Coconut Hybrid

“Farmers who experimented with hybrid coconuts have burnt their fingers”. Is this true?  We talk to members of discussion forum to find out their experiences and comments on hybrid coconut cultivation

Hybrid Coconut Seedlings
When asked how Deejay Consultancy Services’ coconut hybrid seedlings, Mr. David J. Lobo, chairman, says, “Most farmers who had experimented with hybrid coconut seedlings burnt their fingers, by being supplied doubtful, untried and in the most part bogus hybrids. The selling of dubious or fake hybrids continues, usually before the rainy season.

As much as we try, we have not been able to stop the bogus Andhra Deejay and Kerala Deejay hybrids from being sold to gullible farmers. We have no agents and all sales are direct from our own breeding stations. Hence earlier experiences of farmers who bought such expensive hybrids, most being bogus, have left a bad taste in the mouth for many victims and their neighbours.”

He maintains, “The Deejay hybrid, in general, flowers in one third the time (two years) and yields three times the number of nuts per palm per annum (250 plus). Many farmers exceed these figures. Many earn over Rs. 1 lakh per acre per year, and those selling tender coconuts for water, located in zones near big cities are earning over Rs. 2 lakhs per annum. Yields go up by a third when nuts are harvested by about the seventh month. While this is impressive, Deejay has a full-fledged research team, full time in finding further improvements and better hybrids.”
Dr. Ilangovan Ramasamy, President, Agriinfotech, Inc. India agrees that many farmers have been duped with dubious hybrid coconut seedlings. He adds, “In both government as well private sectors the quality consciousness is deteriorating. More reliable and quality guaranteed firms may be an alternative.”

Care and Precautions
When asked about the care and precautions required to harvest best quality coconut, Mr. Lobo says, “The coconut tree produces a flower (spathe) and there after a bunch of coconuts with every leaf. The Deejay hybrid produces more leaves than any other palm – up to 22 leaves per year compared to the normal 12. Proper spacing for adequate light, timely and adequate irrigation is most important followed by proper micro and macro nutrient feeding.

Therefore regular but easy management is needed to sustain the highest productivity,” adding, “The basic principle of unrestricted light for the palm by proper spacing is very often forgotten and compromised. No more than 70 palms per acre [or 175 p/ha] in square planting is advisable. The coconut palm is the only natural seed with an astonishing high oil percentage going up to 75% by weight in some varieties. If you cut the light you will cut productivity.”

He further adds, “We recommend our farmers follow a set of precise guidelines as published in our booklet called Coconut Cultivators Guide in English and in vernacular languages for all stages of the plant (available on request). Our service team is also available to guide the customer. Once the farmer sees bunches of coconuts hanging at ground level in the third and fourth year of planting he will be the most satisfied person.” He also informs that tall varieties of coconut starts yielding in around the seventh year and stabilizes by the tenth year. Deejay hybrids start first flowering in the second year and stabilizes with full production from the fifth year.

He however warns, “Coconut palms manage most soils well except for water logging, and deficient soils can be fairly easily managed and changed. However water is a sine qua non, and unless a minimum of 100 litres per palm per day is available, we do not expect optimum results. Good farming practices and good planting material thereafter are the keys to success.”

Dr. Ilangovan lists the care and precaution to be taken as:
1. Sufficient spacing to be calculated as follows: total length of a leaf multiplied by two plus two feet is the spacing for the coconut. For e.g. if a length is 14 feet means 14 X 2 = 28 + 2 = 30 is the spacing between trees
2. Individual tree needs care. Each and every tree must be numbered
3. No need to irrigate the entire basin, instead irrigate via drip at 3 feet away from the base of the tree
4. Keep mulch (self-mulching by using the coconut leaves of the same tree) over the basin to arrest weed growth and conserve the moisture

Commenting on the ideal climatic conditions for growing coconut, Dr. D.W. Rajsekhar and Ms. Sunitha ND, Watershed Development Training Centre, Bijapur, say, “The coconut can be cultivated in wide range of soils viz. laterite, alluvial, red sandy loam, coastal sandy and reclaimed soils with a pH ranging from 5.2 to 8.0. It prefers areas with abundant sunlight and regular rainfall (150cm to 250 cm annually) also they need high humidity (70 to 80 % or more). Shallow soils with underlying hard rock, low lying areas subjected to water stagnation and clay soils should be avoided. Spacing depends upon the planting system. In general following of spacing are recommended under different planting system in sandy and laterite soils.”

They say, “Planting the seedlings during May with the onset of monsoon rain is ideal. Seedlings can be transplanted in the beginning of the south west monsoon. If irrigation facility is available it is better to plant seedlings a month before the onset of monsoon, so that the seedlings will be well established before heavy rains. The pits are filled up with powdered cow dung or vermicompost or compost along with top soil 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 the soil. In laterite areas common salt (2 kg/pit) may be applied.”

They recommend 3 types of planting system spacing
1. Triangular 7.6 m
2. Square 7.6 * 7.6 m , 8*8m, 9*9 m.
3. Single 6.5 m in rows 9 m b/w rows
In general square system of planting with a spacing of 7.5 m to 9 m is practiced this will accommodate 177 to 124 palms per hectare.

Agriinfotech, Inc. India

Dr. Ilangovan Ramasamy founded Agriinfotech, Inc. India. He is a MS, Ph.D. in agronomy (fertilizer chemistry / cropping system research and herbicide chemistry, respectively). He has over 19 years of research and management experience in fertilizers, organic fertilizers, green manure, agriculture chemicals (pesticides) and seed production. Agriinfotech is headquartered in Salem, New Hampshire, USA. The India office is located in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

Agriinfotech provides agricultural products consultancy services. Dr. Ilangova points out coconut hybrids are relatively new in India, introduced 30 to 40 years ago. He also mentions, “Generally hybrid coconuts require high level of care and management.”

He adds, “Coconut is a long term crop. The life span of a tall coconut is about 100 years. Coconut is not like other crops. All the parts of the coconut trees are beneficial. Coconut cultivation is strictly a tropical tree ideal for irrigated garden lands with good drainage facilities,” adding, “Dry humid weather is ideal for coconut cultivation. Medium fertile to high fertile soils are ideal. Drainage and better aeration in the soil is best for coconut cultivation.” He however maintains coconut provides sustainable income when compared to other commercial crops.

Dr. Ilangovan has been awarded with a leadership award from the American Biographical Institute for his contribution in the field of food and agriculture.

For more information, contact : Mr.Ilangovan Ramasamy, 166 Lawrence Rd, SALEM NH   03079 USA, 603-894-7346 (H); 603-781-9097 (M) India: 205, D.B. Road, R.S.Puram, Coimbatore – 2 9443213757; 9895957611

D x T Variety of Coconut
Member Mr. A Sivakumar, Priya Nursery Garden in Tamil Nadu, speaks about the specialty of the D x T breed of coconuts. He says, “I want to honour Dr. Henry Louis, who promoted the D x T coconut breed in India. This breed leads the great revolution in coconut cultivation. Normally the coconut breeders will advise the farmers to plant in the fertile land and sweet water for irrigation. But the D x T coconut plantations can be grown on the hill slopes and foot hills. The soil also need not be very fertile and rain water can be used for irrigation.”

He adds, “But we cultivate coconut on very fertile land like Pollochi, Udumalaipettai, Shimoga and Chickmagalur. Also nowadays coconut cultivation is not profitable when compared to annual crops. But coconuts are required in all occasion like worship of god, marriages, and other auspicious functions.”

He further speaks about the D x T Raamganga variety. “It’s a nice variety that grows even in barren lands and saline water is also suitable. The D x T Raamganga coconut tree gives eighteen fruit bunches .The yield patter will be minimum 280 nuts and maximum 325 nuts per year per tree. The first flower bunch will comes on completion of eighteen months (subject to irrigation method like minimum 80 liters , sufficient manure and care). Ours Ramganga coconut can be used for tender coconuts as well as matured coconuts. The tender coconuts are sweeter than other D x T coconuts. One special thing is in one bunch all tender coconuts have the same sweet taste.”

Other Varieties
Dr. Ilangovan lists the best varieties of coconut: 1. West Coast Tall (WCT)
2. Lakshadweep Ordinary (Chandrakalpa)
3. Philippines Ordinary (Kerachandra)
4. Andaman Ordinary 5. Java 6. Cochin China 7. Kappadam 8. Komadan

1. Lakshaganga (Lakshadweep Ordinary x Gangabondam)
2. Anandaganga (Andaman Ordinary x Gangabondam)
3. Keraganga (West Coast Tall x Gangabondam)
4. Kerasankara (West Coast Tall x Chowghat Orange Dwarf)
5. Chandrasankara (Chowghat Orange Dwarf x West Coast Tall)
6. Kerasree (West Coast Tall x Malayan Yellow Dwarf)
7. Kerasoubaghya (WCT x SSA)
8. Chowghat Green Dwarf x West Coast Tall
9. Chandralaksha (Lakshadweep Ordinary x Chowghat Orange Dwarf)

Tender nut variety
Chowghat Orange Dwarf
He maintains, “West coast tall, East coast tall, and Tiptur tall are the best tall varieties. The best selection is based on the varietal or hybrids performances in the locations where they start coconut plantations. Released by proper selection of these tall varieties and released by state agricultural universities in each state. In general, medium sized fruits of fully acclimatized (adapted to the local climate) is the best one for the middle level management of coconut farming.

Dr. Rajsekhar and Ms. Sunitha point out, “There are only two distinct varieties of coconut – tall and dwarf. Owing to cross pollination especially in the talls, a wide range of varieties occur within the same variety. The tall varieties are extensively cultivated grows to a height of about 15 to 18 m, bears fruits in seven to ten years under rainfed conditions. For example: West coast tall, east coast tall, tiptur tall, arsikere tall, lakshadweep ordinary, lakshdweep micro, andaman ordinary, kapadom, and lagnna are few prominent varieties.”

“The dwarf variety is characterized by its short stature and early ability of bearing. It bears fruits in 4 years. These tree bears in huge quantity and rarely tree exceeds 5 m in height. It has the tendency of irregular bearing. Important varieties in India are chowghat dwarf green, chawghat dwarf orange, malayan dwarf, and gangabondam.”

“The manifestation of hybrid vigour in perrenmial crop like the coconut palm was first reported from India in 1932. The inter varietal hybrids produced for commercial plantings are the tall X dwarf, dwarf X tall, tall X dwarf (female – male), dwarf X tall (female (D) * male (tall). Examples: lakshaganga (tall * gangabordam), kern ganga (WCT * GB), ananta ganga (andaman ordinary * GB), chandra laksha (lakshadweep ordinary * chawakkad dwarf green).”

They advise, “So it is important to note that while establishing a farm, selection of planting material (T*D) or D*T or tall varieties of different varieties of high intrinsic value assumes considerable importance. The palm full bearing capacity can be known only 10-15 years after planting. So if the original planting material is from a wrong site, the garden will prove to be highly uneconomical.”

Dr. D. W. Rajasekhar
Dr. D. W. Rajasekhar is the Deputy Director Agriculture, Watershed Development Training Centre, Bijapur, which is part of the State Department of Agriculture, Karnataka. Dr. Rajasekhar is a M.Sc (Agri), Ph. D, and PGDAEM. He has 10 years of work experience in extension programmes. He has also worked in Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Bijapur.

Dr. Rajasekhar believes coconut production has a promising future. Giving statistics, he says, “The coconut palm is grown in more than 86 countries worldwide with a total production of 54 billion nuts per annum. In India coconut is cultivated mainly in the coastal tracts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Pondicherry and Maharashtra and in the Islands of Lakshwadweep, Andaman and Nicobar.”

He adds, “Kerala is the main coconut growing state with an area of 10.20 lakh hectares and production of 5911 million nuts, followed by TN (3.2 lakh ha. and 3716 million nuts) Karnataka (2.87 lakh ha. and 1493 million nuts) and Andhra Pradesh (0.96 lakh ha, and 780 million nuts). Therefore southern states account for 90% of the total production in the country.”  He informs, “Of late coconut cultivation has been introduced to suitable locations in non-traditional states including Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Tripura, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Coconut production is going to only increase in future, opening up new markets.”

Sunitha N. D.
Ms Sunitha N.D. is with Watershed Development Training Centre, Bijapur, which is part of the State Department of Agriculture, Karnataka. She is M. Sc (Agri), PGDAEM. She has extensive work experience in the field of Teaching Research and Extension. She has worked in the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad.

Ms. Sunita advises, “The coconut palm thrives well under an evenly distributed rainfall ranging from 1000 mm to 3000 mm. It prefers neither very hot nor very cold climate. The coconut palm thrives well up to an altitude of 600 m MSL and prefers a temperature 270 C ± 70 C.” She also warns farmers to buy good planting material from the right garden.

For more information, contact : Dr. D.W. Rajsekhar and Sunitha ND M.Sc(Agri) Ph.D, Deputy Director of Agriculture, Watershed Development Training Centre, Bijapur Email

Mr. Lobo informs that inter cropping in coconut farms is gaining momentum. “Many of our customers have already gone into planting of cocoa, nutmeg, and lemon, beside others, as inter crops and are getting additional income from the same area of farming without affecting the productivity of coconut. As long as the farmer is able to provide required nutrition for both the main crop and the inter crop there should not be any drawback. However, the farmers have to be careful about the crops that compete in the same area for the same type of nutrition,” he warns.

Mr. Sivakumar adds, “The intercrop cultivation in coconut gardens was introduced and done in Kerala and Tamil Nadu 10 years back. In Pollachi, Tamil Nadu intercrop cultivation like nutmeg, cocoa and pepper was done by a farmer as multi layering farming for additional income. I think it does not affect the yield of coconut cultivation.”

When asked whether coconut farmers should opt for coconut hybrid seeds, which are available nowadays in the market, Dr. Ilangovan says, “Farmers prefer coconut because other crops like rice, sugarcane, and vegetables, when compared to coconut, require more supervision, labor charges, highly fluctuating price and demand.

“Hybrid coconut is getting importance in places where the farmers are more progressive (early adapters) and ready to use hi-fi technologies viz., drip irrigation, fertigation, and clean cultivation. Coconut is a long term crop and perennial in nature. The total life span as well as consistency in productivity is not yet studied in detail for hybrid.

“But general observation is that even under medium level management the local tall varieties were performing well when compared to the hybrids. Many hybrids were introduced from the state agricultural universities, ICAR centers, and the private firm also. We can’t say which hybrid is ‘the best’ for each and every location. Generally hybrid coconuts require high level of care and management.

“Productivity of coconut is the outcome of the effective management of coconut farm. My personal experience is each coconut tree is a separate entity, needs to be cared individually, and equates the yield for each tree in the plantations. Coconut is a cross pollinated crops. Mother palm selection and quality of hybridization work is the deciding factor of hybrid coconut success.”

Speaking about the diseases coconut farmers need to be careful about, Dr. Ilangovan says, “Bud rot, thanjore wilt, and root wilt are the worst diseases in coconut. But we can manage those diseases by taking good care of the trees.” Dr. Rajsekhar and Ms. Sunitha lists the pests and diseases to be aware of
1. Insect pests like rhinocerous beetle attacks fonds and cuts the leaves before opening. Mechanical method is most effective killing the beetle by hooks. Beetle breeds in FYM/decaying organic matter so keep garden clean and apply insecticides on the breeding places.
2. Leaf eating caterpillar eat green portion of the plant. Root injection with manocrotophas can be practical.
3. Red palm weevil’s larva bores into the trunk and feeds on the inner tissue making large holes from which exudation of reddish gum is visible. 4. Eriophyid mite is devastating and can destroy upto 90% of coconut production.
The palm is attacked by number of diseases: 1) Bud rot: Young palms are damaged. Apply coc @ 4 g/l
1. Stem Bleeding: Reddish brown liquid exudates from the trunk cracks. Scraping the affected area and apply mancozeb or bordeux mixture is recommended.

Future Growth Prospects
Mr. Lobo says, “The world over and in India too, the area covered under coconut farming has been stagnant for the past five years. However the emphasis has been on increasing productivity. According to world statistics, 55% of coconut production is used for oil, 37% is consumed as raw coconut, and 5% is used for desiccated coconut and the balance for other uses. In India about 15% of production is consumed as tender coconuts.”

He adds, “The future for coconut farming lies in the awareness of the common man in the benefits of coconut water. Tender coconut water markets have grown from USD 35 million in 2005 to USD 265 million in the year 2011.

This is an increase over 100% year on year. It is expected to reach USD 400 million in the year 2012. It is expected to grow thereafter over 50% year on year. As such India is very slow in catching up with further processing of coconut. We do not have any big manufacturing facilities for Tender coconut water, desiccated coconut powder etc. As it is for the past two years most Deejay customers are selling all their production of coconuts as tender coconuts throughout the year at substantially higher prices. Besides, virgin coconut oil is considered as perhaps the healthiest oil in the world and is growing in demand and prominence.

Coconut fibre is in very short supply since new patents and uses have been declared for it especially in the manufacturing a better and safer dashboard for cars and vehicles. Coconut peat is in short supply as it is considered one of the best medium for horticulture. Coconut timber is really long lasting and has a higher specific gravity than teak, and is much cheaper, and as two by fours, ideal for house construction the world over. Around 20 years from now, the coconut palm may be considered not just the most beneficial tree in the world, but also the most valuable.”

Dr. Ilangovan maintains that when compared to other commercial crops, coconut is ideal for yielding sustainable income. Adding, “No doubt coconut is an economical crop. Cost effective management under high tech approach is possible in coconut. Difficulties in harvesting the coconut and government policies in stable price fixations for coconut, besides other factors, are some limitations.”

Deejay Consultancy Services

Deejay Consultancy Services was established by Mr. David J Lobo, chairman. The company is headquartered in Bangalore. Mr. Lobo is a BA by educational qualification, and a successful entrepreneur with investments in the IT and food industry.

Speaking about the beginning, Mr. Lobo says, “Prof. Anthony Davis, a UN expert, advising us on our coconut farms, suggested us to start a hybrid coconut breeding project in the right way with the right cultivars. The project planned exactly to his standards and systems in 1983, was located in Madurai near the Vaighai River on 200 acres of land. Well managed and established coconut gardens with the specific dwarfs and specific talls required by Prof. A Davis were identified and selected by him. Over a period of 3 years the highest producing palms in those gardens were selected and nuts were collected, planted in nurseries, in numbers three times more than required. From these seedlings, the best one third were selected for the breeding garden, based on early germination, number of leaves in the number of months, girth dimensions etc. Hence in a period of 10 years from the date of land purchase, the production of hybrid seed nuts from the selected palms commenced and seedlings production began.”

Milestones Achieved
One of Deejay’s major breakthroughs has been a new synthetic dwarf palm they have developed. “Over the past 28 years we have developed a new synthetic dwarf palm of superior genetic potential, producing hybrids with higher productivity, heavier copra, large nuts with more tender coconuts water,” maintains Mr. Lobo

Speaking about their achievements, Mr. Lobo says, “The project has supplied over 15 lakh hybrid seedlings into the Indian market and has established a name for quality. Since the early supplies of Deejay Hybrids went into the Pollachi and Udumalpet area of Tamil Nadu, virtually 90% of new orders come from those regions. Our new breeding projects are coming into production in Ambur near Vellore TN, in Bailur near Karwar, Karnataka, and in Sanguem, Goa.

There are other markets like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa and Maharashtra which are under planning. Hopefully we will produce one million seedlings four years from now.”

Our Correspondent

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Source : Agriculture & Industry Survey  [/hidepost]