[permaculture] Coconuts & permaculture

christopher nesbitt christopher.nesbitt at mmrfbz.org
Sat Mar 15 21:50:58 EDT 2008

Hi Jurgen,

It sounds wonderful where you are. I have never been to Brazil, but  
we are having a PDC here right now with Albert Bates and Andrew  
Goodheart Brown and Albert has pictures of a very large and  
impressive permaculture project in Brazil, which I would love to  
visit. Also, Bahia is a large cacao producing area, using the cabruca  
style of production, which I have wanted to visit since I worked in  
the cacao industry. Cabruca is now a favored method of production  
after being displaced by chemical dependent monoculture. Do you have  
any pictures on line of your place?

What cultivars of dwarfs do you have? We have the Phillipine and  
Malayan dwarfs, plus the large coconuts (many have died) and the  
"Maypan" which are dwarf/large hybrids. We also have some coconuts  
from the village of Barranco, a Garifuna community, which are  
enormous. I have them planted, and they may fruit in the next few  
years (if they don't die. I am not sure if they are LYD resistant).

We have tried arachis pintoy below our coconuts, and, when there is  
enough sun to warrant it, cannavalia ensiformis as a cover crop. We  
are intercropping many of our coconuts with glyricidia stakes for  
living tutors for vanilla, too. Most of our dwarfs are less then 10  
feet tall to the bottom of the fronds (the older ones got toppled in  
our hurricane in 2001), so not much opportunity to underplant or  
intercrop with cacao or coffee, one potential future model which we  
aspire to, but we have used maize, pigeon pea and pineapple as  
companion plants in coconut dominant polycultures during  
establishment to get a quick return.

Our coconuts are spread out all through our agroforestry system, so  
they are part of a larger matrix of plants. We have 400 plant species  
we work with and are building an ethnobotanical collection with the  
University of Floridas ethnobotany dep't, with about 300 other species.

We also have a fair amount of peach palm, which is also a good energy  
producer. We are applying a patchiness to our coconut production,  
looking for suitable microclimates and spaces in the canopy for  
coconut, planting 3-15 in an area, then large areas with few  
coconuts. Sometimes we have coconuts within 8 feet of each other,  
which is less space than suggested by most people, but it works for  
us, less mulching to do, and the over all effect is positive. Close  
planted trees did not tip over in the hurricane, for example. Most of  
our cultivated area faces the equator on an east west ridge, though  
we have a few other slopes that face east or west. Mulching is  
important for moisture retention.

We get 160-180 inches of rain a year, with a pronounced dry season  
from February through June. Most of our rain falls in June, July and  
August. We don't irrigate our tree crops, though we do a lot of  
mulching for target trees.

We grate our coconuts, strain them to make coconut milk, then let the  
water settle, skim the top, boil down the balance to oil. We get a  
lot of coconut meat when we do this, which our chickens eat, and we  
have a place to put a piggery in the next few years, which is going  
to be fed with much of the partially defatted coconut meat.

Also, husks can be used for fuel, and shells, but we use some for  
mulch for vanilla. The fronds are used extensively as mulch, and we  
are running trials on direct contact with the root zone and away from  
the root zone. A theory is that mulch close to the tree could be a  
vector for "red ring disease" which is caused by a nematode. Even LYD  
resistant cultivars are susceptible to red ring. So far we have not  
had a problem.

I would love to hear more about what you are doing.

Best wishes,


On Mar 15, 2008, at 3:42 AM, JŸurgen Botz wrote:

> Hi Christopher, and thanks for your response to my query about
> coconuts.  We have a little farm in Southern Bahia, Brazil...
> the climate here might be quite similar to Belize, since you're
> at about 17 degrees North of the equator and we're at about 17
> degrees South.  But, graças a deus, we don't have hurricanes.
> So I'm particularly interested in learning more about your
> farm and what works for you.
> Our farm is 18 hectares, two thirds of which are Atlantic rain
> forest... the rest had been cleared by the previous owners some
> years ago and planted with coconuts and pineapple.  The soil is
> poor to very poor clay loam and sandy clay and the coconuts were
> planted rather closely spaced (4m x 5m) in rows.  They are mostly
> of a dwarf variety, with a few rows of talls here and there.  All
> in all there are about 400, 200 of which are still too young to
> produce.
> We're in our second year here now and I've made some progress in
> soil improvement, gardening, raising chickens, etc.  The dwarfs
> in our "zone 1" are now doing quite well, thanks to graywater,
> nearby compost piles, etc.  (The clusters on the ones near
> compost piles are now growing with 20-30 nuts!)  But I'm
> thinking that we will have to take some more drastic meassures
> about the rest... removing at least 1/4 or them altogether,
> and replanting some of the remainder in a more harmonious
> relationship.
> How much rainfall do you get and how regularly?  Do you
> irrigate?  What have you found to be helpful or harmful
> to grow immediately under your coconuts?
> Also, how do you produce coconut oil?  The oil on the local
> market here is all produced the hard way... manually opening
> the nuts, grinding the copra, roasting and then boiling it,
> and finally skimming off the oil.
> Thanks,
> :j
> _______________________________________________
> permaculture mailing list
> permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subscribe or unsubscribe here:
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/permaculture
> Google command to search archives:
> site:http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/permaculture searchstring

Christopher Nesbitt

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


More information about the permaculture mailing list