Hy­brid co­conut: Its po­ten­tial to help over­come poverty

Agriculture - - Contents -

AGRI­CUL­TURE EX­PERTS are con­vinced that with­out wide­spread shift­ing from the cul­ti­va­tion of low yield­ing tra­di­tional va­ri­eties to high yield­ing hy­brids ofwheat and corn, a good por­tion of the world’s pop­u­la­tion to­day will go hun­gry. Hy­brid rice helped bring about food suf­fi­ciency in China.The shift­ing from the cul­ti­va­tion of tra­di­tional va­ri­eties to high yield­ing corn hy­brids re­cently trans­formed the Philip­pines from an im­port­ing to an ex­port­ing coun­try of corn grains.High yield­ing hy­brid oil palm meets the world’s huge re­quire­ment for cheap and health­ful vegetable oil and brings ru­ral pros­per­ity among the farmers in the lead­ing hy­brid oil palm pro­duc­ing coun­tries: Malaysia, In­done­sia, and Thai­land.

Re­cent re­search find­ings show that high yield­ing co­conut hy­brids can pro­vide farmers with high yields and in­comesabove the poverty level. The Philip­pines has 3.5 mil­lion hectares (ha) of co­conut farms rep­re­sent­ing al­most one-third of the Philip­pine land area de­voted to agri­cul­ture. Mil­lions of co­conut farmers are among the poor­est of the poor in the coun­try.

In the Co­col­ink In­ter­na­tional Co­conut Con­fer­ence or­ga­nized by the DTI and the Davao Re­gion Co­conut In­dus­try Clus­ter, Inc. and held at SMX, Davao Ci­tyin July 2016, a unique pa­per dis­cussed the emerg­ing ex­pan­sion of the cul­ti­va­tion of hy­brid co­conut in In­dia,sup­ported largely by pri­vate com­pa­nies like Dee­jay Co­conut Breed­ing Farm, with 200 ha.The Dee­jay Co­conut Breed­ing Farm pro­duces hy­brids by cross­ing the Malayan yel­low dwarf and a tall In­dian va­ri­ety. In the process, the farm pro­duces and makes avail­able­for sale to In­dian farmers two mil­lion ready-to-plant hy­brid co­conut seedlings per year. What Dee­jay does is sim­i­lar to what a pri­vate com­pany pro­duc­ing and sell­ing hy­brid corn seeds to corn farmers does.

The co­conut seedlings are planted at a den­sity of 175 trees/ha, ad­e­quately weeded, fer­til­ized, and pro­vided with low cost drip ir­ri­ga­tion dur­ing dry months. The wa­ter re­quire­ment is less than one-fourth of what is needed for low­land rice. Drip ir­ri­ga­tion sup­plies wa­ter to co­conut trees even in rugged ter­rains. This cul­ti­va­tion of hy­brid co­conut trees is a de­par­ture from the com­mon prac­tice of plant­ing co­conut us­ing tra­di­tional low yield­ing va­ri­eties, in­ad­e­quate weed­ing and fer­til­iza­tion tech­niques, and with­out ir­ri­ga­tion.

The hy­brids pro­duced by Dee­jay Breed­ing Farm flower in just 18 months, and the har­vest of the first ma­ture nuts comes 27 months af­ter plant­ing.When they reach four years old (and older), the trees pro­duce, on the av­er­age, 250 nuts/tree per year or an equiv­a­lent to 43,5750 nuts/ha per year, equiv­a­lent to 8.75 tons of co­pra/ha per year.

This is four times the na­tional av­er­age co­conut yield in In­dia of 10,117 nuts/ha per year and more than ten times the av­er­age co­conut yield in the Philip­pines of only 4,101 nuts/ha per year. This is also higher than the yield of hy­brid co­conut trees pre­vi­ously ob­served by the au­thor at United Plan­ta­tion Ber­had, Malaysia, which pro­duces, on the av­er­age, 36,000 nuts/ha per year us­ing the Philip­pine-de­vel­oped hy­brid “Matag.”

The cur­rent far­m­gate price of co­pra in the Philip­pines is R30/ kilo­gram (kg) or R240,000 for the eight tons of yield. Grant­ing that one-third of that goes to ex­penses, the net in­come of R160,000 is twice the cur­rent level of in­come at poverty lev­els of R87,000.

The high co­conut yield also re­sults in higher amounts of raw ma­te­ri­als for the pro­duc­tion of vir­gin co­conut oil, coir fibers, and dust for the pro­duc­tion of many down­stream prod­ucts, young nuts for co­conut juice, and soft cotyle­don or meat and co­conut wa­ter, co­conut cream, co­conut milk, ethanol to fuel trans­port ve­hi­cles, co­conut husks as feed­stock for elec­tric­ity, and co­conut su­gar to meet the in­creas­ing world­wide de­mand for sweet­en­ers suit­able for di­a­bet­ics. In­ter­est­ingly, hy­brid co­conuts pro­duce more eco­nomic out­put with less land area. This is im­por­tant for the Philip­pines con­sid­er­ing the lim­ited farm size of co­conut un­der the agrar­ian re­form pro­gram and the dwin­dling amount of land re­sources for meet­ing the needs of the rapidly ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion.

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