Monday, 18 February 2013

Talking about Passions


Talking about Passions

It’s not hard to tell how much I’m in love with agriculture. But I am always stumped for an answer whenever I’m asked which crop I am most passionate about. After some thinking, I’ve finally concluded that there are only two crops that I’m truly in love: Cacao and coconuts

If I were to delve into cacao now, I think I’d be talking a yarn’s long tale, and unfortunately, I don’t have many photographs to share at the moment. Sadly, my photo bank of cacao got corrupted, but the good news is I am still able to go about taking more photos while working on my current research with the Malaysian Cocoa Board (MCB).



So for now, I will stick to my other favourite crop: Coconuts

The coconut is a wonderful agriculture crop, with nearly every part of the plant having some kind of use, whether it is for food, fibre, or medicinal applications. Polynesians have been using coconuts for nearly everything, from making clothing, to building houses, and even the construction of their well known sailing vessels with which they used to explore the many islands of their homeland. In Southeast Asia, coconuts are a key feature in daily life as well, and a great number of uses for the coconut have evolved over time. The most notable use, of course, is in the many mouth-watering savoury and sweet dishes.


 
Indeed, the coconut is such an integral part of the tropics, that it is very much the symbol of tropical paradise. As such, the coconut palm is a very common sight in most tropical coastal village areas, and can even be found in the compounds of some modern day town houses. It is easy crop to grow in the tropics, and is very a productive plant, producing up to 10 coconuts per stand each month when well tended.

However, despite its close relationship with human civilizations in the tropics and being an important food crop in island nations of the South Pacific, the coconut, also known as the “Tree of Life”, has fallen in favour as an agriculture crop. The sad fact remain that compared to many other commodity crops, the coconut isn’t as lucrative or profitable as say the oil palm (although this is argumentative). Nonetheless, demand for coconut is starting to pick up once again. This stems from it being regarded as a high value “health food” of sort, especially the coconut water from the young tender nuts.


 

In the course of my previous job as a plant breeder, I had the opportunity to work closely with coconuts. The company I worked with is a major coconut producer in Malaysia, being involved in the cultivation of coconut since 1912. From only 3% of the total area under plantation agriculture in Malaysia, this company produces some 87 million coconuts annually, or an equivalent to nearly 22% of the country’s total coconut production.

This of course meant that the company is always at the forefront of coconut technologies, including the utilization of superior yielding coconut strains. Two varieties are featured heavily in the company, which are the MATAG and MAWA hybrid coconuts. Brief (approximate) yield profiles of both varieties under Malaysian conditions are shown as follows:
Variety
Nut Yield (178 stands/ha)
Copra Yield (mt)
24,000
4.6
23,700
5.9

The yield profile of the two varieties featured above is about 5 times the national average of coconut production in Malaysia. With wholesale prices of fresh (unprocessed) tender coconuts ranging anywhere between RM0.50 – RM1.00 per nut, a well tended coconut plantation (1 ha) can provide revenue of between RM11,925 – RM23,850 a year. The retail value of processed tender coconuts is about 3 times as much. As can be seen, with good agriculture practices, and the use of good cultivars, the coconut can be a very lucrative agriculture crop.



Here are some photographs of coconuts taken during the National Coconut Conference (2009). Some of these are local Malaysian varieties (as indicated), while most of them are international cultivars:

Tall Varieties

 West African
Tagnanan
Tahitian 

Rennel
Laguna
Malayan
 
Dwarf Varieties

Malayan Red
Malayan Yellow
Catigan
Tacunan
Aromatic Green (Pandan)
Cameroonian Red

 Other photographs of coconuts:

A young MATAG coconut palm (approx. 6 years old)
A young MAWA coconut palm (approx. 6 years old)
Malayan Yellow Dwarf coconut palm
Malayan Red Dwarf coconut palm
The premium tender coconut variety, Aromatic Green Dwarf (aka Pandan Coconut)
A well planted coconut plantation
Coconut seednuts
Harvesting coconuts
Dud nuts (due to aborted pollination)

41 comments:

  1. Hi MIchael J,
    You have an interesting blog. I came across it while looking for where to buy a dwarf coconut seedling for my garden. We love coconuts and I think the idea of having one in your garden will be great fun. Can you recommend where I buy the seedlings for a good tasting dwarf?

    Michael L

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  2. Sorry for the very VERY late reply, Michael L. I have been deeply involved with loads of academic work, which meant sacrificing blogging these couple of years.

    Anyway, if you want a really good tasting dwarf, then you will want the Aromatic Green Dwarf, a.k.a Pandan coconut. And if you want really authentic Pandan coconut seedling, you will need to visit the nurseries around Bukit Kayu Hitam. Alternatively, you could try searching Eden Nursery (hopefully they are still in operation) which is somewhere in Kajang. Sometimes they will have a few authentic Pandan coconut seedlings in store.

    A trick to determine the authenticity of the Pandan coconut seedling: cut a small piece of leaf and burn it - there should be a light pandan smell. Alternatively, if the seedlings are in bare-root form, of there are protruding roots from the bags, break a small bit of the live/growing tip of the roots, and crush them under your fingers. If it smells strongly of pandan, then you've got a winner. If there isn't any smell, then it is likely to be a hybrid.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Some great images and an interesting article! Your passion for all things to do with the Cocos nucifera shines through!

    I write a small science blog for school kids and used a couple of your images of an article i have written about the Common Coconut.I hope that's OK!

    You can see my use of your images here at newtonsapple.org.uk

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Steven, no problem at all! Please feel free to use the images. I believe that knowledge needs to be shared, including any visual or audio aid that could help bring that knowledge to life.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi,
    I'm looking for a big size coconut,wich has min. 50 cm around size without green skin.
    To make a music instument (ıt calls as "rebab")
    Could you inform me,where can I find this size coco.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, I'm not too sure where you are located, but there are very few non-green skinned coconuts. The size you are looking for is quite typical of the Malayan Tall (from Malaysia) and the Tagnanan Tall (from the Philippines). Unfortunately, the Malayan tall produces all-green nuts; whereas there as Tagnanan talls that are brown skinned. There are also a few varieties from India that are comparable, such as the Orange Chowghat and West Coast Tall.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Michael.
    I'm from Turkey.And thanks for your comment.
    May be I couldn't tell correctly what am I looking for,because of my english level.
    I need a big size coconut (around size min 50 cm.)
    I mean brown hairy shell size.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow! That is indeed a very large coconut. I'm afraid most of the Southeast Asian varieties, and most others may not suite your needs. For a 50cm circumference, that would mean an inner diameter of around 16cm (ie circumference = pi x diameter, or 50cm = 3.142 x 16) . Most have about 11-13cm diameters only. You could try searching among the Tagnanan Tall variety from the Philippines, since that variety of coconut tends to have far larger nut sizes. I have seen some nuts from that variety with inner diameter close to 16cm, but this really depends on your luck.

    All the best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Michael
      Thanks for info.
      Yes I know that,most have about 11-13 cm diameters.And I have got one like this.Yes you are right that I need size diameter close to 16cm.
      If I see correct ıt could find from Philippines.
      May be I can find a seaman friend and order to him.
      Thanks again and regards.

      Delete
    2. No problem at all, glad to be of help.

      Yes, you should be able to find the right size from the Philippines. Do note that Philippines has many coconut varieties, so be sure to search for the Tagnanan (and not Tacunan or Laguna etc.).

      Delete
  9. Hi Michael J,
    I'm business in Malaysia, I need few information that is necessary for me to know before I go to supplies to my buyers abroad. Please help me know the following:
    01- Name the coconut variety with good taste and thick kernel and the area grown in Malaysia
    02- Is there any symptom that indicates a coconut fruit turns into seed internally?
    03- What/how things to ensure to keep coconut fruit last for maximum time after removing upper hard layer?

    I'm sorry for asking absolute business kind question not probably technical for farming kind expertise you hold.

    P.S. Can I get your email address for more useful information in this respect.

    Warm Regards/ IRFAN

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No problem Irfan. I will answer your questions as best that I can.

      1. The Malayan Tall. Primarily found in the East Coast Economic Region, which are the states of Pahang, Terengganu, and Kelantan. Terengganu will have more stands of the variety.

      2. I am not certain what exactly is your question here... but typically, when the husk of the coconut is no longer soft and heavy (water laden), it has already begun thickening its kernel walls. On the tree, the nuts will appear to turn brown. When it is fully mature (completely brown), the process is complete. Overall, it takes 1 years from the time the flowers are successfully pollinated, to the time it is ready to be harvested as dried nut for kernel and coconut milk extraction.

      3. Again, I'm not too sure what your question is about... but if you mean the coconut shell (layer between the husk and the kernel inside), then there is really no way to do so. You have to process the kernel quickly, because the fats will go rancid rapidly. If you mean the coconut husk (layer outside surrounding the nut), then you can improve shelf life by leaving a "cap" of fibers when the three "eyes" are located on the calyx side of the nut. If you remove the husk fibers cleanly from the nut, you will see there are three indentations. The nut germinates, the shoot emerges from one of these soft spots; it is therefore the most vulnerable portion of the entire nut. By leaving a cap of fiber on it, you could allow kernel storage to improve up to a couple of weeks. The other thing is of course temperature. Cool temperature is best, the cooler the better.

      No worries, Irfan. Knowledge is meant to be shared. I would recommend that you also join the online Coconut Timeline group managed by Hugh Harries. You may ask any questions pertaining to coconuts there, and there will be a diverse range of subject matter experts who would be able to help you as well.

      Delete
  11. Thank you Michael J. for helpful information.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I would very much like to grow a coconut palm on my property but I am on the north florida coast, Jan-march we can average temps of 50F and have about 6 freezing nights per year. I was hoping for a small variety that I could cover to protect in the winter but even dwarfs get huge... is there any hope for me or should I stick with importing my coconuts from the south?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm afraid you will need to stick with importing your coconuts. Even the so-called "dwarf" coconut varieties will eventually reach 30ft or more in the tropics; but more critically, coconut palms will not tolerate cold climates. At best, the palm will grow but bear no fruit; at worst, it will just die.

      Sorry for the late reply. I am regularly involved with agriculture projects in secluded and rural parts of Malaysia, so no internet access for long periods of time.

      Delete
  13. Any chance someone can help me out by selling me 150 000 coconut seedlings per month or can give me a contact for someone who can. In total i need 2 000 000 seedlings. Dwarf variety

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Michael
    It is interesting to know your passion in coconuts , I'm interested in the dwarf varieties and if possible would like to have the technical information or you could direct me to the appropriate source....many tks

    ReplyDelete
  15. Good day. You could try speaking with Dr. Roland Bourdeix, since he is the world expert on coconuts. You might want to email him at this address: Roland.BOURDEIX@cefe.cnrs.fr

    ReplyDelete
  16. Many tks Sir...rgds kevin mealin

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Michael;

    I am doing some research now to write a proposal to start my business to plant coconut.

    I had a 4 acre of coconut (Malayan Tall) 20 years ago, but all sold now.

    I found recently there ton of coconut variety in the market now, MATAG and Pandan is the 2 famous one. I also found Tacunan is recommended as well by Malaysia Government.

    I need all information and cost to start the business, not sure you mind to help me on that?

    And I know very hard to get genuine MATAG and Pandan seed in the market now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good day Yuu,

      I am not sure how much information you actually need, so I will work on the premise of a new 1 hectare coconut planting, and that you are selling the tender nuts to a wholesaler.

      I will post my reply in the form of a blog post on 1 Jan 2016 entitled "The Basics of Starting a New Coconut Plantation', as it would be nearly impossible to give the whole breakdown using the Comments form.

      Delete
    2. Hi Mike;

      that would already help me a lot, thanks in advanced.

      Delete
  18. Hi michael..
    I also interested to grow coconut especially aromatic dwarf.
    But i'm finding difficulties to get aromatic coconut seedlings in my country..
    Is it possible for a foreigner to buy the coconut seedling from department of agriculture malaysia..?
    Thanks for you irnformation ^^

    Ps. Can i get your email address..?

    Warm regards
    Xandra

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Xandra,

    Apologies for the late reply, I've been busy running a few projects of late.

    Anyway, to answer your question, you can import coconut seedlings from Malaysia, but the provision is that the exporting company (in this case, the nursery you will buying from) complies with all the phytosanitary requirements of both countries, i.e. Malaysia and your country. This does not merely mean having the right documents, but may include having the right fumigation and sanitation structures, quarantine buildings etc. You will need to check these requirements before you attempt to import the materials.

    However, as far as I know, DOA Malaysia is running short of planting materials themselves. Maybe you'd find better chances approaching Thai nurseries instead.

    My email is JMPonniah(at)yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi Bro Michael,

    May i know where could i go to purchase in bulk for pandan coconut..? Maybe with already process?

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  21. You could try contacting United Plantations Bhd in Teluk Intan, Perak. But they sell intact nuts, you will need to process them yourself. Or you can even ask them if they can suggest a processor nearby, one who already buys coconuts from them.

    Contact number: 05-6411411
    Ask for Mr. Kandha Sritharan, Research Department


    Alternativel, you can try Ambang Perintis, which is located in Rompin, Pahang.

    Contact number: 03 – 2095 1618

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi. I am from Ambang Perintis. Please do contact me at 0320951618 should you are interested in purchasing processed coconuts.

      Delete
  22. Hi Michael,

    I wanted to buy Tacunan dwarf coconut seedlings. I stayed in Shah Alam do you have any nearby supplier for that variety? Kindly provide me contact as well.

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good day Rolly. Unfortunately, Tacunan dwarfs are considered as plant breeding materials here. So, the only places you will be able to find them would most likely be at the MARDI station in Serdang. However, I doubt the material will be readily available, because they will not purposefully produce seedlings unless there is an official request.

      Delete
  23. Additional Inquiry, Is it possible for Dates Palm to bear fruit in tropical country. I planted few dates palm and it's getting its about 3 feet high (trunk) I'm wondering if I put enough fertilizer will it bear fruit? What is the best fertilizer proportion to make it happen?

    I'm trying to find out if someone managed to make date bear fruit in tropical land.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, date palm can bear fruit in Malaysia. And yes, fertilizer application could help. But the real question is not if it will bear fruit. Instead, it should be what quality and how long does it take. From what I understand, most of the varieties take about 10-20 years before bearing fruit, and even then, will not produce fruit of the same quality as that from the Middle East. This is primarily due to the high humidity conditions in Malaysia; unless grown under cover, or in a very low humidity environment (maybe Perlis or Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan), the fruit will not ripen properly.

      Delete
  24. Hi Michael,
    I am Jasman from Medan Indonesia. I wanted to buy Camma, Mata, and Mawa dwarf coconut for tender.Do you have got any supplier that variety? Thank you very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good day Jasman. Right now, the technology owner is United Plantations Bhd. I would suggest that you contact them regarding the CAMMA and MATA. As for the MAWA, it has been phased out of production in favor of the MATAG.

      Delete
  25. Hi Mike, Do you know the contact of the nurseries around Bukit Kayu Hitam. I'm interested to get the Pandan coconut seedling for about 4 acres land. Thanks

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  26. hi Mike:
    where to find red dwarf and yellow dwarf coconut in west malaysia, Our company want purchase it in large quantity, at least 20,000 pieces.

    ReplyDelete
  27. If possible could email me back at jasonescobargaviria@gmail.com , because I cannot find youe email

    Thank you so much Mike

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hi Michael J.
    Me G C Saha from Kedah.
    I am writing here to know the name of all coconut plantation or cultivating companies in Malaysia. Specially in northern part in Malaysia. Could u plz help me because it is very urgent for my PhD research.

    ReplyDelete