A "new" idea with traditional roots: kill and replace the less productive coconut palms!

By R. Bourdeix, 2018

To cite this paper: Bourdeix, R. (2018) A "new" idea with traditional roots: kill and remove the less productive coconut palms! in: . In: Bourdeix, R., Mapusua, K., Ollivier, J. and Kumar, V. (2018). Coconut planting material for the Pacific Region. Available at the URL: https://replantcoconut.blogspot.com.

We know that methods presently used by farmers for selecting seednuts of traditional Tall varieties are not very efficient. Even if these methods are improved, we know that, by carefully observing individually parent palms during 4 years, and by selecting only the 5% best palms, the genetic value of their progeny will very probably be increased of no more than 15%.
However, we also know that, when coconut palms are planted, It is quite easy to identify in the fieldswhich are good producers or not. Thus, why farmers should endure heavy burden of conserving unproductive palms for 50 years? Just kill them! 
Thus, a possible solution could be to plant about 25% more palms than needed; and later, two years after the first bearings, to remove from the plantation the 25% baddest palms. The palms that will be killed could be valorized by selling their coconut hearts. We estimate that such a method may provide an increase of the production of the plantation of 10 to 20% during at least 30 years.

If it not very efficient to select best parent palms for having a good progeny, it is much more easy for farmers to see, when the palms start to grow, which are the good and bad producers. In order to avoid keeping bad producers in your fields during 50 years, a solution could be to plant a quarter more coconut, and to quickly cut and remove the 25% baddest producers. See the section on planting designs for details.

Another option would be to plant the coconut palms at the normal density for pure strands, and two years after first bearing to cut the 25% or even 50% of the less productive palms and to replace them by other crops, such as cocoa or breadfruits. Research is needed to refine this idea and to assess which age is the best to cut the less productive palms, and what is the best percentage of palms to remove.
Another huge advantage of this method would be for the next generation of palms. When selecting a coconut from a female parent, we know the female parent but we don't know the male parent. With this new technique, the less productive palms will not participate to the next generation of palms planted by the farmers - or her/his or his children. So the value of the future progeny will be improved.
After cutting the less productive palms, use their coconut leaves for roofing, braiding, for covering your taro plantation, or covering the soil around remaining coconut palms; sell or eat the coconut hearts; and do not forgot to remove the remaining stems in zones where beetles such are Oryctes Rhinoceros are present, this to avoid creating pest breeding sites.

Here under is a short movie on a farmer's method for planting coconut in Atiu Island, Cook archipelago. this movie seems important for two main reasons:
  1. This is the first documented case in Polynesia where a farmer plant many coconut palms and remove the baddest. I found that most pacific farmers are generally very conservative and, once a coconut palm is planted, they keep it for a long time, be it a good or a bad producer. Jokingly, we could say that most of these farmers treat coconut palms as members of their families. This movie demonstrates that I was wrong and that, at least in some cases, farmers are applying the technique that is recommended in our website: to plant more coconut palms and to remove those which are not producing well.
  2. We were surprised to see that this farmer is applying the criteria for selecting coconut fruits similar than the one developed in the method we proposed.There is a scene where the farmer is discarding the biggest fruits and keep only the one with thin husk and big coconut inside. So our method is well connected to some traditional practices, here in Atiu, Cook Islands. It's pleasant and reassuring, because we did not know the link with traditional practice at the time when we developed this method.

To cite this movie; Bourdeix, R., Mataora V. and Namory, T. (2018). Atiu, Cook Islands, a farmer method for planting coconut. Movie. In: Bourdeix, R., Mapusua, K., Ollivier, J. and Kumar, V. (2018). Coconut planting material for the Pacific Region. Available at the URL: https://replantcoconut.blogspot.com.