Oil palm – producing oil for multipurpose use
The oil palm is the most efficient oil crop in the world. In the main production areas oil palm achieves an average yield of about 4 t oil ha-1. The total growing area is around 10 Mio. hectares and is increasing year on year. The main palm oil producers in the world are Indonesia and Malaysia producing 85% of the world’s output.
Palm oil is a multipurpose product. Besides it’s usage in the food-industry, palm oil is a constituent in washing powder, soaps, cosmetic products, candles, colours, lubricants and biofuel. The increase in global population and the use of palm oil for biofuel are two major reasons for maximising productivity. In the past average yield increases have been moderate but with new technologies, new management methods and new innovations from research and development it may be possible to increase yield significantly without harming the environment. A good and balanced fertilizer approach is one of the most important management tools to secure high yield and oil content.
Potassium secures yield and quality
Potassium is the most important nutrient in the oil palm production. Therefore the target of high oil yields cannot be realized without adequate supply of this nutrient. Potassium is essential for a wide range of functions within the plants physiology:
- potassium plays an important role in the conversion of light into biochemical energy during pho-tosynthesis
- potassium speeds up the flow of assimilates from leaves to other plant organs (e.g. fresh fruit bunch)
- potassium promotes the storage of assimilates as a result of increased production and improved translocation of carbohydrates - potassium increases the nitrogen use efficiency through a faster conversion of nitrogen to proteins
- plants supplied with sufficient potassium can utilize the soil moisture more efficiently than K-deficient plants
Magnesium – for high photosynthesis
Magnesium has many functions in the metabolism of oil palm:
- magnesium is the central atom of the chlorophyll molecule, the green pigment in leaves, which captures the light energy required for photosynthesis
- magnesium is involved in the carboxylase reaction of the photosynthesis, namely as a coenzyme in the fixation of CO2
- magnesium is needed in all processes that require energy, e.g. starch, protein and vitamin synthesis
- magnesium speeds up the assimilate transport to leaves and fruit bunches and it is required in many enzymes concerned with fatty acid and oil biosynthesis
Sulphur – essential for oil quality
Sulphur belongs to the six macronutrients and is usually taken up by plants in the same order of magnitude as phosphorus and magnesium. The total sulphur content in plants varies between 0.2% and 0.5% of the dry matter. Sulphur is involved in many metabolic processes:
- sulphur is required in photosynthesis, sugar and starch production
- sulphur is a constituent of two amino acids which are needed to produce proteins
- sulphur increases the nitrogen-use-efficiency of roots
Boron – indispensable for metabolic processes
Boron is the most important micronutrient in oil palm nutrition and has many functions in physiological processes:
- boron is essential for root elongation, carbohydrate and cell wall formation
- boron affects the protein synthesis and the regulation of nucleic acid synthesis
- boron activates the sucrose production and the transportation to other plant organs
A standard fertilizer recommendation to reach 30 t FFB includes an application of 3.0 – 3.5 kg MOP (Muriate of Potash) applied in 2 applications for mineral soils and up to 3 applications in peat soils. To supply the magnesium needs of the oil palm an application of 1.5 kg palm-1 ESTA Kieserite is recommended.
For convenience, time saving and to distribute the nutrients very evenly in each application whilst ensuring the most efficient uptake and utilization of potassium, magnesium and boron the use of Korn-Kali + B is recommended. 5.5 – 6.0 kg Korn-Kali + B split into 3 applications is sufficient to deliver the plant’s requirements of the essential nutrients potassium, magnesium and boron.