What is Coco Coir
Coco coir is the core of coconut; it is the largest part. It is the fibrous coat between the coconut shell and the external coat of the seed of the coconut. Coco coir is the fiber that is torn from the shell. Coco coir consists of two kinds of fiber that, through an extensive process, are pulverized into a marketable package of growing substrate. The more flexible white fiber is from the unripe coconut. The brown coir is from the mature and ripe coconut. And it is this brown coir that is now used for hydroponics.
For a long time, coco coir was treated mainly as a waste product and thrown away. The more resourceful tapped its potential uses in gardening, especially in hydroponics. They concentrated efforts on how to prepare coco coir for hydroponics, through a continuous process of improvement in production methods. These improvement methods have borne fruit as coco coir gains popular acceptance as a growing medium in hydroponics. It is used as an organic substrate and is environmentally sustainable.
Challenges in processing
The main factor to consider is that coco coir has a high salt content. This high level of sodium and chloride has been reduced because of ongoing improvements in recent years. Note that lower-priced coco coir has a high salt level. Be sure to choose the quality which is higher, the pre-rinsed medium. And before you place the coco coir in the plant trays for the greenhouse, always rinse the medium with fresh, PH balanced water.
How is coco coir processed
The processing results in a coconut coir brick, which is dehydrated. There are variations in this finished format.
First, the coir is removed from the coconut husks which are softened and loosened by putting the husks in water. They are immersed in either freshwater or tidal water. In tidal water, the coco coir will take in much salt. This is taken out by the manufacturer at a later stage. The salt level is a quality to look out for; you must check if the coir was flushed properly; check how it was cleaned, soaked, and dried.
After washing, the traditional way was to dry the husks for a year. After drying, the coir is organized in bundles, which are then chopped and processed into various finished products, such as chips, “croutons”, ground coir.
Today, processing has greatly improved – previously, it took a year of waiting while coco coir was immersed for cleansing in water and the wait for its decomposition was even longer.
#1 Today’s Improved Processing
- The first step is the “retting process”. This is the method of curing and it decomposes the pulp of the husk. With the use of modern mechanical methods, this process is now done in a week’s time.
- coco coir is hence marketable and ready for use in hydroponics.
- Processed Coco Coir has three basic forms: Pith, Fiber, or Chips. A mixture of the three is advised to get good results
#2 Three Types of Processed Coco Coir
- Coco Pith or coco peat looks like finely ground coconut. It is small and if this is the only medium for growing plants, plant roots may drown. Proper aging of pith is important so salts can be removed which harms the plant.
- Coco fiber
- Coco chips
#3 Coco Coir Benefits for Hydroponics
- More aeration, biodegradability, fibrous structure makes it suited for root growth. Bigger plant yields.
- No decomposition in its growth cycle. So there is no reduced pH caused by media decomposition
- Coco coir is a soil-less medium; more air can enter into the plant roots.
- Capacity for water retention: absorbs water as much as 10 times its weight. This is good for plants
- Garden pests do not hover around coco coir
Coco coir is a suitable organic match for hydroponics; as man finds ways to face bigger challenges posed by the changing environment.