Medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) are looked upon not only as a source of affordable health care products but also as a source of income. There is a growing demand for plant based medicines, health products, essential oils, fragrances, cosmetics and natural aroma chemicals in the national and international markets. Several reports highlighted the global importance of MAPs due to huge volume of trade at national and international levels (Kuipers, 1997; ICMAP, 2003). The Task Force report indicated that international market for medicinal plants is over US$ 60 billion per year and herbal drug market continues to grow at the rate of 7–30% annually (GOI, 2000). As per the estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), the global market for plant based medicine will hit 5 trillion US$ mark by the year 2050. The world essential oil production at raw material level is estimated at around $10 billion annually. There has been significant increase in production and trade of essential oils and aroma chemicals over last two decades. Cultivation of MAPs has several advantages like higher net returns per unit area, low incidence of pests and diseases, improvement of degraded and marginal soils, longer shelf life of end products and foreign exchange earning potential (GOI, 2000; Rao et al., 2000, 2004). However, lack of standardized cultivation aspects, supply of good quality planting material and marketing facilities are identified as major limitations in cultivation of MAPs (Rao et al., 2004).
Growing of intercrops in coconut lands produces more food and agricultural products, ensuring food security of the people in rural and urban areas. At the same time, the practice generates jobs and livelihood, enhancing farm incomes and the purchasing power of people, thus alleviating poverty in farming communities (Magat 2004). The details of coconut intercropping, it’s advantages-disadvantages can be studied in the previous article at Enhance a Village, Inc. Farm income and productivity could still be further enhanced with the adoption of practical and profitable intercropping practices such as the following:
1) coconut + cereal (maize) intercropping
2) coconut + fruit crop (banana) intercropping
3) coconut multi-storey cropping coconut + papaya + pineapple + peanut (Figure 1)
4) coconut + root crops intercropping and
5) coconut + coffee intercropping
Figure 1. Field arrangement of mixed cropping model for coconut + pineapple + papaya + peanut cropping system
Of the coconut + intercrop (s) farming systems, some systems are capable of generating average annual net incomes of PhP 85,000 (US$1745.4) to PhP132,400 (US$2,719) per ha, with banana, coffee intercrops and multi-storey [coconut+ papaya, pineapple and peanut (groundnut)], in 3-4 years cropping cycle, respectively. With cocoa-coconut intercropping system the projected total annual net income gained per ha in a 5-year time scale are the following: year 1, PhP9,426 (negative income); year 2, @ 36,232; YEAR 3, @ 69.030; YEAR 4 , @ 93,541; and year 5 and onwards, @ PhP 116,161.
A presentation about the approaches and future plans of coconut-medicinal and aromatic plants intercropping, mostly in Philippines can be found here.
Intercropping of medicinal plants in coconut (Cocos nucifera) and arecanut (Areca catechu) stands is an age-old practice in India and other parts of south- and southeast Asia. These palms allow 30% to 50% of incident light to the underneath, which is ideal for some MAPs, including cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). Kacholam or galang (Kaempferia galanga) – a medicinal herb – is traditionally intercropped in mature coconut gardens in Kerala, India. Kacholam intercropped in a 30 year-old coconut plantation produced 6.1 Mg ha−1 of rhizomes compared with 4.8 Mg ha−1 as a sole crop (Maheswarappa et al. 1998). Twelve year old coconut trees did not adversely affect the growth and yields of a number of medicinal species grown as intercrops compared to the yields in the open (Nair et al. 1989). In Karnataka and Kerala states, India, arecanut palm is commonly intercropped with ginger, turmeric, black pepper (Piper nigrum) and cardamom (Korikanthimath and Hegde 1994). Some of these intercrops may cause small reduction in arecanut yields but the combined returns from both the components are greater than from arecanut alone (Sujatha S. et al. 2011). A field study (Basavaraju et al. 2011) was conducted at Horticulture Research Station, Arsikere, Karnataka during 2006-07 to 2008-09 to identify suitable medicinal and aromatic plants for intercropping in coconut gardens of maidan tract of Karnataka. The yield of all the medicinal and aromatic crops grown as intercrop in coconut garden were reduced compared to their sole crop yields. The nut yield of coconut was improved with intercropping of medicinal and aromatic crops.
As there are limited studies on coconut-MAPs intercropping cultivation methods and practices in Kuyayao, Philippines, we at Enhance a Village, Inc. are focusing on evaluating the productivity of both coconut and MAPs as intercrops for augmenting the income of coconut farmers. It is very important to apply the best package of technologies or better still, the site-specific technologies to achieve the maximum economic yield, highly desirable to obtain the least production cost per unit product or per ha, and the maximum returns to investment under the coconut-MAPs cropping production system.
The next article would be on researching about the MAPs which are most suitable to grow in Philippines soil and climatic conditions, and what farming methods would be most appropriate to increase the economic yield of the coconut-MAPs intercrops.
1. Kuipers SE (1997) Trade in medicinal plants. In: Bodeker, G., Bhat, K.K.S., Burley, J., Vantomme, P. (Eds.), Medicinal Plants for Forest Conservation and Healthcare, Non-Wood Forest Products, vol. 11. FAO, Rome, pp. 45–59.
2. ICMAP (2003) Resolutions of International Council for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. In: Third World Congress on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants for Human Welfare-WOCMAP III, 03–07 February 2003, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
3. GOI (2000) Report of the Taskforce on Medicinal Plants in India. Planning Commission, Government of India, Yojana Bhawan, New Delhi, India.
4. Rao EVSP, Puttanna K, Rao RSG, Kumar S (2000) Prospect of Commercial mediculture and recent advances in agrotechnologies of aromatic plants in South India. J. Medicinal Arom. Plant Sci. 22 (1B), 207–213.
5. Rao MR, Palada MC, Becker BN (2004) Medicinal and aromatic plants in agroforestry systems. Agroforest. Syst. 61, 107–122.
6. Magat SS (2004) Growing of Intercrops in coconut lands to generate more food and agricultutral products, jobs and enhancing farm income. Coconut Intercropping Primer. Published by PCA-Diliman, Quezon City.Dec.2004. 7p.
7. Sujata S, Ravi Bhat Kannan C, and Balasimha D. (2011). Impact of intercropping of medicinal and aromatic plants with organic farming approach on resource use efficiency in arecanut (Areca catechu L.) plantation in India. Industrial Crops and Products, 33: 78-83.
8. Basavaraju TB, Nanjappa HV, Umesha K, Vasundhara M, Arulraj S (2011) Intercropping of medicinal and aromatic plants in coconut gardens. http://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=IN2011001074