Heading north about 30 kilometres from the heart of Palakkad town, you find a tranquil little village called Kanjirapuzha. Nestled in the lap of the western ghats, this village is covered in lush greens of hundred different shades. Every once in a while soothing breezes pass by and the constant chirping of the birds is a melody throughout the day.
This is the home of Green Valley and all of the farmers that hold up the humble brand that brings you your favourite coconut oil. There has always been something special about the geography and climate that has made it suitable for agriculture.
Today we’re going to take a walk through the land of Kanjirapuzha and understand the factors that are regional to the place and how it affects production.
In conversation with our farmers, we asked them what makes the land so special.
Palakkad District is vast, the largest district land wise in Kerala and with quite varying soil characteristics - from the clayey soils of the paddy belt close to the Tamil Nadu border to the dark organic-rich fertile soils along the foothills of the Western Ghats – and coconut seems to thrive well over this vastly diverse terrain.
Palakkad experiences long dry spells between November and March compared to the rest of Kerala. Although dry spells are good at naturally controlling pests and diseases in the coconut palms, the downside is that the size and weight of the coconuts are generally smaller and lower in this region of Kerala.
Most older plantations in Palakkad usually cultivated the West Coast Tall varieties of the coconut palm. Although lower in annual yield, the palms had a long life of 60-80 productive years. Newer plantations seem to go for the dwarf hybrid varieties that start yielding sooner, yield higher, and are shorter, but need a lot more irrigation and fertilization and care against pests and diseases. Also, the lifespan of hybrids is lower and 24-40 years.
Palakkad, like most other places in Kerala, also tend to have soil pH that leans more towards the acidic side due to the large amounts of rain experienced in Kerala. Balancing the pH of the soil is critical to help in the uptake of fertilizer – either organic or inorganic and must be done at least one to two times a year – pre-monsoon and post-monsoon. Red palm beetle and black rhino beetle menace are also experienced widely in Palakkad and necessary preventive measures are followed to control the menace.
Our harvest cycle is once every 60 days and we typically produce between 14,000 nuts to 20,000 nuts per cycle.
Coconut is a standard crop that all farmers and plantations in Palakkad cultivate irrespective of whatever else they cultivate. Hence coconut is an important support crop for all farmers of Palakkad, irrespective of their size.
The climate of Palakkad district is tropical, with an abundance of rainfall. The mean annual rainfall is 221 cm, which makes it the second-wettest district in Kerala. In fact, a good 70-80% of the rain that Kerala receives on a yearly basis comes from this district alone. This heavy rainfall not only makes the district ideal for agriculture, but also affects the temperature and humidity levels.
All said and done, Palakkad's weather is ideal for farming activities. It is for this reason that it has always been known for both its agricultural output – palm trees, paddy fields, coconuts – and its contribution to trade – cardamom, pepper and sugarcane to name a few.