General Oil Palm Nutrition

Author(s): Kah-joo G, Hardter R


Although its economic products (palm oil andpalm kernel oil) contain mainly carbon (C),hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O), the oil palm hasa large requirement for nutrients that is onlysurpassed by a few crops, such as banana(Soh, 1997). Whilst the first commercial oilpalms were planted on fertile coastal clay soilsin Malaysia, liparitic soils in North Sumatra andvolcanic soils in West Sumatra, most oil palmsare now planted on poor fertility status ‘inland’or ‘upland’ soils in the islands of Borneo andSumatra and in Thailand. Nutrient losses dueto surface erosion and runoff are generallygreater in these countries due to the pre-dominantly hilly terrain, fragile soil structure andhigh rainfall. Thus, mineral fertilizers are of great importance to supplement the poor indigenous soil nutrient supply, and large yieldresponses have been demonstrated in manyfertilizer experiments carried out in the region(Gohet al ., this volume).

Under intensified management anddepending on local soil and climate conditions,fertilizers account for 50–70% of field upkeepcosts, 30–35% of variable costs and about 25%of the total cost of production. Anunderstanding of the factors that contribute toefficient fertilizer use is thus a crucial part of maximizing yields and economic returns.

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