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Coconut Based Farming Systems In Sri Lanka

The coconut sector occupies a pre-eminent position in the Sri Lanka's agriculture and coconut extends over 22.6% of the national agricultural land. Coconut Based Farming Systems have gradually evolved over time as a result of the changes in factors such as physical, biological, socio-economic and institutional conditions. Based on variation of these determinants of farming systems, di fferent types of coconut based farmi ng systems ranging from semi-subsi stence home gardens to commercialized plantations could be identified. Monoculture coconut is the only enterprise in most of the plantation type of farming systems. In estates and few plantations extensive farming practices such as pasture with livestock are common. Small coconut farmers do intensive farming with a variety of intercrops in succession on the same plot or as crop mixes to increase productivity to reduce risk and uncertai nty. An array of technically feasibie intercrops and crop combinati ons are avaiI able to the Sri Lankan coconut farmers. The crops for their farming systems are selected based on the factors infIuencing their farming systems. Annuals including pasture for animal husbandry and semi-perennials are popular in the semi- dry zone while the shade tolerant perennials in addi tion to these i ntercrops are popular in the semi - wet and the wet zones. The process of Farming System Development is to extend and integrate improved farm practices based on the results of agricultural research and experiences of successful farmers. The Coconut Research Institute -i^hich is responsible for research on farming systems has established twenty on-farm trials in the wet and semi-wet zones. The Coconut Cultivation Board which is the extension arm administers a subsidy scheme and provides financial incentives, required inputs, technical know how etc. for intercropping coconuts with selected perenni al i ntercrops. Despi te the several development programmes launched to improve farming systems only a little have been achieved. The relatively slow progress in the development of coconut based farmi ng systems is a reflection of the presence of a number of constraints, mainly income uncertainty arising from product price fluctuations market uncertai nty and recurri ng droughts. Therefore it is important to consider the socio-economi c conditions along with the problems of the coconut farmer as he is the synthesizer of Farming Systems Development.

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