Coconut- A Great Plantation Crop for Climate Change Adaptation

“Coconut is an excellent tree crop for Climate Change Adaptation – should be brought under massive cultivation across the country especially in the high water-table zones and in the cyclone prone coastal regions as it can easily reduce the wind speed of storm and mitigate global warming” said Dr Mohammed Ataur Rahman, a re-known Plantation Crop Specialist.

Coconut water is a wonderful safest natural drink, thrust quencher and remedy for diarrhea and cholera. The trees are suitable for climate change adaptation by keeping water table up, controlling erosion, acting as strong windbreaks and reducing storms and cyclones. It rejuvenates and creates soil and it has endless uses. More interestingly, it grows luxuriantly in salinity prone areas without application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and it is absolutely grown organically.

“Although it is a great crop with many contributions but a very little study on its production, yield, habit and habitat has practically been done here in Bangladesh” Dr Rahman, an accomplished agricultural researcher thus expressed his great concern during the presentation of keynote order prescription drugs paper on “Coconut in Climate Change Adaptation.” .

Eminent researchers, including faculties and students of College of Agricultural Sciences participated in the workshop. Dr Rahman, also the Director of Centre for Global Environmental Culture (CGEC) detailed the importance and cultivation practices of coconut grown in Bangladesh. He mentioned, although coconut cultivation has started more than 3 thousand years back in this region but its practical and scientific study, especially on cultural practices and its habit, is very limited in Bangladesh. Some traditional wisdom on coconut management was collected by Khona which are widely known as “Khonar Bochan”. People are still following those great traditional practices, generation after generation.

Due to multifaceted uses, coconut has been eulogized as Kalpavriksha and referred as “Tree of Life”. It acts as enormous resource of raw materials for various uses like drinks, oil, cosmetics, soaps, food and cakes, timber, coir, leaf thatch, mats, and a potential source of various small, medium and large scale industries. Coconut shell is used for making crockery utensils, handcrafts, and activated carbon for making masks for chemical and biological wars. Tree pulp is a good source of substrate for germination bed and extensively used in nursery. Coconut flowers are also consumed by many as a religious ritual.

Dr Rahman described the importance of coconut and termed it as “Laxmi Phal” and he also mentioned that according to Yogic Therapy “Coconut is the best and the first rate brain forming food; curd and milk belonging to the second rate; vegetables, pulses and fruits as third rate. For windbreak and erosion control, coconut is very effective.

Dr Rahman claimed that coconut is the best suited crop in climate change situation and has cosmopolitan growing habitat covering the largest region of the world. It can withstand temporary water-logging conditions like floods and tides with special adaptability against the strong winds, storms and cyclones. Moreover, as it is salinity tolerant crop, it is greatly adaptable for the coastal zones of tropical and equatorial regions. Virtually, the spacing is very optimal in higher crop production and strong wind breaks. Normally, for linear plantation, the planting distance is 6 to 7 meter but for block plantation it should be 7 to 8 meter (22-25 feet). Unfortunately, ignoring the distance parameter, many plantations are done even with 3 to 4 meter (10 -12 feet) which is strongly opposed and criticized by Dr Rahman. He added, with low spacing both fruiting and wind-breaking capacity will be hampered. Close spacing creates strong shield but wind speed increases through pockets or passages and sometimes causes severe damages. Comparing the cyclones of 1971 and 1991 with Sidr-2007 and Aila 2009 he argued that due to unplanned plantations in the coastal region, the structural, environmental and property damages were hundreds to thousand times higher that those of the earlier ones, although human death was significantly less in the recent ones.

 Cyclone Nargis, April 18, 2009: Wind Speed 90km/hr, Killed 13, Displaced 200,000
 Cyclone Sidr, Nov 15, 2007: Wind Speed 220, Killed 3,500 people and displaced 7 m
 Cyclone May 1991: Wind Speed 224 km/hr, Killed 139,000
 Cyclone Aila, May 25, 2009: Killed 26 people Damaged 1,743 km of embankments, crops about 130,700 ha, 157 bridges and culverts and killed 150,000 livestock

He urged the researchers, the environmentalists and the authorities concerned to look into the matters and investigate the causes of such climatic hazards and also the natural protection measures against such disasters considering “right plant at right place”. For an economic yield, minimum 80 coconuts per year per tree is acceptable. Harvesting green coconut (Daab) is more productive and economically viable.

He also mentioned the importance of intercropping in coconut with betel vines, turmeric, ginger, yams, black pepper, arums and corms, drumstick, coffee and cassava, etc. He concluded citing Khonar Bochan “Leaves must not touch with the others, debris and dead leaves must not remain on the crown, coconut will increase but never decrease’’ and “Donor’s coconut and miser’s bamboo yield more but never decrease”.

Reference Book: Coconut a multipurpose plantation crop, ISBN No. 984-32-1843-4 Jan 2005 by Dr Mohammed Ataur Rahman. Book can be collected directly from the author

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Director, CGEC International University of Business Agriculture and Technology Bangladesh

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