[permaculture] Coconuts & permaculture
christopher.nesbitt at mmrfbz.org
Sat Mar 15 21:50:58 EDT 2008
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.
On Mar 15, 2008, at 3:42 AM, Jurgen 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
> 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
> 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.
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Maya Mountain Research Farm
San Pedro Columbia, Toledo
PO 153 Punta Gorda Town, Toledo
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