[permaculture] Coconuts & permaculture

christopher nesbitt christopher.nesbitt at mmrfbz.org
Wed Mar 12 17:09:35 EDT 2008

Hi Jurgen,

Coconuts are wonderful for small holders, providing services of  
providing shade and mulch, and oil, coconut meat for animals and  
humans, fuel from the husks and shells, thatch from the fronds. We  
make coconut oil and use the partially defatted coconut meat as a  
feed for chickens. I have been using coconut for 20 years in  
rehabilitating an old citrus and cattle farm in Belize.

We have coconuts here integrated into a complex (and getting more so  
with new species) agroforestry system. We are in an area where lethal  
yellowing disease (LYD) has wiped out most of the large coconuts, but  
have had good luck with Malayan and Phillipine dwarfs, and "Maypan"  
hybrid dwarf/large coconuts which have LYD resistance.

One problem with the dwarfs is that they are more likely to blow over  
in a hurricane than a large coconut, we lost dozens in Hurricane Iris  
in 2001, so continuous planting provides some security in that all of  
our trees younger than three years survived the hurricane. All but  
three of the trees over age five were laid down in the mud.

We spent much of the last rainy season looking for locations in our  
cultivated areas to place coconuts, and planted out about 170 trees.  
We planted Phillipine and Malayan dwarfs and 40 of those trees being  
Maypan (hybrid large/dwarf) coconuts.

I think the trick with coconuts, as with many species, is to place  
them into a system where they are not dominant. This has reduced the  
incidence of LYD here. We inter crop with cacao, coffee, leaucaena,  
erythrina, glyricidia, banana, other palms like "jippy japa" and  
xate, as well as pineapple, pigeon pea and corn during establishment.

I would say that coconut can also fit in below a canopy of other  
trees if the canopy is not closed and light gets in. Even with high  
shade, we have some fruiting.

On Mar 11, 2008, at 5:21 PM, JŸurgen Botz wrote:

> Aside from the fact that the tall palms can take the
> upper layer of a multi-story plantation, coconut palms
> don't seem to be considered much as a permaculture
> plant.  A list search has produced no hits... anyone
> here have experience with coconuts?  Any information
> companions/associations?
> :j
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Christopher Nesbitt

Maya Mountain Research Farm
San Pedro Columbia, Toledo
PO 153 Punta Gorda Town, Toledo
Central America


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