Coconut based integrated cropping systems enable better utilization of natural resources and improve the soil fertility due to the continuous biomass addition by the subsidiary crops. Hence, it is recommended as one of the management practices to increase the productivity of coconut also by enriching the soil fertility and also for generating higher income from unit holdings.
At a spacing of 25 feet x 25 feet, 25% of soil only is used by coconut and the remaining soil is left aside for growing suitable companion crops. Several crops like cocoa, nutmeg, clove, pineapple, pepper, banana, vegetables, etc. are identified through research as good companion crops for coconut.
Passion Fruit – An intercrop
One of the trending crops now is Passion fruit. It is cultivated mainly for its multi-seeded delicious berry fruits. This fruit is mainly consumed as juice rather than as fresh fruit. There are many varieties of Passion fruit available. However the yellow and purple color passion fruit and hybrid variety (purple x yellow) are famous varieties recommended for commercial cultivation. Yellow passion fruit is best for cultivation in tropical low elevated southern coconut growing states.
People in the urban areas who visit supermarkets get a chance to taste this wonderful fruit. On tasting, the juicy flesh inside the purple fruit may make people think “why I was not aware of this fruit before”. The impact of this fruit is slowly finding ground in the urban areas of the states of Kerala and Karnataka. Farmers in some parts of Kerala and Karnataka have already tried this crop successfully in coconut gardens as a companion crops to coconut. In Sri Lanka, it is recommended as a semi-perennial intercrop in coconut garden.
Spacing recommended for planting Passion Fruit as an intercrop in coconut garden by Sri Lankan Coconut Cultivation Board is 6 feet x 6 feet in the middle of two rows of coconut planted at spacing 25 feet x 25 feet.
In one-acre coconut plantation, planted at a spacing of 25 feet x 25 feet, 400 passion fruit plants can be planted at a spacing of 6 feet x 6 feet.
Passion fruit vines start fruiting after 10 months of planting and fruit-bearing reaches optimum after 15 – 18 months. It takes about 80-90 days for the fruit to mature. The fruit yield depends on the variety and weather conditions. The average yield is 10 tonnes per hectare in the case of yellow/purple. In the hybrid variety, the yield would be high and is about 18 – 20 tonnes per hectare). In general, the average yield is 8 – 9 tonnes (200 – 250 fruit) in a vine in a year. The present retail price in supermarkets for passion fruit in Kerala is Rs. 220 per kg. If the farmer gets a farm gate price of Rs. 40/kg the total income by the sale of passion fruit from one-acre coconut garden would be Rs. 1,60,000. Considering the low-cost production of high-income passion fruit, it is ideal to cultivate in coconut holdings for increasing the income from the holdings and to provide a healthy delicious fruit to society.