Coconut is one of the most useful palms 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. Copra and coconut oil are the main products which are widely used in the manufacture of soaps, hair oil, cosmetics, and other industrial products.
Husk is a source of fiber which supports a sizable coir industry. The tender nut supplies coconut water, a popular thirst quencher of health and hygienic value. Virgin coconut oil (VCO), extracted from fresh coconut kernel without any chemical processes is abundant in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, thus making it the ‘mother of all oils.
Apart from large farms, coconut cultivation is a very profitable business for small and marginal farmers also.
Coconut is grown in more than 93 countries of the world and Indonesia, Philippines, India is the major producing countries of the world. Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Goa, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Maharashtra and Islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar are the major coconut producing states in India.
Things To Consider In Coconut Cultivation
- Long term planning is required in starting the Coconut cultivation business.
- Choose the right variety according to your agro-climatic condition.
- Proper maintenance, irrigation, and manuring are required in coconut garden.
- Proper harvesting and selling channels for fresh coconut, need to be finalized prior.
- To get the maximum profit, you must concentrate on making value-added products from coconut.
Health Benefits Of Coconut
- Coconut supports immune system health: it is antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasite
- It provides a natural source of quick energy and enhances physical and athletic performance
- It improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals
- Coconut improves insulin secretion and symptoms associated with diabetes
- It helps protect the body from cancers due to insulin reduction, removal of free radicals that cause premature aging and degenerative disease
- It reduces the risk of heart health and improves good cholesterol (HDL)
- It restores and supports thyroid function
- It helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infection
- Coconut is potentially leading to significant weight loss over the long term.
- The fatty acids in coconut oil can significantly reduce appetite, which may positively affect body weight over the long term.
Best Varieties For Coconut Cultivation
- Kalpa Raksha: This is a semi-tall variety with sweet tender nut water and with higher resistance to root (wilt) disease of coconut. It comes to flowering by 54 months from planting. Its annual yield is 87 nuts/palm.
- Chowghat Orange Dwarf (COD): This is an early flowering cultivar and takes about 3-4 years for initial flowering. The average annual yield is 63 nuts/palm/year.
- Kalpa Sree: Kalpasree has the superior quality of coconut oil, very sweet tender nut water, and meat and is resistant to root (wilt) disease. This is the earliest flowering cultivar and takes about 2.5 to 3 years for flowering.
- Kalpa Jyothi: Dwarf variety with yellow fruits, a higher average yield of 114 nuts per palm per year under rainfed conditions with estimated copra yield of over 16 kg per palm per year.
- Kalpa Sreshta (MYD x TPT): The mean yield is 167 nuts/palm/year, with estimated high copra out turn of 35.9 kg/palm/year or 6.28t/ha copra.
- Chandra Sankara (COD x WCT): The palms come to bearing early when compared to tall palms. It is a heavy yielder and produces 116 nuts/palm with a range of 100-150 nuts.
- Kera Sankara (WCT X COD): The palm comes to bearing by the fourth year of planting. The mean annual yield of nuts is 108 with a range of 70-130 nuts.
- Kalpa Samrudhi (MYDxWCT): The mean annual yield is 117 nuts per palm. The copra yield is 4.38 t/ha and oil is 3.04 t/ha. The hybrid is suitable for tender nut purpose.
- Kalpa Dhenu: It commences flowering in 67 months after planting in the field. The quantity of tender nut water is 290 ml.
- Kalpa Pratibha: This variety has the potential to produce 23,275 nuts per hectare per year in West Bengal state. The quantity of tender nut water is 448 ml.
- Kalpa Mitra: This variety has the potential to produce 80 nuts/palm/year. The quantity of tender nut water is 495 ml.
- Chandra Kalpa: The average annual yield is 100 nuts/palm. The palm grows in all types of soil and it can withstand moisture stress.
Agro-Climatic Condition For Coconut Cultivation
Coconut is essentially a tropical plant but has been found to grow under varying agro-climatic conditions. The mean annual temperature for optimum growth and maximum yield is stated to be 270C with a diurnal variation of 60C to 70C and relative humidity more than 60 %. The coconut palm thrives well up to an altitude of 600 m above MSL.
The palm requires plenty of sunlight and does not grow well under shade or in cloudy conditions. Cloudiness arrests the rate of transpiration.
High relative humidity increases the incidence of pest and disease and reduces nutrient uptake. In tall palms, the wind plays an important part in the dispersal of pollen and the fertilization of flowers; an increase of water, leading to its greater absorption.
The coconut palm thrives well under an evenly distributed annual rainfall ranging from 1000 mm to 3000 mm. However, a well-distributed rainfall of about 2000 mm is the ideal rainfall for proper growth and higher yield.
Suitable Soil For Coconut Cultivation
The coconut palm can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. But the palm does show certain growth preferences. A variety of factors such as drainage, soil depth, soil fertility and layout of the land has great influence on the growth of the palm. Red sandy loam, laterite, and alluvial soils are suitable. Select sites with deep (not less than 1.5 m depth) well-drained soil heavy, imperfectly drained soil is unsuitable. Avoid shallow soils with underlying hard rock, low-lying areas subject to water stagnation and heavy clayey soils. Soil with a minimum depth of 1.2 m and fairly good water holding capacity is preferred for coconut cultivation. Coconut can be grown in soil with a pH of 5.2 – 8.6.
Coconut Cultivation Basic Steps
1. Land Preparation
The nature of preparation of land before planting depends on upon topography of the land, soil type, and other environmental factors. The area should be cleaned and planting holes marked out at appropriate places. If the land is sloppy, soil conservation methods should be adopted. If the groundwater level is high planting may be taken up in the mounds.
2. Field Layout
Although several systems of planting are followed, the selection of a suitable system depending on soil, climate, plant type, etc. Adoption of an improper system results in overlapping of plant parts, competition for water, light, nutrient and unequal distribution of water, etc., ultimately results in poor performance.
Vigorous seedlings which are one year old, having a minimum of six leaves and girth of 10 cm at the collar level should be selected for planting in the main field. Early splitting of leaves in the seedlings could be a criterion for selecting good seedlings. However, 18 – 24 months old seedlings are preferred for planting in waterlogged areas.
4. Cropping System
Coconut seedlings are planted 7.5 m to 9.0 m apart and hence the wider interspace can offer opportunities for raising other crops, either annual as intercrop or perennials as a mixed crop as a source of additional income to the growers.
The practice of growing biennial and perennial crops like banana, papaya, pineapple, areca nut, mango, jack fruit, etc., along with coconut is prevalent in the holdings of small farmers. Pineapple could be successfully raised as an intercrop both under rainfed and irrigated conditions.
Regular manuring from the first year of planting is essential to ensure good vegetative growth, early flowering, and bearing and high yield. Organic manure at the rate of 30 kg per palm per year may be applied with the onset of southwest monsoon when the soil moisture content is high. Different forms of organic manures like compost, farmyard manure, bone meal, fish meal, neem cake, groundnut cake, gingelly cake, etc. could be used for this purpose. Rock phosphate is recommended as the source of phosphorus in lateritic and acidic soils.
Coconut responds well to summer irrigation. Summer irrigation @ 40 liters per palm per week will increase the yield of nuts by 50%. Under basin irrigation, 200 liters per palm once in four days will be beneficial. In areas where water is scarce drip irrigation system can be adopted. The quantity of water recommended for drip irrigation in coconut is 66 percent of the open pan evaporation.
7. Weed Control
Weed management is important in coconut cultivation. As the seedlings grow and form the stem, fill up the pits gradually by cutting the sides. Proper inter cultivation provides control of weeds and creates soil mulch.
Plant Protection System For Coconut Cultivation
The major insect pests of the coconut palm are the rhinoceros beetle, the red palm weevil, the black-headed caterpillar, the cockchafer beetle, and the coreid bug. Adopt suitable remedial measures as and when required.
Bud Rot, Tanjore Wilt / Basal stem End Rot, Root Wilt or Kerala Wilt, Leaf Rot Disease are the potential diseases of the coconut palm. Proper treatment is required for these diseases.
Harvesting & Storage For Coconut Cultivation
Twelve months old nuts are harvested at the interval of 30-45 days for seed as well as copra making and culinary purposes. For household use keep the nuts in the vertical direction. However, for tender nut purposes, 7 to 8 months old nuts are harvested. The nuts can be harvested using coconut climbers.
Nuts which are 11 months old give fiber of good quality. This is suitable for coir fiber. In the case of tall variety, the nuts harvested for seed purpose can be stored for 2 to 3 months period before sowing, whereas in the case of dwarfs and hybrids, nuts should be sown within a period of 10 –15 days of harvest. On average, you can have eight harvests, though the coconut palm produces inflorescence every month.
Coconut Cultivation Market Opportunity
You can sell fresh coconut for fresh consumption. Otherwise different value-added products can be produced from the coconut. Some of the profitable coconut processed products are Activated carbon, Coconut oil, Coir product, Desiccated coconut powder, Coconut shell, Dry coconut, Coconut shell charcoal, Tender Coconut water packed, Virgin coconut oil, Coir pith briquet and Spray dried coconut milk powder. These products have very good export potential.
If you have a substantial amount of land and you can plan for a long term farming business, then coconut cultivation is the best option for you.