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Thursday, 31 October 2013

COCONUT-A palm giving everything for life.

Coconut trees touching sky
Coconut is a palm that grows tall up to 30-35 meters. It has no branches or suckers. Entire parts of coconut are used for various purposes. Their fruits provide food, drink, oil, container, fibre for rope and mats, husk for firewood etc. Coconut shells are used for multipurpose such as making bowl,craft materials etc. Leaves are used for making baskets and thatching houses.

A bunch of coconut( yellow dwarf variety)
Coconut grows well in tropical region. It prefers soil other than black soil, rich in organic matter. It can be grown even in hard soil such as laterite. Two or three coconut palms are enough for our domestic need.
Coconut seed germinated in store
Coconut is propagated by seeds. Selected mature fruits are used for germination.Keep the seed nuts for 45-60 days in shady place for drying. Then sow the nuts on beds in nursery. Germinated seeds can be transplanted six to nine months after sowing.

Ideal germinated seed nut
It is better to plant the seedlings in 1x1x1m pits. Fill the pits with organic manure and top soil up to 2 feets below the ground level before planting. Irrigate plants regularly and provide shading till they establish.

Husk removed germinated coconut 
Regular manuring (once in a year) and irrigation induce fast growing of coconut plants. The well maintained plants starts flowering 3 years after planting and they give regular yield from 5th year onwards. Harvesting can be done at an interval of 45 days. We can expect an average yield of 50- 75 nuts from one tree.

Coconut embryo
A young coconut plant

Some memorable tasty products of coconut are:
Ø Embryo of coconut seed: - This is very sweet and tasty. Hence it’s favorite for children
Ø Tender coconut water:-     This is a natural health drink that gives glucose  and minerals in large quantity. It is well for diarrhea patients.
Ø Coconut Toddy:-                   This is fermented extract of coconut immature inflorescence. It is used as healthy liquor.
Ø Sweet Toddy (Neera):-             This is also an extract from immature inflorescence but not fermented.  So it is non-alcoholic and sweet. Adding preservatives it can be kept for longer period.
Ø Coconut oil:-                                Oil is extracted from dried copra. This edible oil contains low cholesterol. Medicinal value of the oil is widely accepted. It is used as base for many Ayurvedic oils.
Ø Coconut jaggery:-                      Jaggery  is prepared from unfermented sap extracted from immature inflorescence. It is superior to cane jaggery. 

Crown of bearing Coconut

Immature coconut bunch

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

PEPPER-Queen of spices.

Pepper is one of the world's most widely and frequently used spices all over the world. It`s medicinal value is also internationally accepted   It grows to a height or length of 10 m or more. When its main stem is established, it grows lots of side shoots to create a bushy column.  It is native to Kerala State in India where it still occurs wild in the mountains.

Pepper prefers well drained soil rich in organic matter. It requires warm and humid climate. For triggering of flushing and flowering process rainfall of 70 mm within a period of 3 weeks is necessary.

Flowering stage
Pepper is propagated by cuttings. Select runner shoots grown at the base for planting.
Separate them from mother plant during February-March. Avoid tender and too hard shoots. The shoots are cut into pieces with 2-3 nodes in each. The cutting should be planted in nursery at least one node deep in soil for rooting. Watering is unavoidable for establishing the plants.

Pepper grown on standard
Standards for growing Pepper are planted immediately before the onset of southwest monsoon in Kerala. Murukku (Erithrina indica),Gauruga pinnata , Ailanthus sp., Subabul(leucaenea leucocephala) etc.are suitable standards. With the onset of monsoon in june-July,2-3 rooted cuttings are planted in the pits at a distance of 1 feet away from the standards. The growing portions of the plants should be trailed and tied to the standards. Manuring for Pepper may be done in basins around the plants. Cattle manure, compost, green leaves etc.can be used @ 10 kg per plant as manure.

During flowering, frequent rain is needed to induce fruit formation. The flowers develop into round, berry-like fruits. There may be 50-60 fruits on each spike. They grow to a diameter of 4 to 6 mm, each containing a single seed. Fruits are green at first but they turn red as they ripen. These fruits are picked when either green or red to produce black and white pepper.