Nutrient Management :: Oilpalm


Fertilizer Requirement   

Based on the fertilizer experiments conducted under rainfed conditions in India, the following fertilizer schedule is recommended for oil palm until specific results are derived from multilocational fertilizer trials.

   Fertilizer recommendation for oilpalm

 Age Nutrients (gram/palm/year)
N  P  K
First year  400 200  400
Second year  800 400  800
Third year 1200 600  2700

Method of Fertilizer Application

The fertilizers are preferably applied in two equal split doses during May - June and September -October by uniformly spreading them within a 2 metre circle around the base of the palm and forking to incorporate them into the soil. Supply of sufficient quantity of green leaves or compost is advantageous especially where the soil is poor in organic matter content. Mg deficiency can be corrected through the application of 500 g of MgSO4 /palm/year. Borax @ 100g per palm per year is also recommended.

Urea is found to be the most economic nitrogen source if losses by volatilization and leaching are minimised.
Rock phosphate and muriate of potash are the best source for phosphorus and potassium respectively. During the initial years fertilizers may be applied within the area covered by the crown canopy. In the case of older palms, fertilizers are applied depending on the concentration of roots and are usually applied in the weeded circle.

Appropriate soil conservation methods such as growing cover crops and platform cutting (on sloppy lands) enhance the efficiency of fertilizers by preventing losses through run off.

Nutrients - Functions and Deficiency Symptoms

The effect of major nutrients on growth and yield of oil palm has been studied in most of the oil palm growing countries in Asia and Africa.

a) Nitrogen: In oil palm, characteristic yellowing symptoms are developed under N deficiency conditions. Nitrogen is found to be essential for rapid growth and fruiting of the palm. It increases the leaf production rate, leaf area, net assimilation rate, number of bunches and bunch weight. Excessive application of nitrogen increases the production of male inflorescence and decreases female inflorescence thereby reducing the sex ratio.

b) Phosphorus: In oil palm seedlings, P deficiency causes the older leaves to become dull and assume a pale olive green colour while in adult palms high incidence of premature desiccation of older leaves occurs. Phosphorus application increases the bunch production rate, bunch weight, number of female inflorescences and thereby the sex ratio. However, lack of response to P due to P fixation in soils is very common in the tropics. Eventhough the main effect of phosphorus on the productivity of the palm has not been significant in most studies, it gives a positive interaction with nitrogen and potassium.
c) Potassium: When potassium is deficient, growth as well as yield is retarded and it is translocated from mature leaves to growing points. Under severe deficiency, the mature leaves become chlorotic and necrotic. Confluent orange spotting is the main K deficiency condition in oil palm in which chlorotic spots, changing from pale green through yellow to orange, develop and enlarge both between and across the leaflet, veins and fuse to form compound lesions of a bright orange colour. Necrosis within spots is common, but irregular. Mid crown yellowing is another prominent K deficiency condition of the palm in which leaves around the 10th position on the phyllotaxy become pale in colour followed by terminal and marginal necrosis. A narrow band along the midrib usually remains green. There is a tendency for later formed leaves to become short and the palm has an unthrifty appearance with much premature withering.

Potassium removal is large compared to the normal exchangeable K content in most top soils. It is mostly required for the production of more number of bunches, maximum number of female inflorescences, increased bunch weight and also for increasing the total dry matter production and yield.

d) Magnesium: In adult oil palm and in seedlings in the field, severe Mg deficiency symptoms are most striking and have been named as ‘orange frond’. While the lower most leaves are dead, those above them show a gradation of colouring from bright orange on the lower leaves to faint yellow on leaves of young and intermediate age. The youngest leaves do not show any discolouration. The most typical Mg-deficiency symptom is the shading effect in which the shaded portion of the leaflet will be dark green while the exposed portion of the same leaflet is chlorotic. Heavy rates of K applications induce Mg-deficiency, particularly on poor acid soils.

Among the secondary nutrients, calcium and sulphur, and probably chlorine, may not pose much problems to oilpalm cultivation in the country.

e) Micronutrients: Micronutrient elements, iron, manganese, copper and zinc are not generally found limiting in the nutrition of oil palm on acid soil conditions. Boron deficiency is occasionally found on young palms in the field showing a reduction of leaf area in certain leaves producing incipient ‘little leaf’, advanced ‘little leaf’ with extreme reduction of leaf area and bunching and reduction in the number of leaflets and ‘fish-bone’ leaf. The ‘fish-bone’ leaves are abnormally stiff with leaflets reduced to projections. Leaf malformations including ‘hook leaf’ and corrugated leaflets are some other associated symptoms. Soil application of 50 - 200 g borax decahydrate, per palm, depending on age, and severity of symptoms is practiced for correcting the malady.

Updated on : 18.06.2013