How stable is coco?

Around 1990 we initiated the very first crop growing on coco for the culture of growing roses, and this was followed for 5 years intensively.

However coco pith is an organic material, it showed it selves to be very stable from the start, and after 5 years the structure did not or hardly not show any decomposing. This was very remarkable!

Unfortunately there is quite some coco in the market that is not stable. Those materials do decompose already from the start using it as a substrate, but also when this is added to a potting soil mixture. This results in less air around the roots, what causes of lots of growth problems.

How is that possible?
The coco we were using at the start in 1990 was from a source that was stored on heaps for many years, and the coco pith we used was selected to be between 2 and 5 years old material.

Nowadays we have automated the process, and has developed to an industrial way of manufacturing coco in large volumes. Some manufacturers use and sell the product immediate after the processing. This material is very fresh, and it does not give a good stability for growing.

Click here for more about stability (chemically and physically)

What has been done about that?
Thanks to Dutch research by RHP we know so much more about the stability of coco. So called “respiration tests” (developed by RHP around 2005) measure the speed of the decomposing of organic materials. Since our first very positive tests in roses (1990-1995) we did never use any fresh/young coco for raw material.

For Dutch Plantin these new RHP tests were confirming that we were already on the right road for stable quality from our start in coco in the late eighties. Only well aged coco is stable, that is our specialism!

Dutch Plantin has invested lots of money in large bunkers to store massive volumes of coco for longer time. During this time the coco becomes his stability, what is of great importance for the growers.

How can I recognize the not-stable coco?
The colour can indicate, but it can change quite fast from light yellow into light brown, further to brown – dark brown. Often you can only notice during the crop when the coco was sold too young:

Coco pith turns into a sort of sludge, material that gets very dark of colour and finer structure. The air ratio drops down dramatically and the substrate volume is decreasing, going down.

Coco chips which are not stable loose volume and water capacity. They also break down too early and the substrate turns too wet as well.

Dutch Plantin only sells stable coco products, for the customers to succeed in maximum yield.

Why is there a variety of Grow-bags?

Because there are different sorts of plants and they are cultivated in different climates.

Some plants need a lot of water. When these plants are cultivated in a warm climate the finer material suits them better because there isn’t any unnecessary drainage or evaporation.

Mixtures with good drainage properties are more commonly used in the colder regions. It is important that they assist optimum drainage without creating air deficiency. (The plant root needs water, air and nutrients). In the bottom layer of the medium, where the most active roots are, good drainage properties are particularly important.

The differences in size are mainly to accommodate the installation in different nurseries.

What are the differences in Coco-fibre?

For centuries Coco-fibre has been used for products such as brooms, ropes, mats and filters. Since cocofibre has increasingly been used as an additive in potting mixtures the requirements have been adjusted to suit various applications. There is a lot of fibre on the market which can be called ‘Coco-fibre’ but which hasn’t been selected for its length and thickness or its E.C. value.

Therefore there will be huge differences! Dutch Plantin’s Coco-fibre is specially produced for the horticultural sector and we guarantee the E.C., quality etc.

What is the difference between washed and unwashed cocopeat?

Coconuts often grow in areas where the subsoil is high in salts. Think of the postcards with palm trees on golden beaches. This means that Cocos nucifera can easily absorb chemical elements such as potassium, sodium and chloride without being negatively affected (contrary to most plants cultivated in the horticultural sector).

These salts are present in the whole plant and it is therefore a minimum requirement to wash the part of the plant we use, in our case the husk, to bring the E.C. level down to an acceptable level. If we didn’t do this, the grower would have to wash the cocopeat, because apart from sodium and chloride there would be too much potassium present. Potassium is an antagonist for calcium and magnesium.

What is the difference between buffered and non-buffered cocopeat?

Washing the cocopeat doesn’t solve the entire problem.

Cocopeat has a negatively charged complex, surrounded by a couple of positively charged ions: sodium and potassium. Because these elements stick to the complex, like iron to a magnet, there is no danger to the plant root initially. The problem starts when fertilizing with calcium. The calcium will push the potassium and sodium aside and take their position. Consequently, the calcium that is connected to the complex won’t be available to the plant, while sodium and potassium that are released into the water will be available.

To avoid this ‘time bomb’ problem we offer buffered cocopeat. In buffered cocopeat the ion exchange, as we call the process where calcium pushes the other ions off the complex, has already taken place and other elements, such as sodium and potassium have been washed away.

What is the difference between a brown and a green husk?

At the time the coconut is harvested, its outer husk is still green. This husk is peeled off the inner nut and in many cases it just stays in the coconut plantation for years. Only a small percentage is used to produce Coco-fibre or Coco-chips.

Some companies use the fresh green husk because it is easier to process. Dutch Plantin prefers the older, woodier and therefore more stable, brown husk. The cocopeat products made from these older husks are therefore more stable too.

Do we need longer Coco-fibre in the Grow-bags?

We know that the fibres take care for the transport of water through the substrate.At the other hand, water will drain out of the substrate more easy because the water-holding-capacity of the material is very low. Also we know that Coco-fibre makes the substrate more elastic.

For that reason we say:

YES, Coco-fibre improves the structure of the Grow-bag.

BUT, not for longer cultures, than it might turn against you.


Cocopeat and Coco-fibre contains lignine and cellulose. Lignine is wood and is hard, cellulose is soft material. Compared to Coco-pith, the Coco-fibre contains more cellulose and less lignine. This means that Coco-fibre will decompose faster than Cocopeat. How fast it will decompose depends on the circumstances during growth and on the thickness of the fibre. Thicker fibre has a smaller surface per weight end will break down more slowly. This means Coco-fibre is not usable to have a positive effect after several years in a crop like roses. It will only have a short-term effect (1-2 years). For that reason, Dutch Plantin advises a 1/4 inch sieved material which looks finer but the air content is much more stable than less-sieved material (1/2 inch or even 3/4 inch).

Does Cocopeat need to be steamed?

Some companies steam cocopeat to eliminate weeds.

Dutch Plantin conducted research into the effects of steaming on the cocopeat structure which reconfirmed that the structure of coco deteriorates after steaming.

To preserve the unique properties of cocopeat, Dutch Plantin opts for strict monitoring of the raw materials and a clean production environment, so steaming is not necessary.

Is the availability of Cocopeat unlimited?

This is a topical question which we also recall from the peat industry.

Dutch Plantin can confidently confirm that there will be enough raw materials available for the cocopeat products which are used in the horticultural sector.

Dutch Plantin has conducted a study into the availability of coco which shows there are an estimated 9,600,000 ha of coconut plantations in the world. If we presume that each hectare has 150 palm trees, which yield 75 coconuts each per year, then we will have enough raw materials for nearly 6.5 million tonnes of Cocopeat each year.

However, the availability of enough raw materials doesn’t necessarily mean that there is enough coco available for professional horticulture; because of the strict requirements our products need to meet, not just any production process will do.

That is why Dutch Plantin is proud of its eight production sites, spread over Asia, Africa and the Netherlands, where great care is taken to produce coco products that can safely be used.

Why are Dutch Plantin factories located far away from the sea?

Surely this incurs extra time and transportation costs to get to the harbour?

Coconuts often grow in soil that is high in salt. Think of the postcards with large palm trees on golden beaches… Cocos nucifera can easily tolerate and absorb potassium, sodium and chloride. Unlike most plants that are cultivated in the horticultural sector, these salts have no negative impact on palm trees. During our production process we wash the plant to reduce the salt content to an acceptable level. Failure to do so will generate more work for the grower as he would have to wash the coco peat due to excess levels of sodium and chloride, and the fact that potassium is an antagonist for calcium and magnesium.

Less salt in Dutch Plantin coco peat
Dutch Plantin produces coco peat from the husks of coconuts that grow on palm trees located far away from the sea. These trees benefit from vast amounts of rain during the monsoon season and therefore grow in soil with a reduced salt content. As a result, the raw materials for Dutch Plantin’s coco peat are significantly low in salt. What is more, the salt can be easily washed out which considerably reduces the cost of the rinse water.

Far away from the sea for safe coco peat of the highest quality
Higher transportation costs to harbours is of secondary importance to Dutch Plantin compared to our long-term vision: the grower receives a safe product with the highest quality coco peat. With years of experience, our specialists strategically choose long-term production locations, guaranteeing the best quality, for now and in the future.

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