ESTATE CROPS INFO – Indonesia was once the largest kapok producer in the world with production figures reaching 80 thousand tons / year in 1996-2000. Unfortunately, the production of kapok is decreasing due to the lack of replanting, the increasing number of old, unproductive kapok trees, and land conversion for road widening, industry and housing.
In addition, farmers are reluctant to plant kapok because it is considered less profitable. Not only is it less competitive with synthetic fibers, kapok can only be harvested once a year even though its economic age reaches 60 years.
However, the world trend to return to environmentally friendly natural fibers will position kapok as a strategic commodity in the future. Moreover, this plant with the Latin name Ceiba pentandra can not only be used for its kapok part.
The fruit fibers can be processed as a base for mattresses, pillows, wall hangings, protective clothing, heat insulation, and sound absorbers. Dry skin can be used as fuel. Likewise with kapok seeds, cake, wood, leaves, and flowers, which can be processed into various commercial products.
To increase farmers’ income, kapok can also be integrated with intercrops such as palawija, medicinal plants, and fruits. The choice of intercrops usually depends on the area under development. In Pati, for example, the ones that are mostly covered are peanuts, corn and cassava. Meanwhile in Pasuruan Regency, mango, orange, and srikaya were mostly chosen as intercrops.
According to the results of observations at IP2TP Muktiharjo, ISFCRI in 2019, the integration of kapok and cassava intercropping can produce 5 tons of kapok logs / ha and 25 tons of cassava / ha with a total revenue of IDR 60 million / ha. Therefore, planting intercrops can help increase farmers’ income, reduce the risk of loss, increase land use efficiency, and open up job opportunities.
Apart from intercropping, kapok cultivation is also suitable to be integrated with honey bee farming. The reason is, the interaction of honey bees with kapok plants can increase the productivity and quality of kapok products. Farmers’ income can be increased through the honey produced by bees.
However, farmers need to ensure the availability of natural food for bees throughout the year. Especially considering that kapok only flowers and produces nectar once a year.
Planting kapok type indika and caribea in one area can provide natural food for five months because the two types of plants flower at different times. Farmers can also take advantage of seasonal and annual intercrops to provide a natural source of food for the bees in other months. (Anjas)