Technical Requirements of Coconut Cultivation
The coconut palm is referred to as ‘Kalpavriksha’ – the ‘tree of heaven’ as each and every part of the palm is useful to mankind in one way or other. It provides food, drink, fuel and timber. Millions of families in India depend on coconut for their livelihood either directly or indirectly India ranks third in area and production of coconut in the world. The four southern states viz . Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are the major coconut producing states in India accounting for more than 9 per cent of area and production. Coconut plays a significant role in the agrarian economy of India. Apart from the importance of copra and coconut oil which is widely used in the manufacture of soaps, hair oil, cosmetics and other industrial products, its husk is a source of fibre which supports a sizable coir industry. The tender nut supplies coconut water, a popular thirst quencher of health and hygienicvalue. Virgin coconut oil , 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.
Technical Requirements of Coconut Cultivation :
Climatic requirements : 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 27 degree C with a diurnal variation of 6 degree C to 7 degree C and relative humidity more than 60 %. The coconut palm thrives well up to an altitude of 600 m above MSL. 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.
Soil requirements : The coconut palm can tolerate 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. The major soil types that support coconut in India are laterite, alluvial, red sandy loam, coastal sandy and reclaimed soils with a pH ranging from 5.2 to 8.0.
Selection & Preparation of land : Soil with a minimum depth of 1.2m and fairly good water holding capacity is preferred for coconut cultivation. Shallow soils with underlying hard rock, low lying areas subjected to water stagnation and clayey soils should be avoided. Size of the pit depends on the soil type and water table. In laterite soils large pits of the size 1.2m x 1.2m x 1.2 m may be dug and filled up with loose soil, powdered cow dung and ash up to a depth of 60 cm before planting. In loamy soils, pits of size 1m x 1m x 1m filled with top soil to height of 50 cm is recommended. While filling the pits, two layers of coconut husk can be arranged at the bottom of the pit with concave surface facing upwards for moisture conservation.
Manures and Fertilizers : Regular manuring right from the first year of planting is essential for good vegetative growth, early flowering and bearing and sustainable yield of coconut palms. The first application of chemical fertilizers should be done after three months of planting.
Irrigation : Coconut responds well to summer irrigation i.e. summer irrigation @ 40 litres per palm per week will increase the yield of nuts by 50%. Under basin irrigation, 200 litres 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 per cent of the open pan evaporation.
Harvesting : Coconuts are harvested at varying intervals in a year. The frequency differs in different areas depending upon the yield of the trees. In well maintained and high yielding gardens, bunches are produced regularly and harvesting is done once a month. Coconuts become mature in about 12 months after the opening of the spathe. It is the ripe coconut which is the source of major coconut products. Nuts which are eleven months old give fiber of good quality and can be harvested in the tracts where green husks are required for the manufacture of coirfibre. Economic life of the coconut palm is about 60 years.
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