It offers a good scope for increasing nut production and income
Coconut in India is primarily a small farmer’s crop. Growing coconut alone as a monocrop does not provide employment through out the year and the income derived from small holdings is not sufficient to sustain a farmer’s livelihood.
Coconut based intercropping in the interspaces of coconut trees and integration with other enterprises such as cattle offer good scope for increasing coconut production.
Usually a spacing of 7.5 x 7.5 mts is generally recommended for coconut palms which are planted in a square shaped planting system.
Active root zone
Coconut trees usually do not utilize completely the available resources such as land space, aerial space, water and nutrients as the active root zone of the coconut tree is confined to only 25 per cent of the available land area.
The remaining area could be profitably exploited for raising other intercrops, according to Dr. H.P. Maheswarappa, Senior Scientist (Agronomy), Division of Crop Production of the Institute.
Field experiments conducted at the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), Kasaragod in Kerala have indicated successful establishment of medicinal plant varieties such as vetiver, kacholam, arrowroot, chittadalodakam, thippali and aloe vera as intercrops in coconut gardens.
In recent days, due to increased health awareness of the people of the carcinogenic hazards of the synthetic drugs, there is an enhanced demand for the products of medicinal plants.
“Before growing any of the above mentioned medicinal plants care should be taken by farmers to ensure there is a ready market for the produce,” he said. At CPCRI the above medicinal plants were grown in coconut gardens with organic manure.
For example, vetiver oil, which is extracted from the roots of the plant has a good demand in the manufacture of perfumes, essence, atar, soap and in the food flavouring industry.
The roots are also used in manufacturing ayurvedic medicines. For growing vetiver, the land was ploughed during summer and the slips (2 slips per pit) were planted at a spacing of 60 x 60cm. Before planting, organic manure at the rate of 10 tonnes per hectare was applied to the soil and planting was done during July-August.
After 30 days of planting, earthing was done to remove unwanted weeds. Irrigation can be provided to ensure good crop growth during the dry spell.
The crop was harvested in 15-18 months after planting and each plant produces 80-90 gm of dry roots. From an acre one can get about 780 kg of dry roots, Dr. Maheswarappa explained.
At the rate of Rs.45 per kg of dry root, the net income obtained from one acre of coconut garden is Rs. 28,000 to 30,000.
Similarly for growing other medicinal plants such as nilgirianthus, nagadanti, chittdalokakam and thippili, organic manure at the rate of 20 tonnes per hectare was applied and convenient beds prepared.
The crops were planted at a spacing of 60 x 60 cm and irrigation provided during dry months. Depending upon the duration, crops were harvested and marketed.
In addition to medicinal plants perennial tree species such as pathimugham, heart wood, bael tree and coomb teak were also grown as intercrops.
Readers can contact Dr. H.P. Maheswarappa, Senior Scientist (Agronomy), Division of Crop Production, CPCRI, Kasaragod-67 124, Kerala, email: >firstname.lastname@example.org, mobile: 09495103236.