Srinidhi Farm
 
Farming Guide for Coconut Plantation
Scientific name:  Cocos nucifera  Family:  Arecaceae  (palm family)


The coconut palm is the most useful palm in the world. Every part of the tree is useful to human life for some purpose or the other. Hence, the coconut palm is endearingly called ‘kalpavriksha’ meaning the tree of heaven. The copra obtained by drying the kernel of coconut is the richest source of vegetable oil containing 65 to 70 per cent oil.

Climate and Soil

The coconut palm is found to grow under varying climatic and soil conditions.A rainfall of about 2000 mm per year, well distributed throughout, is ideal for proper growth and maximum production. Temperature: Mean annual temperature of 27°C with a diurnal variation of 5-7°C is ideal - temperature <15°C results in abnormalities of the fruit
Coconut is grown under different soil types such as loamy, laterite, coastal sandy, alluvial, clayey and reclaimed soils of the marshy low lands. The ideal soil conditions for better growth and performance of the palm are proper drainage, good water-holding capacity, presence of water table within 3m and absence of rock or any hard substratum within 2m of the surface.

Coconut Tree
Coconut plantation
Coconut garden
 (Hybrid Variety)   
West Coast Tall  
(Tall Variety)
(Dwarf Variety)

There are only two distinct varieties of coconut, the tall and the dwarf. 
The tall cultivars that are extensively grown are the West Coast Tall and East Coast Tall. The dwarf variety is shorter in stature and its life span is short as compared to the tall. Tall x Dwarf (TxD), Dwarf x Tall (DxT) are the two important hybrids. 
There are 10 different combination of hybrids, developed by Kerala Agriculture University and Tamil Nadu Agriculture University and released for commercial cultivation. They are high yielders under the good management conditions. Laccadive Ordinary, Andaman Ordinary, Philippines, Java, Cochin-China, Kappadam etc. are the other tall cultivars under cultivation.

Planting Material

Coconut plants   Coconut plants Coconut is propagated through seedlings raised from selected seednuts. Generally 9 to 12 month old seedlings are used for planting. Select seedlings, which have 6-8 leaves and 10-12 cm collar girth when they are 9-12 month old. Early splitting of leaves is another criteria in the selection of coconut seedling.

Selection of Seed gardens
Gardens should have palms with a high proportion of heavy bearers but it should be kept in mind that this must not be from very favourable conditions Garden should be free from the incidence of diseases and not prone to severe attacks of pests.

Selection of Mother palms 
Palms should be regular bearers with annual yield of greater than 80 nuts and copra content not less than 150g/nut under rain fed condition (Irrigation-120 nuts/year). Palms should have reached full bearing stage and have been giving consistently high yields for at least four years. Avoid very old palms of above 60 years age. Palms which produce barren nuts or those shedding large number of immature nuts should be discarded
Collection of seed nuts

  • Collect seed nuts from January to April on the West Coast region.
  • Only fully matured nuts i.e. about 12 months old should be harvested.
  • Nuts should not be damaged while harvesting
  • Discard nuts having irregular shape and size.     

Raising nursery

  • Select well-drained, coarse-textured soil near dependable water source for irrigation.
  • Prepare raised beds if water stagnation is a problem during rainy season.
  • Soil may be treated with chlordane 5% dust @ 120 kg/ha in place where nursery is taken for the first time as a precaution against white grubs and termites.
  • Nursery can be raised either in the open with artificial shade or in gardens where the palms are tall and the ground is not completely shaded.

The seed nuts should be planted in long and narrow beds at a spacing of 40 x 30cm during May-June, either vertically or horizontally in 20-25cm deep trenches. Advantage in vertical planting is less damage during transit. However, in delayed planting when the nut water goes down considerably it is good to go for horizontal sowing for better germination.

Site Selection

Shallow soils with underlying hard rock, low lying areas subject to water stagnation and clayey soils are to be avoided. Proper supply of moisture either through well distributed rainfall or through irrigation should be ensured before planting.

Preparation of Land and Planting

Coconut Pit Size       Coconut Pit size

On slopes and in areas of undulating terrain, prepare the land by contour terracing or bunding. In low-lying areas mounds are to be formed at planting site to a height of at least 1m above water level. In reclaimed ‘kayal’ areas, seedlings are planted on field bunds. 

In loamy soils with low water table, a pit size of 1mx1mx1m is recommended. In laterite soils with underlying rocks, take larger pits of size 1.2m x 1.2m x 1.2m. In sandy soils the size need not exceed 0.75m x 0.75m x 0.75 m.

Spacing and Systems of Planting

Spacing depends upon the planting system, soil type etc. In general the following spacing are recommended under different planting system in sandy and laterite soils.

 

Planting system

Spacing

1

Triangular

7.6m

2

Square

7.6x7.6m, 8x8m, 9x9 m

3

Single

6.5m in rows - 9m between rows

4

Double Hedge

6.5 to 6.5m in rows - 9m between pairs of rows

Coconut pits distances

Time of Planting

Seedlings can be transplanted in the beginning of the south west monsoon. If irrigation facilities are available, it is advisable to take up planting at least a month before the onset of the monsoon so that the seedlings get well established before heavy rains. Planting can also be taken up before the onset of the north-east monsoon. In low-lying areas subject to inundation during monsoon period, transplanting may be done after the cessation of the monsoon.

Planting

Before planting the pits are filled up with top soil and powdered cow dung / compost up to a depth of 50 to 60 cm. Then take a small pit inside this, so as to accommodate the nut attached to the seedling. Plant the seedling inside this pit and fill up with soil. Press the soil well so as to avoid water stagnation. If there is chance for white-ant attack apply Sevidol 8G(5gm.) inside the small pit before planting. 
In laterite areas apply 2 kg common salt per pit for improving the physical condition of the soil. Burying 25 to 30 coconut husks per pit in layers will be useful for moisture conservation.

Care of young Palms

The transplanted seedlings should be shaded and irrigated adequately during the summer months. Also provide staking so that winds may not uproot the young seedlings. For the first two years after planting, irrigate the seedling twice a week during the dry summer months. Shading is a must to the transplanted seedlings.

Manuring

Coconut Tree Care
Regular manuring from the first year of planting is essential to achieve higher productivity. For coconut 20 - 50kg. organic manure should be applied per palm per year with the onset of south west monsoon, when soil moisture content is high. Different forms of organic manures like compost, farm yard manure, bone meal, fish meal, blood meal, neem cake, groundnut cake etc. could be made use for this purpose. In addition to this the following Fertilizer Schedule is recommended.

The fertiliser schedule recommended for the palm at different stages is as follows:-

 

 

Quantity of fertilizer to be applied (gm)

Age of Palm

Nutrient dosage

Ammo. Sulphate

Urea

Super Phosphate (single)

or Ultraphos/ Rock Phosphate

Muriate of Potash

1. General recommendation: 
(a) Average Management:

3 months

1/10 of full dose

165

75

95

60

115

1 year

1/3 of full dose

550

250

320

200

380

2 year

2/3 of full dose

1100

500

640

400 

760

3 year onwards

full dose

1650 

750

950

600

1140

(b) Good management:

3 months

1/10 of full dose

250

110

180

115

200

1 year

1/3 of full dose

800

360

590

380

670

2 year

2/3 of full dose

1675

720

1180

760

1340

3 year onwards

full dose

2000

1080

1780

1140

2010

2. Hybrid and high yielding palms: 
a. Under Irrigated condition: 

3 months

1/10 of full dose

490

220

280

180

335

1 year

1/3 of full dose

1625

720

930

600

1110

2 year

2/3 of full dose

3250

1450

1850

1200

2220

3 year onwards

full dose

4880

2170

2780

1800

3330

 

(b) Under rainfed condition:
Same as that of good management under general recommendation.
The full adult doze recommended for the rainfed tall is 0.34kg N, 0.17kg P and 0.68kg K. For the hybrids and irrigated talls the general recommendation is 0.5kg N, 0.34kg P and 1.0kg. K subject to changes in accordance with soil test and/or foliar analysis data. 

In addition to the above dose of fertilizers two to three kgs. of finally ground dolomite lime stone or 0.5 kg. Magnesium sulphate per palm per year is also recommended for use in acidic soils, light sandy soils and in root wilt affected tracts in Kerala. The dolomite may be broadcasted prior to the onset of monsoon in the basins and forked in and should not be applied along with other fertilizers. There is however no harm in applying magnesium sulphate along with other fertilizers.

Irrigation

Soil moisture very often limits coconut production in those areas where long spell of dry weather prevail or where the rainfall is scanty and ill-distributed. So irrigate the palms during summer months in basins around the palm. The irrigation requirement varies according to the soil type and climatic condition. Generally, an adult palm requires 600 to 800 litres of water once in four to seven days. Irrigate in basins of 1.8m radius and 10-20 cm depth. In coastal sandy soils, sea water can be used for irrigating adult palms. Do not irrigate seedlings and very young palms upto 2 year with sea water. In irrigated gardens interruption of irrigation would lead to serious set-back in yield and general condition of palms. Hence, when once started irrigation should be continued regularly and systematically. Drip irrigation is the best suited method of irrigation for coconut. It saves water, labour and energy.

Inter-cultivation

Only minimum tillage is required for coconut. Inter-cultural operations are mainly intended to control weeds and to provide aeration to the soil. If these objectives are met, any tillage system (ploughing / digging, making mounds) is as good as another and can be followed depending upon the local conditions.

Husk Burial

Coconut Husk Burying fresh or dried coconut husks around the palm is a very beneficial practice particularly for moisture retention especially in drought prone areas. The husk can be buried either in linear trenches taken 3 m away from the trunk between rows of palms or in circular trenches taken around the palm at a distance of 2 m from the trunk. The trenches may be dug at 0.5 m wide and at the same depth. The husks are to be placed in layers with concave surface facing upwards and covered with soil. The beneficial effects of husk burial will last for about 5-7 years.

Green Manure and Cover Crops

Coconut Green Manure

This will help to increase the organic matter content of the soil and also will prevent soil erosion in coconut gardens. The following Green manure / cover crops are recommended for cultivation in coconut gardens.

  •  Crotalaria juncea (Sunnhemp)
  •  Tephrosia purpurea
  •  Gliricidia maculata 
  •  Calapagonium muconoides 
  •  Mimosa invisa

Sow the green manure / cover crops during April-May with the onset of pre-monsoon showers. The green manure crops should be ploughed in and incorporated in the soil during August-September.

Mixed / Inter / Multi-species Cropping System in Coconut Garden

Coconut mixed cropping
Schedule for inter-mixed cropping may be drawn up based on the canopy size and orientation of palms. A variety of intercrops like pineapple, banana, elephant-foot yam, groundnut, chillies, sweet potato, tapioca and different vegetables can be raised in coconut garden. In older plantation cocoa, cinnamon, pepper, clove, nutmeg etc. can be grown as mixed crops. 
However, these inter/mixed crops are to be adequately and separately manured in addition to the manures applied to the coconut palm

Mixed Farming

Mixed farming by raising fodder grasses such as Hybrid Napier or Guinea grass along with leguminous fodder crops such as Stylosanthes has been found to be profitable. Raising the above crops in one ha. of coconut garden can support three to four diary animals. The animals supply large quantities of cattle manure which when applied to the soil will improve its fertility status. This sort of mixed farming will improve the yield of the palm.

Harvesting and Yield

On an average, coconut yields 44 nuts/palm/year. However, under scientific cultivation West Coast Tall gives 80 nuts/palm/year in coastal Kerala and Karnataka. The hybrids yield 100-140 nuts/palm/year. Coconut ripen in 12-13 months from the opening of the inflorescence. To get maximum yield of copra and oil only fully mature nuts should be harvested. Immature nuts provide 6-33 and 5-33% less copra and oil respectively. Superior, golden-brown, quality fibre with elastic and good tungsten strength is obtained from 10-month-old nuts. The harvested nuts are stored in heaps under shade for a few days since the stored nuts are easy to husk. The moisture content of the meat decreases, whereas thickness of the meat layer increases. However, storage of harvested nuts is beneficial if fully matured nuts are harvested. Postharvest management of coconut involves its conversation into copra and coconut oil. Coconut husk is used to manufacture coir mat, cushion and other products.

Two forms of copra are manufactured. They are edible copra and milling copra. However, milling copra is manufactured commercially. There are 2 types of edible copra-ball copra and cup copra. Ball copra is produced by storing fully mature unhusked nuts for 8-12 months on a raised platform usually made of bamboos. As the water eventually dries out the nuts is dehusked and shell broken carefully to remove copra from inside in a ball form. For preparation of edible quality cup copra, fully mature nuts are stored for a long period. The selected nuts are dehusked, cut into cups and dried under the open sun. Cup copras are used for household edible preparation in northern India, since fresh coconuts are not available for edible purpose.

Milling copra is most popular coconut in southern states. In Kerala, 60-65% of the total coconut produced is converted into milling copra. It is made by sundrying though often it is combined with kiln drying during the monsoon period. A number of economically feasible copra dryers using sunlight, farm wastes as fuel and even electrical dryers have been developed. Various capacity dryers are being fabricated and marketed by the Kerala Agro Industries Corporation.

Desicated coconut is prepared in small-scale units mainly in Karnataka. It is a partially defatted product, yielding superior quality coconut oil also. 

YIELD 

The yield depends on variety and conditions under which it is grown. The average yield per hectare varies from 10,000 to 14,000 nuts per annum.