. .

By Dr. S.M. ALAM
NIA, Tandojam
Nov 26 - Dec 02, 2001

Coconut (Cocos nuciferaL.) locally known as Narial is the most important of the economic species of palms. It grows mostly in areas lying within the latitudes 20N and 20S of the equator. The family Palmae, with about 4000 species, is widespread in tropical regions of the world. Its members are monocotyledonous, mostly with tall, straight, unbranched trunks carrying a canopy of pinnate or digitate leaves, highly ornamental and attractive. At present in Pakistan, coconut is an important palm tree. It is cultivated in the southern parts of Sindh, and it has been planted in houses, farms on a preliminary basis for the last two decades. Nowadays, the fruits are easily available in the local market. The coconut fruit has a nut which grows to the size of a man's head, containing an edible substance that is sweet and pleasant to the taste and white as milk. Fruit is a large nut, three-sided, with a thick and tough husk and a hard interior shell, each weighing about 1 to 2 kg or more, when fresh. The cavity of this pulp is filled with a liquid clear as water, cool and better flavored and more delicious than wine or any other kind of drink whatever. It is propagated by seeds (whole nuts) or by tissue culture.

Nowadays, the important coconut growing countries are the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka the South Sea Islands, Malaysia and Bangladesh. In these countries, coconut is cultivated as a commercial crop, while in parts of USA (Florida and Hawaii), it is an ornamental avenue tree. The Philippines with about 10000 million nuts per year ranks first in the world production. Indonesia with about 8000 million nuts ranks second and India with about 6000 million nuts comes next.

Coconut is a monococious plant producing male and female flowers on the same tree, but in different parts of the same inflorescence. There are number of varieties, which are generally classified as tall or dwarf. In the tall varieties, male flowers open for ahead of the females which are thus essentially cross-pollinated. The dwarf trees, on the other hand, are mostly self-pollinated and the progeny often breed true to the seed. The tall trees are heterozygous and the male parent is generally extraneous.

The importance of the coconut palm lies in the fact that each and every part of the tree is economically useful. Coconut is largely grown by farmers and the bulk of the produce is diposed of in the form of nuts, and about 80% is used for edible purposes. The water of the tender coconut is a nutrition's and wholesome beverage. It contains sugar, minerals, amino acids and vitamin C. The percentage of amino acids in protein are higher than in cows' milk. Coconut water is therefore, used in infant food. It is also used for embryo culture. In combination with egg yolk, coconut water serves as a diligent and carrier for bore and cattle semen used for artificial insemination, which helps in extending the lifetime of semen from about two days to eight days. The products of commercial importance are kernel, copra, oil, oil-cake and fiber. The kernel is much valued as food, and uses in culinary preparations as well as in the preposition of candies, sweets and other confectionery. Oil from the ripe kernel is one of the important edible oils of the people of Asian countries. For nearly 1000 coconuts, about 60 kg of choir can be made. Choir making is mostly a cottage industry. Extracted fiber is used for making floor mats, ropes, twines, rubberized rugs, bags, fish containers, cushions etc. In addition to these commercially important products, the trunk is used as a building material and for making furniture. The leaves, after planting, are utilized for thatching houses and the midrib of the leaf for making brooms and brushes. The juice from the inflorescence is converted into jugglery, sugar, vinegar and sweet or fermented toddy. Coconut tree produces materials for house construction, basket making and juice a popular drink either fresh or terminated. The coconut is the palm commonly tapped either for the sweet or fermented juice. Since the coconut produces inflorescence all the year round, tapping is done throughout the year. Coconut jugglery is used for sweetening food items. Thus, coconut fruit is a bless to the human beings.