Virginia Tech and Collaborators Respond to Threatened Coconut Production in Bangladesh
This post is written by Sara Hendery, communications consultant for the IPM Innovation Lab.
An important plantation crop found predominately in tropical and subtropical parts of the world, coconut is often referred to as the "tree of life" because of its versatility and importance to rural livelihoods. Coconut, Cocus nucifera L., belongs to the family Arecaceae and provides food and commodities for millions of people globally. Bangladesh is the 12th-highest coconut-producing country, generating 442,708 metric tons from 25,334 hectares of land. Coconut farming is an important occupation in Bangladesh; it provides a consistent income stream to growers on a regular basis. There are a number of coconut-based industries in the southern part of the country and thousands of people lead their livelihoods across the coconut value chain.
Recently, the production of brown—or mature—coconut has declined in Bangladesh, while the demand of green—or immature—coconut has increased significantly. Coco-coir, which is the husk of a coconut, is in short supply because of the increased consumption of green coconut. As a result, industries producing different products like coconut oil, coco-piths and coir from brown coconuts have found it difficult to survive in their businesses.
To help increase production of coconut and support the coconut industry in improving business in a time of flux, the Horticulture, Fruits and Non-Food Crops Activity, the local input seller Renaissance Enterprise and Virginia Tech’s Feed the Future Bangladesh Integrated Pest Management Activity (IPMA) established a partnership. The tri-party effort would seek to build the technical capacity of 50 local service providers, locally called “Gachi,” who clean, prune, fertilize and manage pest infestations on coconut. The effort would ultimately help reach 2,000 coconut farmers in the Chitalmari sub-district of Bagherhat district, Bangladesh.
“Though coconut is not a priority crop for the IPMA, based on severe attack of the invasive pest called rugose spiralling whitefly, IPMA had previously organized an international webinar to gather knowledge on the biology, ecology, and management of the coconut pest,” said Madhab Das, Chief of Party of IPMA. “IPMA developed informational flyers describing the life cycle of the pest and its control measures. Within this process, it became apparent how important coconut is to farmers and how necessary it would be to increase knowledge on sustainable techniques that could be utilized to improve its production.”
IPMA developed an IPM package, which is a package of integrated pest management techniques from which farmers choose based on their needs and abilities, on coconut and conducted a hands-on Training of Trainers on coconut IPM for 50 Gachi in September 2022. As a part of its role, Renaissance Enterprise supported Gachi to train coconut farmers on both nutrition and pest management, including on the use of quality inputs, such as fertilizers and biopesticides. Though they have long provided valuable services related to pruning of coconut plants, Gachi were limited in their technical knowledge on nutrition and pest management.
“In the intervention, we are also linking input companies to provide information to Gachi, farmers and extension officers about what inputs are available in the market for nutrition and pest management of the coconut trees,” said Bithika Das Hazra, Enabling Environment Specialist for the Feed the Future Bangladesh Horticulture, Fruits and Non-food Crop Activity.
“Working together at multiple levels of the coconut value chain is very important considering its contribution to the livelihoods of thousands of households in Bangladesh, including smallholder producers, van pullers, supply chain actors and workers of the coconut-based industries,” added Das. “As we witness the disappearance of rugose spiralling whitefly (Aleurodicus rugioperculatus), see the coconut leaves becoming darker green and see the appearance of new inflorescences with the application of IPM on coconut, we also see a new demand for biopesticides, including pheromone lures, in the area.”
Some of the components for the IPM package for coconut include:
- Apply Bacillus amyloliquefacins @ 1-2 ml per liter water against leaf blight disease;
- Use Metarhizium anisoplie @ 5 g per liter water on reproductive areas to kill the pupae and set insect-specific pheromone traps against Rhinoceros beetle, red palm weevil and black headed caterpillar; and
- Spray biopesticides “K-mite (0.5% matrine + 25% plant oil @ 1 ml/ liter water)” and “Fizimite (10% Sodium lauryl ether @ 1 ml/ liter)” alternately two times at 15-day intervals against rugose spiralling whitefly and mites.
For more information on coconut management using IPM, email [email protected].