Coconut Cultivation

Uploaded on : March 2019



The coconut tree belongs to the palm family and is considered the only living species of the Cocos genus. Coconuts are expected to have originated from the India-Indonesia region. Coconut refers to the entire palm; it is botanically a drupe and not a nut. The inner flesh of the Coconut is an important part of food for the people of the tropics and subtropics. This fruit or drupe is considered highly versatile due to its use in a wide range of products from food to cosmetics. This fruit is different from other fruits because it contains a clear liquid in the endosperm and is generally called as Coconut milk. In India Coconut finds significance in religion and culture and is most commonly used for various rituals.

Coconut cultivation is found in more than 90 countries producing 59 million tonnes annually, of which India alone produces 12 million tonnes on an average every year. The major Coconut producing states in India are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Puducherry, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal and the islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar. Tamil Nadu accounts for the largest production in the country of about 33.84%.


Coconut Plant and Its Properties


•  The trees have adventitious roots produced from a point called bole at the base of the trunk. The roots of the tree do not have hair and are not tap roots. The primary roots bear large quantities of rootlets and the main root grows horizontally from the bole. The root branches grow deeper into the soil and extend laterally to about 10 m. The maximum diameter of the main root is 1 cm and the roots are almost uniform. The tip of the root is the active growing region and behind this there is an absorbing area with a single layered epidermis. When the roots are old, the epidermis disintegrates and generally looks red due to exposed hypodermis.

•  The trunk is unbranched, erect, stout and cylindrical. The stem or trunk is encircled by the leaf base. The scars on the trunk determine the age of the tree and the trunk growth is noticeable in the first few years of planting. The thickness of the trunk or girth remains constant or uniform for many years, but gradually decreases as the tree grows older.

•  The leaves are crowded at the top of the tree like a crown. The new young leaves appear in the centre of the crown and it almost takes 5 months for the complete development of the leaf. It is approximately estimated that a single Coconut tree may have around 15 open leaves with 15 young leaves still emerging or at different stages of development. Each leaf is long, linear with a short mid-rib, narrow lamina and parallel venation. The petiole of the leaf is flat, thick, broad and sheather with fibre. The inflorescence develops after 34 months from planting. Enclosed by a tough spathe is the spadix that is stout and erect.

•  The inflorescence is branched, bearing sessile flowers. The plant or tree is monoecious in nature i.e. it bears both the male and female flowers on the same plant. There are six stamens and contain many pollen grains that are spherical in shape.

•  With the application of good fertilizer accompanied by pollination, the trees bear mature fruits in 12 months of planting for dwarf varieties. The fruits develop from a tricapillary ovary and are drupe. The outer layer is called the pericarp which is green initially, but turns brown upon drying and is fibrous in nature; the endocarp is generally hard and forms the shell. This endocarp encloses a soft white endosperm, which contains a big cavity filled with extra cellular fluid.


Coconut Tree Varieties


Coconuts are available in two different varieties: the tall and the dwarf. Sometimes the hybrid varieties are also cultivated depending on the availability of labour and water.


Tall variety


•  This plant can survive for almost 80 to 90 years.

•  Best suitable for littoral sands, red loam soil and lateritic soil.

•  They are disease resistant and can be grown at an altitude of 3000 ft above sea level.

•  The average height of the tree is 15 to 18 m.

•  Bears Coconuts after 8 or 10 years of planting.

•  The size of the Coconut is medium to big with a spheroid to linear oblong in shape.

•  The colour may vary from green, yellow, orange to brown.

•  This variety yields around 6000 tonnes of copra.

•  Some varieties of tall Coconut trees are west coast tall, east coast tall, chandrakalpa, Philippines ordinary, VPM-3, aliyar nagar 1, tiptur tall, kera sagara.


Dwarf variety


•  Comparatively small in stature, i.e. almost 5-7 m, but bears Coconuts earlier than the tall variety.

•  Flowering starts in the 3rd year of planting and bears regularly from the 9th

•  The average life of the tree is 40-50 years.

•  These trees produce green, orange and yellow nuts and the size of the Coconut is small with round or ovoid shape.

•  The weight of the nut is about 85 g and is expected to have 65% oil content.

•  Some dwarf varieties are chowghat orange dwarf and chowghat green dwarf.


Hybrid variety


•  Cross product of two morphological forms of Coconut.

•  This variety produces an increased nut yield, higher copra production and shows signs of early flowering.

•  There are two ways in which hybrid are produced: tall female and a dwarf male (tall x dwarf) and dwarf female and tall male (dwarf x tall).

•  There is also a possibility of producing tall x tall and dwarf x dwarf varieties.

•  Some hybrid varieties are kerasankara, chandrasankara, chandralaksha, keraganga, anandaganga, kerasree, VHC 1, VHC 2 and VHC 3.


Soil and Climatic Requirement for Growing Coconut Trees


Land that is at least 1.5 m deep and well drained should be chosen for Coconut farming. The type of soil that is suited for Coconut is red sandy loam, laterite or alluvial. Heavy soil base in the low lying areas and having a hard rocky structure underneath should be avoided. The soil should have good water holding capacity and should also have adequate sand content. The pH of the soil necessary for Coconut plants is 5.28.6.

Coconut plants require an equatorial type of climate with high humidity. The minimum temperature required for Coconut farming is 27˚C with a diurnal variation of 5-7˚C. The plants or trees require a well distributed rainfall of 1300-2300 mm annually. The relative humidity of the region should be around 80-85% and should never fall below 60%.


Land Preparation and Planting for Coconuts


Depending on the topography of the land and the soil type, preparation of land should be done. Planting holes should be created after the entire cleaning process and if the land is sloppy, proper soil conservation methods should be adopted. Mound planting is taken up if the groundwater level in the area is high. The best time for planting Coconut seedlings is during may i.e. just with the onset of pre-monsoon showers. With proper irrigation, planting can also be done in the month of April, whereas September planting is undertaken in low-lying regions.

The proper planting distance has to be adopted to avoid the risk of plant overlapping, water completion and unequal water distribution to the plants. Depending on the region, type of soil and weather, planting is carried out accordingly. The ideal spacing between plants of different varieties is: tall variety (7.5 x 7.5 m), dwarf variety (6.5 x 6.5 m) and hybrids (8.5 x 8.5 m). The planting system recommendations for Coconut farming are triangular, square, single hedge and double hedge with planting densities 198, 170, 220, 280 plants per hectare respectively.

Each region has a different planting style and one such method is to dig pits of dimensions 3 x 3 x 3 ft and fill them with equal proportions of FYM, red earth and sand to a height of 60 cm within the pit. Plant the seedling at the centre of the pit and press the soil around the seedling. Similarly, in regions with loamy soil and low water table prefer a pit size of 1 x 1 x 1 m, in lateritic soil with rocky base prefer a pit size of 1.2 x 1.2 x 1.2 m and in sandy soils the preferred pit size is 0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 m.


Propagation Methods of Coconut


Seed nuts are used to grow new Coconut plants and for this selecting a good quality mother plant of the desired variety is extremely important. The most important features of a mother plant are:


•  The tree should be a regular bearer that produces at least one leaf and inflorescence every month.

•  Leaf scars should be closely spaced and the trunk of the tree should be stout.

•  Crown of the tree should be spherical or semi-spherical.

•  The tree should have a short and stout petiole with a wide leaf base attached firmly to the stem.

•  Age of the plant should be 25 to 40 years.

•  It should be a high yielding variety producing a minimum of 100 nuts an year.

•  Husk from the nuts should not weigh less than 600 g and the copra content should be around 150 g.

•  Most importantly the tree should be disease free.

•  Nuts harvested during February- August in the Tamil Nadu region and those harvested in December- May in Kerala region is considered the best for obtaining maximum germination and quality.

•  Irregular nuts are not used as seed nuts. The size of the seed nuts should be regular and medium with oblong or round shape.

Seed nuts are sown in the nursery beds of 1-1.5 m wide with an average spacing of beds being 75 cm during the commencement of the rainy season. Nursery beds with poor drainage should have raised beds for proper germination. To avoid termite problem, the beds should be drenched with chlorpyriphos @ 0.05% before sowing.

Seed nuts are soaked for 24-36 hours before sowing. The nuts should be planted at a distance of 30 x 30 cm in trenches to a depth of 20-25 cm. The seed nut is either planted horizontally with wide segments at the top or vertically with the stalk end facing outward. The seed nut is then covered with soil such that only husk is visible from the top. Germination is expected within 60-130 days after sowing for tall varieties and within 30-95 days for dwarf varieties. The seedlings are ready for transplantation only after 5 months from sowing.


Manure and Fertilizer Requirements for Coconut Plants


Application of fertilizers and manure to the soil for Coconut cultivation depends largely on the type of soil and its nutrient content. The general rules of application are:


•  Fertilizers should be applied only when there is adequate moisture content in the soil.

•  In the rain-fed regions, fertilizers are applied in two split doses, i.e. one-third in AprilJune and two-third in September-October.

•  For irrigated regions, fertilizers are applied in 3 or 4 equal doses during April-May, August-September, December and February-March.

•  An adult Coconut tree requires 1 kg of dolomite and 0.5 kg of magnesium sulphate annually.

•  For the application of fertilizers, circular basins should be made around the plant/tree with a radius of 2 m and a depth of 10 cm.

•  Sample fertilizer requirement by the Coconut plants in Tamil Nadu region under rainfed conditions are:

After 6 months of planting (10 kg of compost/ year/plant), 2nd year (20 kg of compost, 140 g of N, 80 g of P, 300 g of K, 300 g of urea, 500 g of super phosphate and 500 g of muriate of potash per plant annually), 3rd year (30 kg of compost, 280 g of N, 160 g of P, 600 g of K, 600 g of urea, 1000 g of super phosphate and 1000 g of muriate of potash per plant annually), 4th year (40 kg of compost, 420 g of N, 240 g of P, 900 g of K, 900 g of urea, 1500 g of super phosphate and 1500 g of muriate of potash per plant annually) and 5th year onwards (50 kg of compost, 560 g of N, 320 g of P, 1200 g of K, 1300 g of urea, 2000 g of super phosphate and 2000 g of muriate of potash per plant annually).

•  The recommended micronutrient mixture for the trees is 1 kg per plant each year of ferrous, manganese, zinc, boron and copper. It should be applied as a basal dose along with FYM.

•  It is important to note that the application and content of fertilizers is different for Fertigation mechanism and should be carried out at monthly intervals.


Irrigation Requirement for Coconut Trees


A Coconut tree requires 45 litres of water once in 4 days during summer for the first 2 years of planting. Basin or drip irrigation system from the 3 year onwards is done on the basis of pan evaporation rate.


•  Sample basin irrigation requirement for a certain region in Tamil Nadu under normal conditions is as follows: February to May (410 l/6 days), January, august and September (410 l/7 days) and June-July, October-December (410 l/9 days).

Sample drip irrigation requirement for different conditions is: region with normal condition February to May (65 l/day), January, august and September (55 l/day) and June-July, October-December (45 l/day): region with moderate scarcity February to May (45 l/day), January, august and September (35 l/day) and June-July, OctoberDecember (30 l/day) and

•  for region with severe water scarcity February to May (22 l/day), January, august and September (18 l/day) and June-July, October-December (15 l/day).

•  30-40% extra water has to be supplied during basin irrigation to compensate the conveyance loss.

•  Single channel irrigation should be avoided and irrigation should probably be done by main or sub channels.

•  Drip irrigation is expected to save 30-40% water and result in increased yield when compared to basin irrigation.


Pest and Disease Management of Coconut Plantation


Different pests found on Coconut trees are rhinocerous beetle, Coconut eriophyid mite, red palm weevil, leaf eating caterpillar, slug caterpillar, Coconut skipper, coreid bug, bag worm, white grub, termite, lacewing bug, scale insect, mealy bug, palm civet, rat, nut borer and nematodes. Managing the pests can be done in three possible ways that is by cultural methods, mechanical methods or by chemical method. Cultural method involves removing the dead and diseased plant parts from the farm and burning them, destroying all bi-stages of beetle from the manure pits, intercropping with sun hemp, providing sufficient irrigation, ploughing the land 4 to 5 times after first rain in summer, planting neem twigs with leaves in the farm area and maintaining field sanitation by proper disposal of waste and organic matter like dry leaves etc. Mechanical methods include the use of traps for to control the pest infestation in the farm area and chemical method involves the use of recommended pesticides like sevidol, carbaryl, methyl demeton, dichlorvos etc. for controlling the severity of the infestation.


Common diseases occurring in Coconut trees are bud rot, tanjore wilt, root disease, leaf rot, grey leaf spot, stem bleeding, leaf blight and crown chocking. It is always advisible to prevent the occurrence of disease rather than control them. Some cultural methods to prevent diseases are proper drainage in the farm, sufficient spacing between the trees, raising green manure crops, removal and destruction of affected plant parts, avoid making mechanical injury to the trunks and maintaining a clean farm area. When the plants are severely affected by any disease, then recommended dose of chemicals like Bordeaux mixture, copper sulphate, carbendazim, copper oxychloride etc. could be used to control the spread of disease.


Weeding and Interculture Operations in Coconut Orchard


Periodical weeding is recommended in the farm area and it is also recommended to remove the soil covering the collar of seedlings. Tillage systems which provide proper mulch and control the weeds should be utilized within the farm. The space between the Coconut trees should be ploughed twice in a year. Broad leaved weeds are controlled by the use of the pre – emergence spray. Lateritic, sandy or red sandy loam soils should be ploughed two times in a year during September-October and May-June followed by one raking in the month of January. When the yield becomes very low due to old age of the plants, replanting is done. Under planting is also adopted when old trees are removed in stages over a period of 3 to 4 years.

Intercropping is practiced in Coconut farms depending on the climate of the region and the type of soil available. At different stages of the Coconut tree, different varieties of crops are grown according to the canopy spread and spacing. When the plants are under 7 years of age, annual crops like groundnut, sesame, sunflower, tapioca, turmeric and banana are grown. For farms with trees between 7-20 years of age, green manure crops like Napier grass and guinea grass are grown and farms with trees beyond 20 years of age can be used for cultivating crops like okra, turmeric, banana, pepper, sweet potato etc.


Harvesting and Yield of Coconuts


Nuts that are 12 months old are harvested at an interval of 30-45 days for culinary purpose and for making copra. Sometimes, depending on the use, tender nuts that are 7 to 8 months old are also harvested. It is considered that 11 months old nuts have a good fibre quality and are used for coir making. Nuts are also used for seeding and should be stored for 2 to 3 months after harvest in case of tall variety Coconut and that of the dwarf variety should be sown within 10 to 15 days of harvest. Each tree can have 8 harvests annually. There are three different recommended methods of harvest, i.e. climbing, power tiller operated ladder and by using climbing cycle.

While harvesting, the climber cuts the bunch at the base of the stalk such that it drops to the ground, but if tender nuts are being harvested or the ground is very hard, the bunches are lowered using a rope. The climber as a part of harvest cleans the crown by removing the dry leaves, sheaths and spathes. The average yield from a Coconut tree is expected to be around 80-100 nuts a year (largely depends on the variety and growing conditions).


Post Harvest Management


Nuts should be kept in a vertical position for household use. The nuts are de-husked using an iron rod, but since it is a strenuous task, mechanical devices are now being used for this process.

Copra obtained from the nuts should be processed accordingly such that it has only 56% moisture. In order to achieve this moisture level, copra is dried using different methods like sun drying, smoke drying, kiln drying and by indirect hot air drying. Copra is susceptible to various kinds of pests and therefore it should be stored properly. Copra after drying is stored in netted polythene bags or gunny bags so as to avoid damage and increase storage life by 6 more months.


Cost and Profit Analysis of Coconut Farming


The cost of cultivating Coconut trees on 1 acre of land is detailed here. The values presented here are indicative in nature and the original investment cost and returns may vary from these values depending on the basis of the size of the project and the availability of materials. If a drip system is being planned for the farm, then it would cost around Rs 35,000 to 50,000 initially for the installation and equipment.

Cost of Coconut planting material: Rs 80.

Cost of labour per manday: Rs 300.

No. of seedlings per acre: 80 (depends on the spacing system).

Material and Labour

Investment in Rs
(Year 1)

Investment in Rs
(Year 6)

Planting material


1 load sand


Manure and Fertilizers



Plant protection chemicals






Intercropping materials and labour


Labour for land preparation


Labour for digging, filling and planting


Labour for manure and fertilizer application



Labour charges for pesticide application





Total investment




Sale price of Coconut: Rs 25 per piece (may vary for different regions).

Yield of Coconut from one tree: 25 nuts after 5 years of planting (minimum average yield).

Total yield: 25 x 80 = 2,000 nuts per acre.

The income from the farm: (total yield x sale price of each nut) = 2,000 x 25 = Rs 50,000.

Profit from the farm: (total income – total investment in the 6th year) = Rs 50,000 – Rs 26,400 = Rs 23,600.

It is important to note that after the first year, every subsequent year will have maintenance charges approximately around 15-20K, but as the bearing period starts, the maintenance charges gradually increase. Intercropping can also produce some extra income from the farm and the yield of nuts increases every subsequent year.


Loans and Subsidies for Coconut Farming


Please contact the Coconut Development Board (CDB) or visit their website for updated information on new schemes on subsidy and other assistance being provided to the Coconut farmers in the country.

Contact for more information

Information Manager
TIMEIS Project