Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) is the highest edible oil yielding perennial crop producing two types of oil i.e. crude palm oil and palm kernel oil which are used for domestic and industrial purposes. It produces about 4 to 6 tonnes of crude palm oil and 0.4 to 0.6 tonnes of palm kernel oil per hectare per year during its productive life span from 4th to 30th years. Oil Palm is a heavy feeder and it requires a balanced and adequate supply of macro and micro-nutrients for growth and yield.

Fertilizer requirement

Recommended nutrient for oil palm grown under rainfed condition is given in Table 1. It is advised to apply 400-200-400-125 g of N-P2O5-K20-MgSO4 per palm per year during the first year of plantation, 800-400-800-250 g of N-P2O5-K20-MgSO4 per palm per year during second year of plantation and 1200-600-1200-550 g of N-P2O5-K2O-MgSO4 per palm per year during third year onwards.  Fertilizer requirements as per the availability of different fertilizers available in the market are given in Table 2. Research on oil palm nutrition conducted at different agro-climatic locations namely Gangavathi (Karnataka), Mulde (Maharashtra), Vijayarai (Andhra Pradesh) and Aduthurai (Tamil Nadu) revealed that the dose of fertilizer varied from place to place. The dose of 1200-600-1200 g of N-P2O5-K2O per palm per year was found to produce FFB yield of 12-15 t FFB ha-1 at Tungabhadra command area of Karnataka whereas, application of 800-400-1800-500 g N-P2O5-K2O- MgSO4 per palm per year resulted in the production of 18 to 19 t FFB ha-1 under sandy loam soils of Andhra Pradesh. However, efforts must be made to modify these doses based on soil and leaf analysis. Borax at the rate of 100 g/palm/year is recommended in boron deficient soils or when the boron deficiency symptoms are noticed. If organic nutrient sources like FYM, green manure and neem cake are available, then 50-100 kg of FYM or 100 kg of green manure per palm per year can be applied. Neem cake at the rate of 5 kg/palm/year can also be applied. Whenever organic fertilizers are applied, nitrogen applications through chemical fertilizers need to be reduced proportionately.

Table 1. Recommended dose of nutrients for oil palm

Age of the Palm

(Years)

Nutrients (g/palm/year)

N

P2O5

K2O

MgSO4

I

400

200

400

125

II

800

400

800

250

>III

1200

600

1200

500

Table 2. Fertilizer requirement for oil palm

Fertilizers

Fertilizer requirement (g/palm/year)

Age of the palm (years)

I

II

>III

Urea

Single super phosphate (SSP)

Muriate of potash (MoP)

Magnesium sulphate

870

1250

670

125

1740

2500

1340

250

2610

3750

2000

500

Urea

Diammonium  phosphate (DAP)

Muriate of potash (MoP)

Magnesium sulphate

700

435

670

125

1400

870

1340

250

2100

1305

2000

500

Urea

Rock phosphate

Muriate of potash (MoP)

Magnesium sulphate

870

1000

670

125

1740

2000

1340

250

2610

3000

2000

500

Ammonium sulphate

Single super phosphate (SSP)

Muriate of potash (MoP)

Magnesium sulphate

1942

1250

670

125

3884

2500

1340

250

5825

3750

2000

500

Ammonium sulphate

Rock phosphate

Muriate of potash (MoP)

Magnesium sulphate

1942

1000

670

125

3884

2000

1340

250

5825

3000

2000

500

Ammonium sulphate

Diammonium  phosphate(DAP)

Muriate of potash (MoP)

Magnesium sulphate

1562

435

670

125

3124

870

1340

250

4685

1305

2000

500

Note: Urea (46% N), Ammonium sulphate (20.6% N), Diammonium phosphate (18% N, 46% P2O5), Single super phosphate (16% P2O5), Rock phosphate (20% P2O5), Muriate of potash (60% K2O)

Healthy oil palm plantation

   

Palm crown with fresh fruit bunches                               Fruits in a bunch

Choice of fertilizers

Nitrogen: In Oil Palm plantations, fertilizers like urea, ammonium sulphate and diammonium phosphate may be used as a source of nitrogen as per their availability in the market. However, urea is found to be cheaper. There is a strong interaction between N and P fertilizers as applied N fertilizer will not be efficiently utilized unless adequate P fertilizer is applied.

Phosphorus: Fertilizers like single super phosphate, rock phosphate and diammonium phosphate can be applied as a source of phosphorus nutrition.  Rock phosphate is generally profitable in oil palm as compared to super phosphate.  However, under high pH conditions, application of rock phosphate is not recommended.

Potassium: Potassium may be applied as chloride or sulphate according to availability and price.   Potassium chloride (Muriate of potash) is found to be cheaper and available in local market. 

Magnesium: Magnesium sulphate can be applied as a source of Mg to oil palm.

Frequency of fertilizer application

It is advised to apply fertilizer in four equal splits at three months interval under irrigated conditions. Irrigation should be given immediately after fertilizer application. Under rainfed conditions, fertilizer application should be made shortly before the onset of the rainy season and not before or during the dry season or in the middle of the rains, and are generally given in two splits.

Methods of fertilizer application

All the fertilizers should be evenly broadcasted over the clean weeded circles about 1 m away from the palm base and incorporated into the soil with the help of forks. The area of application should be extended as the weeded palm circles become progressively enlarged as the palm gets older. Under normal circumstances, N and K fertilizers should be applied in close sequence followed by Mg, P and B fertilizers. Fertilizers can be mixed in water when drip irrigation method is followed.

Fertilizer application in oil palm

The fertilizer requirements of oil palm depend on many interrelated factors that vary from one environment to another. Even in superficially similar agro-ecological environments, the yield responses of oil palm to fertilizers can vary substantially. Thus, the easiest way to determine fertilizer requirements of oil palm is from fertilizer response trials but it is difficult, time consuming and costly to conduct them in different environments, where oil palm is grown. For most of the crops including oil palm, relationship between leaf analysis value and plant productivity is generally evident and an assessment of fertilizer needs can be based on such analysis. However, for a cost effective approach, leaf analysis has to be integrated with soil analysis. This is because, there may be instances where plant uptake of nutrients present in adequate amounts in the soil may be inhibited by the lack of another limiting element, i.e. uptake of K can be reduced by lack of N. In a case of this kind, leaf analysis will reflect the need for N and K fertilizer. Reference to soil analysis will indicate that the K reserves in the soil are adequate and thus K fertilizers need not be used. This allows savings in the cost of inputs.


Authors:

S. K. Behera1, B. Narsimha Rao2, K. Suresh2,M. V. Prasad2, K. Manorama2 and K. Ramachandrudu 

1Senior Scientist, 2Principal Scientist,  Directorate of Oil Palm Research,

Pedavegi -534 450, West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh

 1Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.