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Agriculture > Plantation Crops > Coconut (Cocosnucifera)

Crop Management

Cultivation Practices

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 kayal 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 underlying rocks, 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 top soil 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 procedure 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.

Note: In lateritic areas, common salt at the rate of 2 kg per pit may be applied on the floor of the pit to improve soil conditions. 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.

Planting system Spacing Approximate number of plants/ha
Triangular 7.6 m 198
Square 7.6 to 9 m >170-120
Single hedge 5 m in the rows 9 m between the rows 220
Double hedge 5 x 5 m in rows 9 m between pairs of rows 280

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.

Care for Young Palms

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 at the rates shown in table. Fertilizer requirement of adult palms is given under Manuring of adult palms .

Fertilizer requirement of young palms in relation to that of adult palms

Time after planting Time of application
April-June Sept-Oct.
(Proportion of adults palm dose)
3 months (1/10th of full dose) - 1/10
1 year (1/3rd of full dose) 1/9 2/9
2 year (2/3rd of full dose) 2/9 4/9
3 year onwards (full dose) 3/9 6/9

Note: 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.

Micro Nutrient Management

Magnesium sulphate @ 0.5-1.0 kg/palm/year is recommended for root (wilt) affected area.

For sandy and sandy loams of Onattukara and similar situations and also for hybrid palms grown in root (wilt) affected areas, apply 500 g MgSO4/palm/year.

Apply lime or dolomite during April-May, magnesium sulphate during August- September and organic matter during May – June. For an adult palm 1 kg dolomite or 1 kg lime + 0.5 kg MgSO4 is required per annum.

Weeding & Interculture

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.

Drought Management in Coconut Gardens

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. 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:

Husk burial for moisture conservation (Add FIGS)

Burying of fresh or dried coconut husk around the palm is a desirable practice particularly for moisture retention. 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 of 0.5 m width and depth. The husks are to be placed in layers with concave surface facing upwards and covered with soil. The beneficial effect of husk burial will last for about 5-7 years. Instead of husk, coconut pith can be buried @ 25 kg / palm / year.

Mulching

Mulching is an effective method of conserving soil moisture. Mulch the coconut basins with green / dry leaves at the close of northeast monsoon (October-November). Mulching also adds organic matter to the soil and reduces the soil temperature. Do not disturb soil in the coconut garden during summer months. In level lands, during rainy seasons excess water may be conserved in small trenches dug out in the plantation. In sloppy areas, land may be terraced and trenches dug across. This will facilitate maximum percolation of rainwater and water storage. For moisture conservation, lowermost 3-5 leaves may be cut and removed. Provide adequate shade for the transplanted seedlings for 1-2 years. To minimize the heat load on the stem, application of lime solution on the trunk up to a height of 2-3 m at the start of the summer season is recommended.

Green manure and cover crops

Green manure and cover crops recommended for cultivation in coconut gardens are:

  1. Green manure crops: Crotalaria juncea (sunn hemp), Tephrosia purpurea (kolinji), Indigofera hirsuta, Pueraria phaseoloides .
  2. Cover crops: Calapagonium muconoides, Mimosa invisa, Stylosanthes gracilis
  3. Shade-cum-green manure shrub: Tephrosia candida

Sow cowpea seeds more towards the periphery of basins taken at a radius of 2.0m from the base of the palm for green manure during April-May with the onset of premonsoon rains. When a few plants start flowering, uproot the entire plants and incorporate into the soil during August- September and cover the basins with soil.

Sow green manure and cover crop seeds during April-May with the onset of pre-monsoon rains. The green manure crops should be ploughed in and incorporated into the soil during August- September. This will increase the water holding capacity of soil. Calapagonium can be grown either as green manure or cover crop. Tephrosia is especially suited for planting around seedling pits for summer shade and as a source of green manure in the rainy season.

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