and DNA analysis were used for the purpose of identifying coconut germplasm available in Oman. The presence was confirmed of varieties that were imported during the 1980s, such as Yellow Dwarf, Green Dwarf and King coconut from Sri Lanka, as well as Malayan Yellow Dwarf and F1 hybrids. The local Oman Tall has the same phenotypic characteristics as other coconuts of South Asia, East and West Africa, the Caribbean and the Atlantic coast of South America. Microsatellite markers, however, reveal a substantial genetic contribution of the South-East Asian coconuts, at levels that are comparable to those found in the Comoros and Madagascar coconuts. Hypotheses about the ancestry of the Oman Tall coconuts are discussed; two genepools are indicated, consecutively involving natural selection, dissemination by floating, domestic selection and dispersal by boat.

Author Biography

Lalith Perera

Genetics and Plant Breeding Division, Coconut Research Institute, Lunuwila, Sri Lanka


Allibert C (2008) Austronesian migration and the establishment of the Malagasy civilisation: Contrasted readings in linguistics, archaeology, genetics and cultural anthropology. Diogenes 55(2): 7-16
Baudouin L, Lebrun P (2002) The development of a microsatellite kit and dedicated software for use with coconuts. Burotrop Bulletin (17): 16-20
Baudouin L, Philippe R, Quaicoe RN, Dery SK, Dollet M (2009) General overview of genetic research and experimentation on coconut varieties tolerant/resistant to lethal yellowing. OCL Oléagineux Corps Gras Lipides 16(2): 127-131

Bourdeix R, Bambridge T, Larue S (2007) Islets save coconut: coconut: from an old Polynesian practice to the new concept of a crop gene bank located on smallest islands. International Journal of Island affairs 16(1): 4-57
Bourdeix R, Konan JL, N’Cho YP (2005) Coconut. A guide to traditional and improved varieties. Montpellier, France, Editions Diversiflora, 104 p.
Bourdeix R, George ML, Baudouin L, Joly HI, Guarino L, Engels J (2009) The concept of “Networked collection” or “Virtual collection”: New developments and their applications to the conservation of the Coconut palm. In: Abstracts of paper presented at the 2nd European Congress of Conservation Biology, 1-5 September 2009, Prague, Czech Republic. Available on-line at: uploads/book_ofabstracts_errata.pdf
Darweish (1982) A survey into the Feasibility of Establishing Coconut Plantations in Dhofar. Cited by: Landell Mills Associates Ltd (1989) Establishment of viable coconut industry in Salalah plain: Feasibility study. Final Report. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Sultanate of Oman
Fernando LCP, Wickaramananda IR, Aratchige NS (2000) Status of coconut mite, Aceria guerreronis, in Sri Lanka. In: Fernando LCP, de Moraes GJ and Wickaramananda IR (eds.), Proceedings of the international Workshop on Coconut mite (Aceria guerreronis), Coconut Research Institute, Sri Lanka, 6-8 January 2000, pp. 1-8
Gibb HAR (1929) Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354., London: Broadway House, London
Harries HC (1978) The evolution, dissemination and classification of Cocos nucifera L. The Botanical Review 44(3): 266-319
Harries HC (1981) Germination and taxonomy of the coconut palm. Ann. Bot. 48: 873-883.
Harries HC (1990) Malesian origin for a domestic Cocos nucifera. In: Baas P. Kalkman K and Geesink R (Eds.) The Plant Diversity of Malesia, Kluwer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands
Harries HC (1992) The biogeography of the coconut palm. Principes 36: 55-62
Harries HC (2002) The "Niu" Indies: long lost "home" of the coconut. Palms 46(2): 97-100
HFAS (1976) Development of coconut Plantings on H M the Sultan's Estate at Razat, Harrison Fleming Advisory Services. Cited by: Landell Mills Associates Ltd (1989) Establishment of viable coconut industry in Salalah plain: Feasibility study. Final Report. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Sultanate of Oman
Julia JF, Mariau D (1979) Nouvelles recherches en Côte d’Ivoire sur Eriophyes guerreronis (K.), acarien ravageur des noix du cocotier. Oléagineux 34: 181-187
Krain E, Issa JA, Kullaya A, Schuiling M, Harries HC (2002) The Natural and Economic History of the Coconut in Zanzibar. The Palm Enthusiast (Journal of the South African Palm Society) 19 (2): 7-20
Kullaya AK, Mpunami AA (2008) Breeding for Resistance to Coconut Lethal Disease in Tanzania In: Proceedings of the International Workshop on Lethal Yellowing Diseases on Coconut Accra, Ghana, 3-6 June 2008, 113-124
Landell Mills Associates Ltd (1989) Establishment of viable coconut industry in Salalah plain: Feasibility study. Final Report. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Sultanate of Oman
Lebrun P, N'Cho YP, Bourdeix R, Baudouin L (2003) Coconut. In: Hamon P, Seguin M., Perrier X and Glaszmann JC (eds) Genetic diversity of cultivated tropical plants. Cirad, Montpellier

Mariau D (1977) Aceria guerreronis: un important ravageur des cocoteraies africaines et américaines. Oléagineux 32: 101-111.
Martinez RT, Baudouin L, Berger A, Dollet M (2010) Characterization of the genetic diversity of the tall coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) population by molecular markers microsatellite (SSR) types in the Dominican Republic. Tree Genetics and Genomes 6: 73-81.
Mohamed N (2002) Pre-Islamic Maldives. Man and Environment Journal of the Indian Society for Prehistoric and Quaternary Studies 27(1): 109-116
Mohamed N (2005) Maldivian Seafaring in the Pre-Portuguese Period. Paper presented at the 10th International Conference on Sri Lanka Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, 16-18 December 2005
Mohamed N (2005). Maldivian Seafaring in the Pre-Portuguese Period. Available on line at: whitepapers/history/seafaring.pdf. Cited 3 June 2010
Moore D, Alexander L, Hall RA (1989) The coconut mite, Eriophyes guerreronis Keifer in St. Lucia: yield losses and attempts to control it with acaricide, polybutene and Hirsutella fungus. Tropical Pest Management 35: 83-89
Santos GA, Batugal PA, Othman A, Baudouin L, Labouisse J-P. (1996) Manual on standardized research techniques in coconut breeding. IPGRI, Rome.
Sathiamma B, Radhakrishnan Nair, Koshy PK (1998) Outbreak of nut infesting eriophyid mite Eriophyies guerreronis (K.) in coconut plantations in India. Indian Coconut Journal 29: 1-3
Schuilling M, Harries HC (1990) The coconut Palm in East Africa. 1. East African Tall. Principes 38(1): 4-11
Shammas MI and Jacks G (2008) Management of the Salalah plain aquifer, Oman. In: Bhattacharya P (Ed.) ground water for sustainable Development, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis. print ISBN: 978-0-415-40776-2
Vavilov NI (1935) The Phytogeographical Basis for Plant Breeding, Volume I, Moscow, In: Vavilov NI, Love D (eds.), Origin and Geography of Cultivated Plants. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Vosmer T (1997) Indigenous fishing craft of Oman. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 26(3): 217-235
Werth E (1933) Distribution, Origin and Cultivation of the Coconut Palm. Ber. Deutschen Bot. Ges. 51, 301-304
Whitehead RA (1966) Sample survey and collection of coconut germplasm in the Pacific islands (30 May - 5 September 1964). Ministry of Overseas Development. HMSO, London
Zizumbo-Villarreal, D, Fernández-Barrera M, Torres-Hernández N, Colunga-GarcíaMarín P (2005) Morphological variation of fruit in Mexican populations of Cocos nucifera L. (Arecaceae) under in situ and ex situ conditions. Genetic Resources and Crop Evoution. 52: 419-432
How to Cite
Lalith Perera. (2011). Coconut Palms on the Edge of the Desert: Genetic Diversity of Cocos nucifera L. in Oman. CORD, 27(1), 11.