Thursday

How to deal with old and unproductive coconut palms?

By R. Bourdeix. In construction.

See also
Valorization of coconut wood from senile palms. Two recent ACIAR projects have developed new methods to generate income from old palms trunks and facilitate the replanting process.
Selling coconut hearts (Chou coco or millionnaire's salad) to luxury hotels and other tourist structures can largely cover the costs of slaughtering senile coconut palms and replanting young palms. In the best french gourmet restaurants, caviar is sometimes served with coconut heart...

How to kill old and unproductive coconut palm in an organic way and without sawing? Unfortunately, we do not have yet the full answer to this question. In our expert opinion, immediate short research is needed on this crucial point:

Find an affordable - and preferably organic - product that, when injected in the trunk of the senile coconut palms, will have four effects, by order of priority: 1) do not threaten human health (for instance if children take coconut from treated palms); 2) prevent oryctes proliferation in the trunk; 3) kill the palm, 4) preserve and treat the wood for future utilization.


They are plenty of bio-products used for wood treatment, bio intecticides and fongicides, and other chemical products that could be tested to reach these objectives. for instance, commercial chlorine could be one of these products. Experiment could consist on testing 10 different products each on 10 different coconut palms, randomly selected in the same block in a zone where oryctes is active. Such an experiment could be implemented with an affordable budget - of probably 5000 to 10000 USD per country. It could be interesting to implement it separately in three different countries and then compare the results. 

A chemical method, kindly recently suggested by Dr  Ismail Khairol Bin fro Malaysia, is punching/drilling the holes on the stem and injecting pesticides/weedicide (such as paraquat or glyphosate) and close back the holes. The palm will slowly die. Be care that the decayed stems could potentially fall and overtake other trees. The palms can be poisoned by injecting 50 ml of a neat monosodium methylarsonate (MSMA) solution into the stem of each palm (Biberson & Duhamel,  1987).

If we want to do it on an organic manner, we will have to replace chemicals by bio products. Litterature indicates that a mix of soap and white vinegar sometimes help to kill weeds, but this was not yet tested by injection on coconut stems. People are also often using salt to kill weeds and trees, but this method will probably not work in our case because coconut palms is one of the most tolerant plant to salt, growing even in sandy salty beach.

If the coconut timber is intended to be used otherwise than as fuel, it would be nice to find an organic product that treats the wood and protects it from mold and fungus. In addition, leaving the coconut stems in the field can be risky in areas where the insect oryctes causes significant damage. So the ideal would be to use an organic product that prevents the oryctes from attacking old trunks.

An interesting line of research could be to test some organic products that are presently marketed for the biological treatment of wood. Any suggestion on this topic will be appreciated!
Image from Wikipedia

Dr V. Niral, from ICAR-Central Plantation Crops Research Institute in India, recently explained that you can drill the coconut trunk and plug the holes with Asafoetida (also called devil's dung or stinking gum, hing etc), the gummy exudate from the root of the plant Ferula assafoetida. The palm will slowly die.

Whatever the killing method, it is strongly advised to avoid chidren to come, stole and eat some of the contaminated fruits.




See also
Valorization of coconut wood from senile palms. Two recent ACIAR projects have developed new methods for making money with old palms trunks and facilitate the replanting process.
Selling coconut heart(Chou coco or millionnaire's salad) to to luxury hotels and other tourist structures can largely cover the costs of slaughtering senile coconut palms and replanting young palms. In the best french gourmet restaurants, caviar is sometimes served with coconut heart...

Other ideas regarding Oryctes

Trapping and using the beetle oryctes rhinoceros to make coconut stem mulching and feed chickens or young pigs. This could be tested in large plantations or in farmer's communities. with concrete blocks and cement, build walls delimiting an internal rectangular space measuring at least 3m x 1.50m, with 1.50m high. During construction, at the site of the walls, dig the ground about 30 cm so that the walls start at this depth inside the ground. Cover with a grid system that is slender enough to prevent the oryctes from leaving, but with hatch systems that allow them to enter. Place the stems and other waste in this space. Use occasionally chicken or fire to destroy or reduce the oryctes population.


Use and sell oryctes for feeding animals and other uses (medicinal, chemistry). According to Makkar and al. (2014), Crude protein contents of insect meal are high: 42–63%; essential amino acid contents and protein digestibility of insect meals are high; palatability of these alternate feeds to animals is good; and they can replace 25–100% of soymeal or fishmeal depending on the animal species. A complete bibliographic study is needed to evaluate the commercial value of Oryctes as animal food and base-product for extracting chemical. In the Solomon Islands, a unique oil palm plantation have harvested up to 15 tons of oryctes in one month. In the expert opinion, taking into account the protein content, one kg of oryctes should be valued at 1 USD at least. Thus, 15 tons of oryctes would represent a minimal market value of at least 15000 USD...


References

Makkar, H. P., Tran, G., Heuzé, V., & Ankers, P. (2014). State-of-the-art on use of insects as animal feed. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 197, 1-33.
Biberson, O., & Duhamel, G. (1987). Poisoning of coconuts with MSMA (Monosodic Methylarsonate). Oleagineux (France).
Ollivier, J., Akus, W., Beaudoin-Ollivier, L., Bonneau, X., & Kakul, T. (2001). Replanting/underplanting strategy for old coconut plantations in Papua New Guinea. Oléagineux, Corps gras, Lipides, 8(6), 659-665.
Professor ordered to stop poisoning coconut palms on Queensland beaches which he says destroy native flora