16 October, 2021
Coco coir is the term given to a range of natural products manufactured from coconut husks that are used in horticultural applications. Although sometimes referred to as ‘coco peat’, coir is not peat at all, and it is incorrect to call it by this name. Coir is the by-product of the coconut processing industry, in which coconut husks are processed to extract the fibres for various industries. Coconut husks go through a shredding process, by which the longer fibres are separated into a range of particle sizes, depending on the intended application. The left-over mixture of small fibres and dust is sold ‘as is’ and used for horticultural purposes.
Coconut trees grow naturally in brine water and highly saline environments; therefore, the coconut husks accumulate various salts. Before it can be used for horticultural crops, it should be washed with fresh water to leach salts built up in the coconut husks, or washed with a buffer solution of calcium nitrate to leach salts and include a nitrogen source. The process not only reduces the electrical conductivity (EC) of coir but also helps to lower its pH.
Types of Coir
From the coconut husks, coir pith (also known as coir dust) and coir chips (chunks) are primarily used for growing media, whereas coir fibre typically is not. Coir pith is generally combined with Sphagnum peat moss and aggregates to produce various growing media for seed germination to general-purpose growing. Coir pith is used in PRO-MIX products, such as PRO-MIX PG Organik for organic seed starting and PRO-MIX MP MYCORRHIZAE Organik for organic transplant production.
Coir chips (chunks) provide unique properties when used in growing media, in that these chips hold water within the particle but also provide aeration, water movement and dimensional stability within the growing medium. PRO-MIX HPCC is made with coir chunks and these products are suitable for potted crops ranging from flowering, foliage, perennials and some nursery crops.
Features and Benefits of Coir
Coir’s effect on a soilless growing medium will vary depending on its source, how it was processed, and the percent of coir used in the formulation of the growing medium. The porous and granular structure of coir has similar physical properties to Sphagnum peat moss in that it has high total porosity, and even higher available water holding capacity compared to Sphagnum peat moss. Coir has been shown to hold up to nine times its weight in water. Growing medium that contains a base of coir fibre and Sphagnum peat moss can help in rooting and germination.
Some of the properties that make coir a suitable amendment for combining with Sphagnum peat moss for growing media include:
Growing Practices to Adjust for Coir’s Effects on pH and EC
The addition of coir to a soilless growing medium may require some adjustment and monitoring of your crop production and cultural management practices. Depending on the percentage of coir in the growing medium, the following may need to be considered:
PRO-MIX HPCC BIO FUNGICIDE + MYCORRHIZAE
PRO-MIX HPCC, which is an acronym for High Porosity – Chunk Coir, is a peat-chunk coir based product that is ideal for larger potted crops (4 inch – 10 cm or larger), hanging baskets, and outdoor containers where higher water holding capacity is desired without sacrificing high air porosity as is characteristic of our PRO-MIX HP. The secret is the chunk coir.
Chunk coir is a small coir nugget that retains water between its fibers and releases it back to the growing medium as the plant uses the water. Also larger chunks produce big pores that hold air and not water, increasing total air porosity.
The addition of coir to a soilless growing medium can be beneficial in many ways. But as with any change to a different growing medium, the grower needs to be aware of potential impacts and ways to mitigate those impacts to get the best results for crop production.