Coconut is a tropical crop and grown in different soil types such as laterite, coastal sandy, alluvial, and also in reclaimed soils of the marshy lowlands. It tolerates salinity and a wide range of pH (from 5.0-8.0). A total of 1000 mm rainfall is sufficient, if it is evenly distributed throughout the year. The temperature should be from 20 ° to 32°C, a mean annual temperature of 270C is best for vigorous growth and good yield. The palm requires plenty of sunlight and does not grow well under shade or in cloudy conditions
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Coconut seedlings are planted 7.5 meters to 9.0 meters wider apart. The wider spacing between the crops gives grower an opportunity for raising other crops, either annuals as intercrop or perennials as mixed crop as a source of additional income.
While adapting intercropping method, about 2 meter all round the basin of the palm (main crop) should be left un-cropped and kept free from weeds for regular manuring and cultural operations of the main crop. Multi crop system will generate enough cash, food, fruit, fodder, fuel etc., when annual or season crops are grown in the interspaces of coconut palms, it is designated as inter-cropping and when perennials are grown, it is calle mixed-cropping.
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When both intercrops and mixed crops are raised together, it is termed as multi-storeyed cropping. Depending on the age of the palm and canopy coverage of the ground, suitable crop combination could be selected.
Inter crops may be selected based on the climatic requirement of the crop, available irrigation facilities and soil type. Also, size of the canopy, age and spacing of the coconut are to be considered before selecting an intercrop:
|Coconut – Growth Period||Inter Crops|
|< 7 years of age||Annual Crops such as Groundnut, Bhendi, Turmeric, Tapioca, Sweet Potato, Sirukizhangu, Elephant Foot Yam, Ginger, Pineapple|
|7 to 20 years of age||Biennial crops such as Banana varieties Poovan and Monthan are suitable.|
|Above 20 years of age||Perennials such as Cocoa or Pepper are suitable|
The crops selected for mixed-cropping should preferably be shade tolerant since the incidence of sunlight would be insufficient below the coconut canopy.
Banana as a Mixed Crop with Coconut
Among the mixed crops tested, banana is found to be the most important intercrop for coconut garden. It responds to similar irrigation and manuring systems as coconut and also comparatively free from serious pests and diseases except the burrowing nematode in certain pockets. Banana as intercrop is mostly grown under rain fed conditions. About 1000 banana plants could be raised/ha of coconut garden (125 palm/ha).
Pineapple as a Mixed Crop with Coconut
Pineapple could be successfully raised as an intercrop both under rain fed and irrigated conditions. Under irrigated conditions, the size of each fruit would be about 1.5 kg; while as a rain fed crop, the size is reduced to half (0.71 kg). About 4000 kg pineapple/ha can be harvested in multi-storeyed cropping system and much more when only pineapple in grown as inter-corp.
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In coconut, three types of varieties are grown and the spacing is as follows:
Tall Varieties – 7.5 m x 7.5 m
Dwarf Varieties – 6.5 m x 6.5 m
Hybrid Varieties – 8.5 m x 8.5 m
While adapting intercropping or mixed cropping methods separate application of adequate fertilizes and manures to the individual crop are essential.