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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Coconut organic cultivation practices for India

Plant Characteristics

ThePlant Coconut, (Coconucifera), is a monocotyledon belonging to the order Palmae.It is the sole species of the genus Cocos. (Cocos = monkey face, nucifera = nut bearing) Trees are generally unbranched, erect, cylindrical, pillar-like stem reaching up to 25-30 m in height. Trunks may reach a diameter of 50 cm. The trunks are ringed with scars where old leaves have fallen. The top of the trunk is crowned with a rosette of leaves and a branched inflorescence enclosed in a sheath collectively known as the spadix.

The stem is usually unbranched, light grey, smooth and erect or slightly curved Stem rises from a swollen base, the bole. Growth of stem originates from one terminal bud in the center at the top of the stem. The first years after germination, only very short internodes are developed from which sprout many adventitious roots. Only when the full width of the stem has been reached (after 4 years for talls and 2-3 years for dwarfs) elongation of the stem begins, and the stem emerges from the ground. As the stem has no outer cambium it does not grow laterally and wounds in the stem will always remain visible as they will not be covered by new growth. Steps cut into the stem for climbing will remain for as long as the palm lives. Under normal conditions, the stem diameter remains the same. Under unfavourable conditions the diameter of the stem will decrease.

The branching of stem results from slight damage of the growing point, or from severe stress . The stem consists of a central cylinder surrounded by a narrow band of tissue, the cortex, called 'bark', about 1 cm thick, somewhat thicker at the base of the stem. The central cylinder consists of a parenchymatic tissue enclosing vascular and fibrous bundles. The vascular bundles at the centre are more widely spaced than at the periphery.

The surface of the cortex shows a pattern of triangular-shaped leaf scars, marking the stem where former leaves have been attached. Between the leaf scars there are unscarred areas, the internodes. The distance between the leaf scars shows the growth rate of the palm. For instance, if a coconut palm produces about 14 leaves per year, the total distance between 14 leaf scars represents 1 year of stem growth.

Coconut organic cultivation

Selection of site

Select sites with deep (not less than 1.5 m depth) well drained soil. Avoid shallow soils with underlying hard rock, low-lying areas subject to water stagnation and heavy clayey soils. Proper supply of moisture either through well-distributed rainfall or through irrigation is required.

Land preparation

The nature of preparation of land before planting depends upon topography of land, soil type and other environmental factors. On slopes and in areas of undulating terrain, prepare the land by contour terracing or bunding. In low-lying areas and rice fields, form mounds to a height of at least 1 m above water level. In reclaimed areas, planting can be done on the field bunds.
The size of pits for planting would depend upon soil types and water table. In loamy soils with low water table, pit size of 1 x 1 x 1 m is recommended.
In laterite soils with hard substratum, take larger pits of size 1.2 x 1.2 x 1.2 m. In sandy soils, the size of pits may be 0.75x 0.75 x 0.75 m. The pits may be filled up with topsoil to a height 60 cm below the ground level. In low lying lands, take shallow pits and as the plant grows, raise the ground level by adding silt and sand so as to cover the entire bole of the palm. The same procedu
re can be adopted when planting is done on mounds or bunds. Burial of two layers of husks in the floor of the pits will be useful for moisture conservation. The husk is to be buried in layers with concave surface facing upwards. After arranging each layer, sprinkle carbaryl 10% dust on the husk to prevent colonization by termites.
In lateritic areas, common salt at the rate of 2 kg per pit may be applied on the floor of the pit to hasten the disintegration of hard laterite. Common salt is to be applied about six months prior to planting.
Spacing and system of planting
Spacing depends upon the planting system, soil type etc. In general, the following spacings are recommended under different systems in sandy and laterite soils. In lateritic gravelly soils, under rainfed conditions of north Kerala, a closer spacing to accommodate 250 palms per ha is more economical.In the hedge system of planting, the rows should be aligned in north-south direction and the seedlings planted as in the triangular system.
Time of planting
Planting the seedlings during May, with the onset of pre-monsoon rains is ideal. Under assured irrigation, planting can be done during April also. In low-lying areas, plant the seedlings in September after the cessation of heavy rains.

Shading and irrigation

For the first two years from planting, irrigate @ 45 litres of water per seedling, once in 4 days, during dry summer months. Provide adequate shade to the transplanted seedlings.
Manuring young palms
For the first three years after planting under rainfed conditions, apply fertilizers in two split doses .
Under irrigated conditions, the fertilizers can be applied in 3-4 equal split doses.In the case of low lying areas, apply fertilizer after water table recedes in one single dose or in two split doses as conditions permit. In all types of soils that are low in organic matter content (except reclaimed clayey soils and alluvial soils), apply organic matter @ of 15-25 kg/palm/year during June-July from the second year of planting.
Keep the pits free of weeds by periodical weeding. Remove the soil covering the collar of seedlings. As the seedlings grow and form stem, fill up the pits gradually by cutting the sides. Proper intercultivation provides control of weeds and creates soil mulch. Any tillage system (ploughing, digging, raking or forming mounds) that provides soil mulch and control weeds may be followed depending upon local conditions. For laterite, sandy and red sandy loam soils give two ploughings or diggings in May-June and September-October and one raking in January. In areas where surface run off is more, form mounds in September-October and level them in November-December.
Coconut produces nuts round the year. Therefore, adequate supply of water is essential for its unhindered growth. Soil moisture is essential for the absorption of nutrients by roots by proper irrigation equipment. Moisture stress leads to stunted growth, drooping of leaves, immature nut fall and decreased yield. Importance may be given on the following aspects so as to ward off stress:
Water Management :
In coastal sandy soils, seawater can be used for irrigation. In irrigated gardens, interruption of irrigation would lead to serious set back in yield and general condition of palms. Hence, when once started, water irrigation systems should be continued regularly and systematically. In sandy loam soil, irrigating the crop with 500 litres of water through basin taken at 1.5 m radius (approximate interval of 15 days) is most economical. Do not irrigate seedlings and very young palms with seawater.
Drip irrigation/irrgation equipment :
In the traditional water irrigation system followed in coconut gardens such as flood irrigation, basin irrigation etc. irrigation efficiency is only 30 to 50 per cent due to considerable wastage of water. In addition, cost on inputs like labour and energy in adopting these systems are high. Scarcity of water and increasing cost of labour and energy are deterrents in adopting these traditional irrigation systems. Under these circumstances, drip irrigation is the most suitable system of irrigation to coconut. Some of the major advantages of drip irrigation are:
- it saves water.
- enhances plant growth and yield.
-saves energy and labour, most suited for soils having low water holding capacity and undulating terrain.
-reduces weed growth and improves efficiency of fertilizers.
For coconut, generally, three to four drippers are given per palm. The water requirement for an adult palm is 40 to 50 litres per day.

Plant Protection


Of the several maladies that confront coconut production in coconut growing areas, the coconut root (wilt) disease is of utmost concern. The palm is also affected by a number of other diseases like stem bleeding, bud rot, mahali, leaf rot, gray blight and Basal Stem Rot.
1. Root Wilt Disease

2.Stem Bleeding
3. Bud Rot
4. Mahali
5. Leaf Rot
6.Gray blight
7. Basal Stem Rot
8.Button shedding


The coconut palm is infected by a number of insect and non-insect pests other than household pest inflicting heavy crop losses. The most devastating among them are rhinoceros beetle, red palm weevil, leaf eating caterpillar, coreid bug, cockchafer beetle, coconut eriophyid mite, mealy bug and rodent pest
1. Rhinoceros Beetle
2.Red Palm Weevil
3. Leaf Eating Caterpillar
4.Coreid Bug
5. Cockchafer Beetle
6. Coconut mite
7. Mealy bug
In general, palms in the age group of 8-25 years are not suitable for inter and mixedcropping.
However, cereals and tapioca are recommended as intercrops in young coconut plantation up to 3-4 years. Since ginger and turmeric are shade tolerant crops with shallow roots, they can be intercropped in coconut garden even in the age group of 15-25 years. It ensures better land utilization, solar energy harvesting, efficient water use, utilization of soil nutrient resources, more returns and an insurance against crop failure. Under conditions of wider spacing i.e. beyond 7.6 m, intercropping is possible irrespective of the age of the palms.
The following crops are recommended as intercrops.
Cereals : Rice, maize
Legumes and pulses : Groundnut, horse gram, cowpea
Tubers : Tapioca, sweet potato, yams, colocasia
Spices and condiments : Ginger, turmeric, chilly, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove
Fruit plants : Banana, pineapple, papaya.
Beverage crop : Cocoa
Fodder grasses : Hybrid Napier, guinea grass
In all cases, separate application of adequate fertilizers and manures to the individual crop is essential.
Annuals :
Kharif: Rice, maize, groundnut, ginger, turmeric, chilli, yams, colocasia, red gram, vegetables, sweet potato, tapioca, banana, pineapple, papaya and fodder grass.
Rabi: Sesame, horse gram, red gram, vegetables, cowpea, sweet potato and banana.
Summer: Vegetables

Coconut In Modern Medicine

Modern medical science is now confirming the use of coconut in treating many of the above conditions. Published studies in medical journals show that coconut, in one form or another, may provide a wide range of health benefits. Some of these are summarized below:

*Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses.
*Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases.
*Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections.
*Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites.
*Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
*Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
*Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
*Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
*Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
*Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
*Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
*Reduces problems associated with malabsorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
*Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
*Helps protect against osteoporosis.
*Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
*Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.
*Improves digestion and bowel function.
*Relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids.
*Reduces inflammation.
*Supports tissue healing and repair.
*Supports and aids immune system function.
*Helps protect the body from breast, colon, and other cancers.
*Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
*Protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease.
*Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay.
*Functions as a protective antioxidant.
*Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
*Does not deplete the body's antioxidant reserves like other oils do.
*Improves utilization of essential fatty acids and protects them from oxidation.
*Helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
*Relieves symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement).
*Reduces epileptic seizures.
*Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
*Dissolves kidney stones.
*Helps prevent liver disease.
*Is lower in calories than all other fats.
*Supports thyroid function.
*Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate.
*Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
*Helps prevent obesity and overweight problems.
*Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection.
*Reduces symptoms associated the psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
*Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
*Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.
*Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots.
*Promotes healthy looking hair and complexion.
*Provides protection form damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation form the sun.
*Helps control dandruff.
*Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do.
*Has no harmful or discomforting side effects.
*Is completely non-toxic to humans.

(Compiled and written by Harsh saxena)

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