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Hydroponics Coco Coir, Part 1: Not Just for Monkeys Featured

Coconuts give us hydroponics coco coir Coconuts give us hydroponics coco coir

Monkeys are very smart, and they are our close relatives. As you know, they love coconuts. Is it possible that monkeys long ago discovered that coconuts can be used as root zone media in hydroponics? I guess we will have to wait until the monkey experts do more research on that question, but one thing is for sure: coco coir made from coconuts is among the top three soilless root zone media, with rockwool as number one.

So just what is coco coir? It’s not a whole coconut, that’s for sure. What we buy as grocery store coconuts are actually a seed (or fruit) of the coconut palm tree. Before being shipped to your grocery store, the seed is stripped of its external skin and a surrounding layer of fibrous pulp. Fibers recovered from that pulp are called coir, which rhymes with lawyer, though some people pronounce it like the word “core.”

Coir is used to make all kinds of stuff, including doormats and couch padding. Most commercially available coco coir originates in India and Sri Lanka. Coir companies market coir as an eco-friendly fiber because it is a recovered material made from coconut farming, but coconut farming often destroys thousands of acres of native ecosystems, so coir is not the environmental saint that its advocates portray it to be.

Nor can you just strip the outer layers of a coconut and use it as hydroponics media. Coir must first undergo a procedure called retting, a curing process that partially decomposes the husk’s pulp, allowing it to be separated into fibers. For freshwater retting, ripe husks are immersed in water-filled tanks, or suspended by nets in a river and weighed down to keep them submerged.

For saltwater retting, green husks are placed in pits along riverbanks near the ocean, where the ocean’s tides alternately cover them with seawater and rinse them with river water. Both processes take more than six months each to complete.

During retting, cellulose and lignin fibers are separated from other organic matter in the husks. Cellulose and lignin are chemically stable, while other materials in the coconut waste are less stable. That’s why coir quality varies depending on how it is processed and aged. Coir must be purged of excess salts and other materials that can hurt your hydroponics crops.

Coir that has not been aged sufficiently is still undergoing the natural decomposition process that will render the raw material into a more stable and basic form for growing purposes. Inferior coir has pH instability that creates big problems for you and your hydroponics plants. Not only that, but even the best coir can cause problems involving potassium, magnesium and calcium.

In our next article in this series, we’ll give you insider tips on selecting and preparing coco coir so you get the most from your hydroponics garden, so be sure to check in to RosebudMag daily to see the latest news that gives you your biggest hydroponics yields ever!

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The inside story of coco coir
Last modified on Tuesday, 21 August 2012 12:21

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