Oil Palm Fertilizer

The Non-judicious use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is primarily attributed to the lack of knowledge about the alternatives and their source. This module provides the farmer with the information of the licensed retail outlets and fertilizers. Farmers and extension personals can use this effectively to make knowledgeable decision in using/recommending better options. Users can select the availability of fertilizer based on location items etc clicking on corresponding buttons.

P and Mg Fertilizer consumption trend in MalaysiaIt can be observed that Malaysian fertilizer consumption has steadily increased. This can be attributed to thechanges in the Malaysian agricultural scenario. As more rubber areas were replanted with oil palm, thefertilizer requirement was also increased as oil palm requires more nutrients than rubber. In addition, newland were planted mainly with oil palm.Fertilizer Selection and Evaluation by Large Plantation OrganizationsOil palm is the main crop cultivated by the large plantation organizations. Of the inputs, fertilizers accountsfor about 24 % of the total agricultural cost of fresh fruit bunch (FFB) production (Tan, 1988; Nazeeb, 1997).However, with the significant depreciation of the Malaysian Ringgit against the US Dollar since 1997, thecost of fertilizer input has increased further. Hence, the choice and use of fertilizer has become moreimportant, not only in terms of costs of production, but also the likely responses and returns from theirapplications in the field.From its early days, the plantation industry has recognised the importance of good palm nutrition. It hasinvested greatly in research into nutrient requirements of the oil palm and has adopted a multi-disciplinaryapproach to assessing fertilizer needs of the crop including intensive studies on palm nutrition (nutrientbalance and cycling, nutrient diagnosis techniques) and physiology, soils and soil fertility, and interactionswith management practices. Many field trials have also been laid down over the past 40 years to establishresponse curves to the various nutrients on different soils and sites, to evaluate the different nutrient sourcesand fertilizers, timing and methods of fertilizer application.Most agronomists are now applying site-specific fertilizer application practices to maximize returns fromfertilizer usage and to reduce any potential environmental problems. Considerable field data e.g. soil typesand fertility, palm growth and yields are collected from each manuring block, usually between 20 to 50hectares. The leaf nutrient levels are regularly checked as well for early detection of any possibledeficiencies.Each block in the estate is inspected annually to assess the nutrient requirements and fertilizerrecommendations i.e. fertilizer types, rates and schedules drawn up for application. The choice of fertilizersare determined by the fertilizer types available and their physical and chemical properties, their prices inMalaysian Fertilizer Consumption Trend 1986 - 1999Phosphorus and Magnesium.

Mgrelation to the expected available nutrients, rate and method of application adopted (manually by hand,mechanical spreader, holing or aerial application), and age of palms based on the numerous fertilizer trialson oil palm to evaluate their efficacy and profitability (Ng, 1977; Hew et al., 1973; Foster & Goh, 1977;Foster, 1982; Foster et al., 1986 ).Generally, the fertilizers used in oil palm cultivation in Malaysia can be grouped into five broad categories,which are, ‘straights’, mixtures, compounds, slow and/or controlled release, and organic and/or by-productfertilizers (Tang et al., 1999 ). The first three are the most common groups of fertilizers used by theplantations. In mature palms, straight fertilizers provide the bulk of the four macronutrients required for oilpalms i.e. nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and magnesium (Mg). Compound fertilizers are usedmainly in immature palms while mixtures are preferred where savings in application rounds may be madee.g. in sandy soil areas or to save on costs of compound fertilizers.The common sources of nitrogen being used in this country are ammonium sulfate (21% N), ammoniumnitrate (26% N), ammonium chloride (25% N) and urea (46% N). Trials have shown little difference in FFByield responses to them except for urea, which produced comparable results only under adequate moistureconditions and on clay soils ( Hew & Tam, 1971; Ng, 1977; Sinasamy et al., 1982; Tarmizi et al., 1993 ).Urea is not recommended generally because of its high N volatilization and expected high variability in Nuptake. Generally, the choice of N fertilizers is primarily determined by the effective unit N cost. In recentyears, the cheapest N sources for oil palm in Malaysia have been ammonium chloride and ammonium nitratebut problems with caking of fine crystalline ammonium chloride have caused it to fall out of favour.The main sources of phosphorus are phosphate rock, superphosphate and diammonium phosphate (DAP).The water soluble superphosphate P source is commonly applied to palms at the immature stage in the formof compound fertilizers. However, by far the largest usage is as phosphate rocks which are effective on ouracid soils and more economical for use in mature palms. In this region, the oil palm is one such crop wherephosphate rock has been extensively used as a source of P. The same goes for rubber and cocoa. Thevarious phosphate rocks in current use vary widely in physical, chemical, mineralogical and reactivitycharacteristics. For application in oil palm, phosphate rocks are finely ground to improve their solubility butthere are also some P sources which show higher ‘reactivity’ even in the ungrounded form e.g. NorthCarolina Rock Phosphate, Tunisian Rock Phosphate. These ‘reactive’ rocks generally come with lower P2O5content which to the producer is not the ideal source for phosphoric acid production and there is thus greatpotential to ship such rocks for use in this region.The choice of K fertilizers is usually limited to Muriate of Potash (MoP) which is mainly obtained fromCanada, USA, Russia and Jordan. The grades and quality from the various sources are fairly standard.Potassium nitrate and potassium sulfate are used only in the compound form for the nursery stage seedlings.The most common sources of Mg fertilizer used in Malaysia are kieserite and ground magnesium limestone(GML). The latter is available locally, and effective and cheap when used under the correct agronomicconditions (Goh et al., 1998). A new source of magnesium, synthetic magnesium sulfate, has also made itspresence in the Malaysian market. This material is obtained by treating dolomite or magnesite with industrialsulfuric acids. The effectiveness of this new material on oil palm is currently being investigated (Tang et al.,1999) but it has already been widely used based on its water soluble Mg content.Fertilizer mixtures, produced by simple physical mixing of the straight fertilizers, have the advantage of beingprepared according to specified ratios to suit particular situations as needed. This enables the majormacronutrients to be applied together at lower cost and with fewer application rounds.Most, if not all, of the compound fertilizers used by plantation companies in Malaysia are in granulated form.It is common knowledge that the cost of compound fertilizer is higher than the three straight fertilizerssupplying the equivalent quantity of nutrients. Hence, compound fertilizers usage in plantation companies islimited to the nursery and young, immature oil palm areas.Boron is the only micronutrient of general significance to oil palm to date, and the sources are mainly fromthe various forms of sodium borate (Na2B4O7.xH2O). The other micronutrients, principally copper and zincare used mainly in peat or very sandy areas and are normally applied in the form of their sulfate saltsrespectively. Iron and manganese salts are applied in isolated cases only.Fertilizer Procurement System by Large Plantation OrganizationsThe purchasing system of the large plantation organizations in Malaysia can be broadly categorized intothree types; open tender, government central purchase, and close quote system.



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