Although we have already seen some peculiarities of hydroponic cultivation, these “artificial” substrates have several applications in agriculture.
Each one has its own characteristics that make it suitable for depending on what type of crop.
We are going to tell you everything we know about coconut fiber, always in our own particular way. You will be surprised by all the potential that this almost inert substrate has that you can buy in a lot of stores.
WE ANALYZE THE COCONUT FIBER AND WE WILL TELL YOU
First of all, you have to remember something about hydroponics . Although in the previous article you have a lot of information about it, you have to differentiate between what would be the hydroponic type in which substrates are involved, such as coconut fiber , for example, and those crops that are pure hydroponics.
That is, those whose roots are bare and a “broth” made up of water and fertilizers circulates. The root absorbs what it deems necessary and the rest is recycled.
An application of this type of substrate, as would also be rock wool , perlite, expanded clay, expanded polystyrene, etc. It can be for the first type of hydroponic cultivation, or for cultivation tables, pots or systems where a good water retention capacity is required and that occupies little weight.
Well, let’s not advance events by talking about its potential. Let’s go little by little.
COCONUT COIR IS, YES, COIR
There is no need to beat around the bush. Coconut fiber is not a foreign material that undergoes any unusual preparation process .
They are simply the hairs that are in the shell of the coconut and that had no particular use.
In the world there are many countries where coconut is grown for food . Therefore, the amounts of coconut fiber that can be generated were very large.
Before they were simply thrown away, but someone arrived (the same thing has to go hundreds or thousands of years ago) who said that these fibers had to be used for something, and that “something” was agriculture.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FIBERS
On the other hand, you can also choose from a variety of coconut fibers, whether they are longer, shorter, etc. They have different applications and each one is indicated for according to what crop and what conditions:
- Fine coconut: for seedlings and cuttings, where the roots are very small and weak.
- As standard: can be used for planters, flower pots or any other medium.
- Coarse coconut: for large plants, garden mulch, and more.
COCONUT FIBER AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR TRADITIONAL SUBSTRATE
Little by little, the coconut fiber was replacing and replacing the traditional substrates composed of peat .
This was so because this element offered a greater precocity for healthy plants, has a great retention power (both minerals and water) and is a perfect mulch.
If we start to calculate, each coconut contains about 125 grams of fibers.
However there are some by-products (well, by-product of by-product) that are also used. These fibers, the good ones, are made up of fairly long hairs.
As a drawback, fibers less than 2 mm long are formed in the extraction process, as well as coconut dust.
or what we know as coconut fiber and we apply it as a substrate for our plants is the mixture of said powder and small fibers. The long ones are used for other purposes such as mattress or seat covers, ropes, etc.
COCONUT FIBER CHARACTERISTICS
These are some of the physical and chemical characteristics that this substrate offers us:
- pH: 5,5-6,5
- Electrical conductivity: <0.8 mS / cm
- Percentage of aeration: 10-40%
- Water holding capacity: 25-50%
- CEC (cation exchange capacity): 70-100 meq / 100 g
- C / N ( carbon to nitrogen ratio ): 80: 1
- Cellulose content: 20-30%
A PROBLEM TO SOLVE, SALINITY
One of the main problems with coconut fiber is its salt content. Think that the cultivation of the coconut tree is done in coastal areas, lashed by saline winds, breezes and others.
In the end, these coconut fibers contained a large amount of salts that could pass into the crop if it was used as a substrate.
The solution to the problem is to “bathe” the coconut fiber in natural pools, before and after it is crushed.
But come on, nothing to worry about. Unless you are the one in charge of naturally collecting the coconut fibers, the substrates that you can buy in a lot of stores are already clean of salts and others.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF COCONUT FIBER
Whenever we talk about a material like this, (we have also done it with compost and vermicompost), we like to put the advantages and disadvantages. Let’s see them:
ADVANTAGES OF COCONUT FIBER
- It is a natural and organic by-product from coconut. It does not pollute or consume energy.
- It has a great capacity for aeration and water retention.
- You can choose between several granulometries (as we have seen) depending on what we grow.
- It has a stable pH, between 5.5 and 6.5.
- It offers a quick response when trying to correct a mineral deficiency.
- It rehydrates easily, so the response to water stress is rapid.
- It retains nutrients very easily, and releases them progressively (cation exchange capacity).
DISADVANTAGES OF COCONUT FIBER
- The salinity problem has to be solved.
- It can be more expensive than other substrates (although with water it expands and there is a lot of acreage).
- Depending on the quality of the water, it can easily retain salts.
- It does not provide as many mineral elements as other substrates.
What if success lies in knowing how to mix it with other substrates ? Take the best of each and unite them. For example, coconut fiber and nutrient-rich hummus.
This would be ideal when we handle small quantities, especially for pots, grow tables or things like that.
Where the advantages of coconut fiber have been seen most is in the development of seedlings in the first phases of life. The difference in terms of development and growth are very high, for the simple fact that the coconut fiber does not hinder the growth of the roots.
In this case, the coconut fiber can go in dry planks, in tablets that are subsequently hydrated or without pressing.
This last system has the advantage that the coconut fiber is already washed in industry and, therefore, the final product comes without the contribution of conductivity.
SOIL CULTIVATION USING COCONUT FIBER
It is something new and quite rare to see. It consists of placing the coconut fiber directly on the ground , and it is appropriate when we have very heavy soil (poor drainage).
Of course, if it is in a greenhouse, little can be done, which is why this “experiment” is so effective.