Citation: Kumar, B.M. 2007. Coconut-based agroforestry for productive and protective benefits. In: Coconut for Rural Welfare. Proc. International Coconut Summit 2007, Kochi, India. Thampan, P.K. and Vasu, K.I. (eds). Asian and Pacific Coconut Community, Jakarta, Indonesia, pp 87–98.Coconut-based agroforestry for productive and protectivebenefitsB. M. KumarCollege of Forestry, Kerala Agricultural University, KAU PO, Thrissur 680 656, India Phone:+91-487-237 0050; Fax: +91-487-237 1040; email <[email protected]>.Abstract. Coconut-based smallholder production systems in the tropics aim at improved resourcecapture through integrating several trees and field crops. Although such polycultural systemsgenerally promote productivity and profitability, interactions between the component cropsare variable and may change over time. Growth habit, crown characteristics, plantingpattern/geometry, and stocking levels of the woody perennial components, besides age of thepalms, shade tolerance of the field crops and interplanted trees are major determinants ofsystem productivity. This also calls for proper selection of the components and theirmanipulation to optimize productivity. However, long-term experimental studies oninterplanting of dicot trees in the interspaces of coconut palms are limited. A compilation ofthe available reports, nevertheless, suggests that intercropping dicot trees do not exert strongnegative effects on the yield of coconut palms until they overtop the palms. Improvements insoil organic matter status and water holding capacity and consequential yield increases alsohave been demonstrated in certain cases, besides lower pest and disease incidence. IntroductionAgroforestry is a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resources management system thatintegrates trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains production1
for increased social, economic, and environmental benefits for land users at all levels (WAC2006). Coconut(Cocos nuciferaL, Family- Palmae), an important plantation crop in theAsia-Pacific region, is amenable to a broad spectrum of such practices. The wide spacing(7.6 m triangular pattern or 7.6 to 9 m square planting), intended to meet the resourcerequirements of trees at maturity, and the sub-optimal utilization of site resources by palms atmaturity (Anilkumar and Wahid, 1988; Kumar et al., 2005) make this crop particularlysuitable for polycultural systems. Coincidentally, many annual, seasonal, and perennial cropsabound in the coconut-based smallholder farming systems of South and Southeast Asia, andthe Pacific islands (Nelliat et al., 1974; Nair, 1979; 1983; 1989; Reddy and Biddappa, 2000).In particular, staple food crops including root and tuber crops [e.g., yam (Dioscoreaspp.),taro (Colocasia esculenta), cassava (Manihot esculenta)], banana (Musaspp.), island cabbage(Abelmoschus spp.), and numerous tree species (Theobroma cacao, Myristica fragrans,Syzygium aromaticum, Artocarpus altilis, Barringtonia edulis,etc.) are frequentlyinterplanted or under-planted in the coconut gardens (Nair, 1979; Liyanage et al., 1985;Ahmed et al., 2004; Ginoga et al., 2004; Lamanda et al., 2006).