This section is from the book "The Planting, Cultivation And Expression Of Coconuts, Kernels, Cacao And Edible Vegetable Oils And Seeds Of Commerce", by H. Osman Newland. Also available from Amazon: The Planting, Cultivation And Expression Of Coconuts, Kernels, Cacao And Edible Vegetable Oils And Seeds Of Commerce.
The reason why the public hears little of the " coconut oil' and much of the 'copra' market is because, while only a few big firms provide themselves with the machinery necessary for the manufacture of oil, the majority ship their produce in the form of copra- the raw material- and, therefore, while copra interests and is handled by thousands upon thousands of planters and dealers at home and in almost every tropical region known, the oil may be said to concern, comparatively, a very limited number of refiners and manufacturers.
Coconuts, Kernels, etc.- Capt. H. O. Newland.
One coconut of average size yields nearly 5 1/2| ozs. of oil, besides 3 ozs. of dried oil meal.
And now, a few words about the planting of coconut estates, and the yield and profits accruing therefrom.
In planting out an estate, seed should be taken from well-matured trees of from 25 to 30 years of age, showing a good yield; and large-sized roundish nuts, either red, brown, or green, but not oblong nuts, should be selected. The seed nut must either be picked from the tree in completely dry condition, or, better still, gathered up when fallen.
Gathering the nuts green, and then drying them in a room, is to be avoided, as trees grown from such nuts do not mature well, and generally decay, whereas nuts having become completely dry when on the tree can be planted any time from one to twelve months after collection.
The seed nut must not have too much or too little milk. It should be half-full. After shaking several nuts, it is easy to estimate the amount contained in them. Nuts containing too much milk will easily rot; those with none will soon perish. The nuts are planted in a nursery in trenches, and are transplanted to required positions within two to eighteen months from the time shoots make their appearance. The seed beds are carefully prepared and well heaped up, but not made so wide as to interfere with watering them in dry weather. The nut should not be planted too deep, nor covered with more than 1 1/2 to 2 inches of earth. Manuring is not necessary, as it only attracts ants and beetles. The beds must be kept clean and the soil loose, to get rid of grubs.
A month or two later shoots appear, and the plants are ready for transplanting at the end of one year, when they should have an average height of 18 inches. The seed beds must be kept moist and the young plants watered during a continuance of dry weather. Care is taken to remove the plant with the decaying kernel still attached to it, but the roots are sometimes cut rather short to prevent rot.
All leaves, except the inmost ones, are cut to diminish resistance to the winds. Transplanting from the nursery, the planter digs channels or trenches alongside the plants, slightly deeper than the bottom of the roots, previously well watering them to prevent the earth crumbling from the roots during removal, the idea being to retain with it as much of its natural soil as possible.
The seedling is lifted carefully from the nursery beds, and any damaged roots cut back. A small hole is made in the centre of the large one, and in this the nut which is still attached to the young plant is placed, and covered for about three parts of its depth. The soil is not levelled at the time of planting, but a basin-shaped depression is formed round the young plant. As growth progresses this will become filled with fine sandy soil washed in by the rains, or it may subsequently be made level by means of a top-dressing of light, rich soil.
Another system is to transplant the seedlings from the seed-beds to a piece of good land that has been well dug and manured, planting from 3 to 6 feet apart, according to the length of time it is intended they should remain. The plants should be kept well watered and free from weeds and pests. When two and a half or three years old they are lifted and transplanted to their permanent positions. This system admits of a selection of the best seedlings from the seed-bed for transplanting to the nursery, and of a further selection for forming the permanent plantation upon which the trees should be planted out, 30 by 30.
Watering is essential to a coconut plantation, and only light catch crops should be grown in between the trees (e.g., sweet potatoes, cotton, pine-apples, and pulses). About the fourth or fifth year these crops should be abandoned, and cattle tethered to the trees to graze.
A series of manurial experiments with coconuts in Trinidad and Tobago indicated that only in one instance was the increase in yield sufficient to compensate for the cost of treatment, the notable exception being on the King's Bay Estate, where the application of a mixture of 2 lbs. of dissolved bone and 1 lb. of sulphate of potash per tree has given a steady yearly increase.
The entire coconut fruit is not often seen in Europe. Ovoid in shape, it is covered by a waterproof epidermis or outer skin, attached to the inside of which is a thick fibrous cushion known as the husk, and the well-known nut is embedded within this husk in much the same manner that a peach stone is embedded within the flesh of that fruit. The coconut kernel, unlike other kernels, is practically hollow, and the hollow or cavity is almost completely filled with liquid, generally termed coconut " milk," the walls of the kernel at this stage consisting of a white pulp or jelly barely one-quarter of an inch thick ; but as the coconut gradually matures so is the " milk " for the most part absorbed and used in the building up of the pulp or jelly-like walls, until at full age these walls are sometimes three-quarters of an inch thick.
The average yield when the trees are in full bearing varies from fifty to seventy nuts per tree, if good cultivation and manuring have been practised. Individual trees have been known to yield from 150 to 200 nuts annually.