Drought Management and Soil Moisture Conservation in Coconut Farming

Drought Management and Soil Moisture Conservation in Coconut Farming

Water is essential and of vital importance for the growth of coconut palm plants or any plant in general. Some plants usually can store ample amounts of water which can be used during the dry seasons, but the case of coconut palms is not one of them. The root system tends to be shallow without having its tap root to draw subterranean water. Hence this is the reason why palms depend solely on the water which is on the upper layers of soil, which could eventually dry up at a speedy pace during the dry seasons. This can also create a lot of soil moisture stress.

Coconut is one such plant that tends to produce nuts all around the year. Therefore, with an adequate supply of water, it becomes essential for its unhindered growth. Soil moisture usually tends to play a vital role in the actual absorption of nutrients. Some of the adverse effects of moisture stress cause the actual drooping of the leaves, along with abnormal growth, as well as premature nut falling. This will ultimately lead to a very low yield quantity. Also, importance may be given to some of the following aspects of coconut planting to ward off any form of stress.

Husk burial for effective moisture conservation in the coconut farm

Burying the fresh or even the dried coconut husk from the coconut planting around the palm is a desirable practice, particularly so for the sake of moisture retention. The husk can ideally be buried either in the form of linear trenches taken 3 m away from the actual trunk between rows of all the coconut palm plants or in definite circular trenches that are taken around the palm at an equal distance of 2 m from the trunk. The trenches may also be 0.5 m in width and depth in total. The husks are then to be placed in layers with the actual concave surface facing upwards. The beneficial effect of having the husk buried is that it will last for about 5-7 years straight. Instead of the husk, coconut pith is also a great option that can be buried at about 25 kg per coconut palm plant in a year.


Mulching is surely an effective method of conserving soil moisture in coconut farms. It is recommended that we mulch the coconut basins with some green/dry leaves at the very close of the northeast monsoon. Mulching also tends to add organic matter to the soil which can greatly reduce the soil temperature. Do not disturb the soil in the coconut garden, especially during the summer months. In the case of the level lands, and also during the peak rainy seasons, there is a possibility that excess water may be conserved in really small trenches that are dug out in the coconut plantations. In the case of sloppy areas, land may be effectively terraced and the trenches dug across. This will fully facilitate the maximum percolation of rainwater as well as water storage. For moisture conservation, the lowermost part of the land which has 3-5 leaves may be chosen to be cut and removed. This will help to provide adequate shade for the transplanted seedlings that can last for up to 1-2 years. To greatly minimize the heat load on the stem, there is a technique to apply some of the lime solutions on the trunk up to the height of 2-3 m at the very start of the summer season.

Mulching around the coconut palm plants also means spreading vegetable material, e.g. coconut fronds, the overall husks, and lopping of the coconut trees as well as shrubs. Mulching should always be carried out regularly so that the pertaining soil is not fully exposed. It can also protect the existing soil from exposure to direct solar radiation as well as help with curbing the wind effects that can greatly reduce water loss as well as help in controlling overall weed growth. Burying husks in these trenches within the proximity of coconut palm plants tends to act like a sponge, and can greatly absorb and retain water just about six times their overall weight.

Increasing the water infiltration into the soil with effective coconut farming      Building of the bunds across the overall folds on the ground as well as the undulating land can tend to form mini tanks. They help in retaining the water flowing from the higher land which can be used for at least a part of the dry season. This technique could be used on more clayey and lateritic soils. Irrigation of the seedlings that come during the dry seasons tends to result in rapid establishment as well as vigorous growth. A convenient method is pitcher irrigation, where two large earthenware pots are effectively buried one meter apart on either side of the coconut plantings or its seedling. On the surface of the pot which is facing away from the the coconut seedling, there should be the prior application of tar or any other forms of paint to prevent unnecessary water loss. The pitcher should also be ideally filled with sufficient amounts of water as well as adequately replenished as and when necessary.                                        

Green manure and cover crops

It is recommended that in the coconut farms, there be equal sowing of green manure as well as cover crop seeds that are planted during April-May with the actual onset of the pre-monsoon rains. The green in the manure crops should be well ploughed and incorporated well into the soil from August to September. This will ideally help to increase the water-holding capacity within the soil. Calapagonium can also be grown either as green manure or even as a cover crop. Tephrosia is very well suited for planting fully around the seedling pits for proper summer shade. This is also an excellent source of green manure in the rainy seasons.

Rainfall requirements for coconut farms             

both rainfall and water storage. The lowest point of the land with three to five leaves may be selected for cutting and removal to save moisture. This will contribute to giving the transplanted plants appropriate shade, which can endure for up to 1-2 years. There is a method for applying some of the lime solutions on the trunk up to the height of 2-3 m at the beginning of the summer season to significantly reduce the heat load on the stem.

Mulching also refers to the spreading of vegetative matter, such as coconut fronds and husks, as well as the lopping of coconut trees and bushes, around the coconut palm plants. Regular mulching should always be done to prevent complete exposure to the relevant soil. Additionally, it can help prevent wind impacts that can significantly minimize water loss, shield the existing soil from direct sun radiation, and assist control of weed development in general. Burying husks in these trenches next to coconut palm plants causes them to function like sponges, soaking up and holding six times their weight in water.

When the soil tends to dry up for any prolonged period, the outer cells in the absorbing region of the roots tend to develop much-thickened walls after the drought with water that cannot enter. Droughts can usually reduce nut formation in so many other ways. When all the water courses tend to run dry, rodents as well as other animals can easily open the husks of immature coconut plantings to drink water. These nuts from the coconut plantings will also tend to drop prematurely. 

Organic farming for coconut plantings                             

Researchers have ideally described several highly leguminous plants that can go on to provide nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, calcium as well and magnesium which are essential elements for the overall nutrition of the coconut palm plants. Amongst them are the Gliricidia, and Leucaena which are great as cover crops. Leaves lopping off these tree crops can go on to provide all the needed nitrogen and a part of other nutrient requirements of coconut palms. 

In the case of Crop-live stock farming, it also contributes to overall organic farming. Animal dung as well as urine tends to improve fertility and the water-holding capacity of the soil. When integrated with an adequate amount of pest control that comes with minimal use in insecticides. The impact of raindrops in the most intensive tropical rain storms that tend to fall over the exposed soils can usually break up all the surface soil aggregates leading to surface sealing and compaction. This seals the infiltration of rainfall which then runs down the slope resulting in erosion.   

Soil temperatures are said to be lower than usual and fluctuations are expected to be reduced under all that vegetation cover. It takes about 25 to 300C under all that mulches when compared to 40 to 450C on bare soils. Somehow high soil temperatures (over 600C) can severely affect crop emergence, plant vigor, and yield of the existing coconut palm plants.                                                   

These reports have supposedly stated that there are methods to reduce the runoff of all that water and provide steps to increase the overall infiltration of all that rainfall so that the soil can effectively retain more water to its maximum capacity. These principles should also be used to develop a clear system of agriculture that will help mitigate the actual effects of drought on coconut planting production. A feasible approach will be to follow the organic farming system that has already been practised religiously in several countries and all across our country. 

Drought management in coconut plantations

The salient features included are to maximize the overall infiltration of the rainfall which will eventually penetrate the soil and go on to change the actual soil structure. This will help to retain much more water. Effective drought management is aimed at the application of these principles to further delay the onset of soil moisture stress so that all the plants can survive the dry seasons for a longer period. If the coconut palm plant holdings are not generally used for inter-cropping then they can be spread into two layers of coconut husks which are about two to three meters wide with an overall width that depends on the planting distance along the space that comes in between the two rows of these palms. The Mulch that is present around these palms with all the leaves as well as the crop refuse tends to be part of the If intercropping is to be done, have husk mulch along the rows of coconut palms. Leave sufficient space without mulching for footpaths, picking nuts with bamboo, and tractor movements.                                                 

The practice of integrating animal husbandry with coconut cultivation often tends to lead to bio-fanning. But, there are much more severe difficulties in the actual implementation process in the dry zone. Improved cattle need pasture and fodder. If they are established in coconut holdings, there is competition for moisture and palms will suffer. A feasible approach is to have indigenous cattle and goats feeding in meadows outside coconut holdings during the daytime and bring them back in the night to use their dung as fertilizer.

The method and system of inter-cropping under coconut palms are also important for drought management. Perennial intercrops like that of cocoa, coffee, pepper, etc usually tend to compete with the coconut palm plants for water thus creating soil moisture stress which can be early for the dry season, which is also very detrimental to the coconut plantings. A satisfactory solution to this commonly occurring problem is to grow short-term annual crops with enough cereals, pulses, chilly, etc. under these coconut palm plants. They are usually grown in the wet season and can be effectively harvested earlier in the dry periods. Hence competition for acquiring much more soil moisture between palms and intercrops will not frequently arise. 

Irrigation with the overall gravity flow or within the deep wells is said to be ideal to better overcome all the adverse effects of drought on the growth of the palms as well as production. That usually requires large investments which are much beyond the resources of the small farmers. It is also far more suitable for farmers who are in coconut plantations.