For example, Cacao, a popular, stable and marketable long-term beverage crop is widely planted under and between stands of coconut trees.To be a compatible and productive intercrop, cacao tree is best planted not closer than 2 meters from the base of coconut trees, at 3 m between hills and 3 m between rows. Furthermore, where there is limited land for cacao monocropping, the inter-spaces of coconut lands (with 8-15 meters of spacing of coconut palms) are amenable for several rows of cacao crop. Also important,the bio-physical environmental conditions, soil-wise, sunlight-wise and micro-climate variation within the 70-80% space between coconut trees in a farm has been known to be highly suitable for a coconut-cacao ecosystem (Figure 1).
Figure 1. A farm layout of coconut-cocoa cropping model under square (left) and triangular (right) planting system of coconut 8-10 m.
Very important: The details of the spacing, alignment, soil coditions, amount of fertilizers and various conditions of coconut intercropping can be found at Coconut Intercropping Technical Reports.
Figure 2. Schematic representation of horizontal root distribution of a multiple intercropping system with coconut (Nelliat et al. 1974)
There are five ways of intercropping:
1. Mixed intercropping – simultaneous growing of two or more crop species in an irregular arrangement, i.e. without a well-defined planting pattern.
2. Row intercropping – simultaneous growing of two or more crop species in a well-defined row arrangement.
3. Strip intercropping – simultaneous growing of two or more crop species in a strip wide enough to allow independent cultivation, but at the same time, sufficiently narrow to induce crop interactions.
4. Relay intercropping – planting one or two crops within an established cropping pattern wherein the final stage of the first crop coincides with the initial development of the other crops.
5. Multi-storey cropping – coconut + black pepper + cacao + pineapple are planted so that each crop produces canopies at different heights.
Best crops for coconut intecropping are tuber crops, fruit crops, rhizomes, cereals, pulses and vegetables:
a) Pepper vines on palm basins can grow and yield more.
b) Cocoa could be grown as a perennial secondary crop.
c) Areca palms could be intercropped.
d) Banana and/or tapioca could be planted as an annual crop.
e) similarly colocasia, amorphophallus, yams could be grown.
f) if there is still space and sunlight vegetables like cow pea, amaranthus red could be grown, and
g) in some plantations they intercrop orchids too.
Some advantages and disadvantages of intercropping coconuts:
a) Increased and diversified farm income.
b) Reduced dependence upon coconut products with unstable market prices.
c) Improved growth and yields of coconut palms and ease in finding the fallen nuts due to management of intercrop through weed control, use of fertilizers, etc.
d) Intercropped plants such as bananas and pineapples provide income in the short-term, as it takes young palms six or seven years to produce economic yields.
e) Better use of good quality land located close to settlements.
f) Canopy lowers air temperatures by 4–6°C lower and gives higher air relative humidity. These reduce evaporation from the soil and lower crop transpiration rates maintaining higher level of soil water availability for intercrops.
a) Competition between intercrops and coconut, for water or plant nutrients.
b) Intercrops may incur losses to farmer if planted where light is insufficient.
c) Intercrops may harbour diseases or attract pests harmful to coconuts.
d) Fertilisers needed for intercropping may not be affordable.
e) Tillage for intercrops may damage shallow-rooted palms reducing copra yields.
f) The growth habit of some intercrops may cause difficulty in harvesting coconuts.
g) Intercropping demands a higher level of skill from the farmer.
There would be a need for the development of an efficient extension service in order to make coconut intercropping system more productive, economical, adoptable and successful. The agronomic requirements of individual crops when they are grown as intercrops need to be standardized. The proper management and operation of the intercropping farming methods would require a contribution by the people and the government funds. This method of agriculture will help to maximize land productivity in a natural and sustainable way.
Let us stand and contribute together in enhancing a village!References1. Ginigaddara G.A.S., Fernando A.P.S. and Wijethunga P.M.A.P.K. (2016) Technical feasibility of coconut (Cocos nucifera) cashew (Anacardium occidentale) intercropping system in Puttalam district, Sri Lanka. Int. J. Ad. Sci. Res.2. Pathick D. C. and Malla M. L. Study on the performance of crop legume under monoculture and intercrop combination. Sixth Annual Maize Development Workshop, 23 May 1979, Nepal3. Reddy M.S and Willey R.W. (1981) Growth and resource use studies in an intercrop of pearl millet/groundnut. Field Crops Research,4. pp. 13-24. ISSN 0378-4290.4. Magat S.S. (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.5. Nelliat E.V., Bavappa K.V., Nair P.V.R. (1974) Multi-storied cropping, a new dimension inmultiple cropping for coconut plantations. World Crops 26(6), 262–266.