Introduction to Organic Coconut Farming
Coconut is the fruit of the Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) and it is a member of the family Arecaceae (palm family). The Coconut term can refer to the entire Coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit. The Coconut tree is known as “Kalpavriksha” which means all parts of a tree are useful in different ways. Organic Coconut cultivation in India is the source of sustainable income for farmers.
A Step by Step Guide to Organic Coconut Farming and Cultivation Practices
Coconut palm is a perennial tree having continuous flowering and bearing habit, need adequate nutrients and water throughout the growing period. Organic Coconut farming consists of a system of farm management to create an eco-system, which can achieve sustainable productivity without the use of artificial external inputs like chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The main aim of organic Coconut farming is the production of quality products that contain no chemical residues and maintain soil fertility. These are achieved by growing suitable intercrops under Coconut on rotation, recycling palm residues, appropriate tillage, and water management practices. Management of weeds and pests is done by encouraging biological control through a balanced host-predator relationship, augmentation of the beneficial insect population, and by the mechanical removal of weeds and pests affected plant parts.
An organic production system is designed to;
- Enhance biological diversity within the whole system;
- Increase soil biological activity;
- Maintain long-term soil fertility;
- Promote the healthy use of soil, water, and air as well as minimize all forms of pollution that result from agricultural practices;
- Handle agricultural products with an emphasis on careful processing methods to keep the organic integrity of the product at all stages;
- Organic farming is based on the enhancement of the soil structure and soil fertility, and the implementation of diversified crop rotation systems.
Many people have the perception that chemicals are not used in growing Coconut trees. So, they think that all Coconuts available in the market are organic or natural Coconuts. In worldwide, for Coconut farming, inorganic chemicals are used. Therefore, not all Coconuts are organic Coconuts or natural Coconuts. Inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are used in Coconut cultivation as well. But in organic Coconut cultivation, chemicals such as inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, etc., are not used.
Importance of Organic Coconut Production
- Higher demand in global markets for organic Coconut products such as tender Coconut, Coconut oil.
- Improve the country’s average nut yield/tree/year.
- Minimizes the water requirement of a Coconut tree.
- Insects and diseases attack will be in the balanced ratio which lowers its practices.
- Copra weight is higher than in conventional farming which provides high returns to farmers, even though if the yield of nuts/tree/year is comparably low with any highly advanced chemical farming.
- Sustainable production by an increase in nuts yields gradually per year.
Soil and Climate Requirement for Organic Coconut Farming
The Coconut is found to grow under varying soil conditions. The ideal soil conditions for better plant growth and performance of the palm are proper drainage, good water-holding capacity and presence of water table within 3 meters, and absence of rock or any hard substratum within 2 meters of the surface.
Different variety of factors such as drainage, soil depth, soil fertility, and layout of the land has a great influence on the Coconut palm growth. The major soil types that support Coconut in India are laterite, alluvial, red sandy loam, and coastal sandy soil, and reclaimed soils with a pH level ranging from 5.2 to 8.0.
The Coconut tree grows well in an equatorial climate. The long spells of hot and dry weather, severe winters, and extremes of temperature levels are not favorable for Coconut growing. However, it thrives well up to 1000 m above sea level. The well-distributed rainfall ranging from about 100 to 300 cm is favorable. A mean annual temperature level of 27°C is best for vigorous growth and good yield. The yield reduces when the mean temperature falls below 21°C. A high-temperature level may cause the developing inflorescences to dry up, and limit production during those months in the year.
A Coconut tree is found to grow under varied soil and climatic conditions. It comes up well in coastal humid regions with adequate (1000 to 1200 mm) and well distribution of rainfall regions. Coastal alluvial, sand, and sandy loam soils with good drainage facilities are most congenial for Coconut farming. Areas away from the seacoast with assured irrigation facilities are also suitable for Coconut farming. If temperature levels are below 15°C, the growth of Coconut decreases.
Selection of Coconut Cultivars for Organic Farming
The Coconut cultivars selected for organic production are the same that are used for conventional farming. Though, the cultivars selected should be well adapted to the agro-ecological conditions of the selected area. All seeds and plant material must be certified organic. Organic Coconut cultivation is limited, and seed nut availability from certified plots takes at least another 5 years. Till such time seed nut from a conventional growing plant not treated with any chemical can be used. The nursery for raising organic plots must be separated from the conventional nursery if both the activities are carried out on the same plantation. The varieties selected for organic Coconut farming must be well adapted to local conditions. The choice of selecting cultivars will not arise in the case of existing Coconut plantations. Though, for replanting of existing old plantations standards have to be adopted.
When new organic Coconut plantations are planned the growers will have a choice of cultivars for planting. The improved cultivars like CRIC60, CRIC65, CRISL98, and Kapruwana are recommended for organic Coconut cultivation based on their adaptability and yield performance. These cultivars are high yielders under good management conditions. The choice of cultivars for organic Coconut cultivation depends on the environmental conditions, type of soils, and level of management where organic cultivation is planned.
Spacing Requirements in Organic Coconut farming
- In a triangular planting system 7.5 meters at each of the triangle points.
- In square planting system 7.5 meters X 7.5 meters or 8 meters X 8 meters, or 9 meters X 9 meters.
- Single row planting system 6.5 meters for row spacing and 9 meters between plants.
- Double Hedge planting system 6.5 meters for row spacing and 9 meters between pair of rows
Seed palms not treated with chemicals based on crop yield records in organically grown plantations. The palm has 80 and 120 nuts in rain-fed and irrigated conditions respectively. Fully mature nuts (12 months old) are collected and sown in a nursery. Seed nuts are spaced at 30 to 40 cm either vertically or horizontally in a 20 to 25 cm deeps trench. Coir pith and soils are used as substrates.
Production of Organic Coconuts
India is the first largest producer of Coconut in the world. Coconut palms play a vital role in the livelihood of millions of people. The main socio-economic features in which this crop is cultivated include the predominance of small and marginal holdings, medium to the resource-poor farm environment, and less marketable surplus.
The national average Coconut productivity in India is low around 40 nuts/palm/year. Declining productivity is attributed to the exhaustion of soil nutrients due to continuous from the soil due to continuous mining of nutrients by the palm without sufficient nutrients inputs. Hence to have sustainable Coconut production, practicing organic cultivation is indispensable. Application of organic manures, green manure legumes in Coconut basins, green leaf manures such as neem, bio-fertilizers, cultural practices such as mulching, etc., are some of the effective low-cost organic practices which are effective for sustainably enhancing Coconut production. The Coconut palm is normally propagated by seeds. Then, the productivity of the palm depends on the quality of the seedlings; utmost importance should be given to select the best nuts. The mother palm must be within the age group of 20 to 40 years.
Planting Time and Process in Organic Coconut Farming
The Coconut tree is propagated through seedlings raised from selected seed nuts. Generally, 9 to 12-month-old seedlings are used for Coconut planting. Select seedlings that have 6 to 8 leaves and 10 to 12 cm collar girth when they are 9 to 12 months old. Early splitting of leaves is another criterion in choosing Coconut seedling.
Coconut seedlings can be transplanted at the beginning of the south-west monsoon. It is advisable to take up planting at least a month before the onset of the monsoon if irrigation is available. Then, planting can be taken up before the onset of the north-east monsoon. In low-lying areas subject to inundation during the monsoon period, transplanting can be done after the cessation of the monsoon. Plant the seedling inside this pit and then fill up with soil and press the soil well to avoid water stagnation. If there is a chance for white-ant attack applies neem cake inside the small pit before planting. In laterite, areas apply 2 kg common salt per pit for improving the soil’s physical condition. The young Coconut palms need proper care during the early stages of growth from transplanting up to 5th year. Care must be taken to see that the collar and leaf axils of the seedlings are not covered by water, mud, or soil.
Organic Fertilizers and Manures for Coconut Farming
From the first year of planting, regular manuring is necessary to achieve higher productivity. For Coconut farming, 20 to 50 kg organic manure must be applied per palm per year with the onset of the south-west monsoon, when the soil moisture content is high. Different forms of organic manures such as compost, farmyard manure, bone meal, fish meal, blood meal, neem cake, and groundnut cake, etc. could be made use for this purpose.
Nutrient deficiencies are to be corrected by a combination of organic manuring and organic fertilizer application. Also, green manuring, green leaf manuring, and cover cropping are practices that will add nutrients. The commonly used organic manures for Coconut trees are farmyard manure, compost, sheep manure, poultry manure, fish meal, bone meal, green manures, and green leaf manures. These organic manures have all the essential nutrients required for the growth of plants but at lower concentrations. These nutrients occur as part of the organic matter which is to undergo decomposition in the soil before nutrients become available. Release of nutrients from these though slow, and continues for longer periods. Organic materials unlike fertilizers, improve the physical aid biological conditions of the soil. A certain minimum quantity of organic manures is essential and the quantity recommended to be applied is about 10 kg per pit in the initial three years and 25 kg thereafter. The quantity of organic nutrients required for Coconut is much higher than the quantity available from the organic manures at the above rates and hence, are to be supplemented with fertilizers.
Irrigation Requirements of Organic Coconut Farming
Coconut responds well to summer irrigation i.e. summer irrigation at 40 liters per palm per week will increase the yield of nuts by 50%. In areas where water is scarce drip irrigation system can be adopted for Coconuts. The quantity of water recommended for drip irrigation in Coconut is about 66% of the open pan evaporation. Scarcity of water and increasing cost of labor and energy are deterrents in adopting these traditional irrigation systems. Under these circumstances, a drip irrigation system is the most suitable system of irrigation for Coconut farming.
Some of the advantages of drip irrigation are;
- It saves water
- Enhances plant growth and yield
- Reduces weed growth and also improves the efficiency of fertilizers.
Intercrops in Organic Coconut Farming
- Intercropping was practiced which makes Coconut farming profitable.
- Growing intercrops helps in the effective utilization of soil, water, and sunlight.
- Provide additional income with sustained Coconut yields.
- Coconuts being a widely spaced crop facilitate to undertake annual intercrops like Turmeric, Zinger, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Beans, Chillies, Brinjal, and Bhendi in young gardens up to 5 to 6 years of age from planting.
- In old gardens above 20 years perennials such as Banana, Cocoa, Pepper, Pineapple, Papaya, and Heliconia, etc., can be cultivated.
Organic Pests and Diseases Control in Coconut Farming
Some of the Pests are common in Coconut plantations to include Rhinoceros Beetle, Red Palm Weevil, Black Headed Caterpillar, Slug Caterpillar, Coconut Skipper, Coreid Bug, Bag Worm, Lacewing Bug, Scale Insect, Rats, Palm Civet, Mealy Bugs, Termites, White Grub, Eriophid Mite, Nut Borer, and Nematodes. Bud rot and leaf rot can cause severe damage to Coconut palms. One should be alert to notice the symptoms of any post and take suitable control measures. Close planting must be avoided plantation should be kept weed-free and clean. The palms must be cleared off at least once a year. Providing good drainage and feeding the palms with balanced nutrition is useful to keep Coconut palms healthy. Pests are dependent on the area and what crops grow in the surrounding.
Organic pest control in Coconut;
Eriophid Mite – Eriophid Miteis a serious pest of Coconut. Root feeding of commercial neem formulations containing about 5 % azadirachtin at 7.5 ml + 7.5 ml water. Spraying neem oil – garlic – soap mixture at 2% concentration (200 ml of neem oil + 50g soap + 200 g of garlic mixed in 10 liters of water)
Rhinoceros beetle – Rhinoceros beetle attacks fronds and cuts the leaves before opening. Killing the Rhinoceros beetles mechanically by hooks is the most effective measure. The breeding places such as decaying organic matter, FYM, and dead palms, etc. should be treated with insecticides. Spraying of 250 mg fungal culture of Metarhizium anisopliae diluted with 750 ml water per square meters of breeding site held to reduce the pest population.
Red palm weevil – The larva of the weevil bores into the trunk and then feeds on the inner tissue making large holes. Externally exudation of reddish gum is only visible. The palm can die if the attack is severe. The early stage of an infestation can be controlled by pouring about 1% Carbaryl.
Organic diseases control in Coconut;
The Coconut tree is affected by several diseases, some of which are lethal while other diseases reduce the vigor of the palm causing severe loss in the crop yield.
Some important diseases in Coconut trees are bud rot, root wilt, leaf rot, leaf blight, mahali or fruit rot and nut fall, stem bleeding, ganoderma wilt, Crown choking disease, etc. Control measures of some of these diseases are;
Bud rot – Young plants are damaged most. Application of Copper oxychloride at 4g/liters of water or Bordeux mixture in the leaf area can control the disease.
Root wilt – The symptoms are withering and drooping of leaves that remain suspended from the trees. The control measure is digging the diseased fallen palm and burns them. Apply about 1kg of Sulphur and mix properly in the soil.
Leaf blight – The typical symptom is the appearance of a greyish white spot and surrounded by a brown band. Then, apply judicious doses of manures and fertilizers to the plants.
Stem bleeding – Exudation of reddish-brown color liquid through cracks on the trunk which turn brown later is observed. A cavity can develop beneath the affected area. Scraping the affected area and then application of Bordeux mixture or Copper oxychloride or Mancozeb is mostly recommended.
Problems in Organic Coconut Farming
- Marketing facility is not available exclusively for organic farming products.
- The conversion period is longer for obtaining organic certification.
When and How to Harvest Coconuts
The well-developed Coconut must be harvested one month earlier to full maturity. Harvesting Coconuts is a skilled and risky job. Approximately 2 to 6 harvestings can be done yearly. Coconuts become mature in 12 months after the opening of the spathe. The economic life of the Coconut tree is approximately 60 years.
Note: Organic coconut farming is profitable especially in coastal states of India such as TamilNadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh, and other coastal regions.
Commonly Asked Questions about Coconut Framing
Is Coconut an annual crop?
Coconuts are perennial crops. General limiting factors such as soil degradation, the old age of palms (resulting in senility of plantations), and global climate change are important factors ensuring the sustainability of Coconut production.
How much water does a Coconut tree need?
Each Coconut tree requires 55 to 120 liters of water every day. Availability of irrigation is scanty, for judicious utilization of this resource, adoption of drip irrigation is most ideal.
How to improve Coconut yield organically?
Apply Calotrophics gigantean (1kg), Kolingi (1kg), Pothakalli (1kg), Fish meal (1kg), Salt (1kg), and Sand in a semi-circular basin to improve Coconut yield.
What is the average life of a Coconut palm?
The average life of the Coconut tree is 50-60 years. These Coconut trees produce green, orange, and yellow nuts and the size of the Coconut is small with a round or ovoid shape.
Is Coconut plantation profitable?
The economic life of the Coconut palm can be 60 years. The productivity of an 11-year-old Coconut plant is about 60 nuts. So, the cultivation of Coconut trees on a commercial basis is profitable and the source of a sustainable income.
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