Cultivation of Oilpalm: Complete guide on Oilpalm tree farming involves in seed treatment, planting, pest management, irrigation, harvesting and uses.
Scientific name of OILPALM (Elaeis guineensis) Palmae:
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms, primarily the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis, and to a lesser extent from the American oil palm Elaeis oleifera and the maripa palm Attalea maripa.
Palm oil is naturally reddish in color because of a high beta-carotene content. It is not to be confused with palm kernel oil derived from the kernel of the same fruit, or coconut oil derived from the kernel of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). The differences are in color (raw palm kernel oil lacks carotenoids and is not red), and in saturated fat content: Palm mesocarp oil is 41% saturated, while palm kernel oil and coconut oil are 81% and 86% saturated respectively.
Along with coconut oil, palm oil is one of the few highly saturated vegetable fats and is semi-solid at room temperature. Like most plant-based products, palm oil contains very little cholesterol.
Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient in the tropical belt of Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of Brazil. Its use in the commercial food industry in other parts of the world is widespread because of its lower cost and the high oxidative stability (saturation) of the refined product when used for frying.
Oil Palm Leaves, Fruits & Seeds
Dura, Tenera, Pisifora
Temperature is 210 C to 320C, annual rainfall – 200 cm and relative humidity – 75 – 100 %. Altitude – 450 -900 m above MSL.
Moist deep, loamy soils, rich in humus with good water permeability are suitable. Soil pH – 4 – 6
Fruits are separated from the bunch. Remove the exocarp and mesocarp with knife. Dry the seeds on concrete or wooden floors under shade for 2 days and stored for 3-9 months. Seeds are soaked in water for 5 days (changing the water daily) and spread out to dry for 24 hours. Dried seeds are put in 250 gauge and 23 X 13 cm size polythene bags filled with top soil, sand and well decomposed cattle manure in equal proportions and placed for germination. Germination (90-95 %) starts 10-12 days. Apply fertilizer mixture containing 15:15:6 of NPK @ 8 g in 5 litres of water for 100 seedlings
Oil Palm Nursery
Pit size 60 cm3. Planting can be done in triangular system with spacing of 9 m x 9 m x 9 m, accommodating 140 palms/ha, May-June is the suitable season for planting.
Empty bunches, male flowers, coconut husk, sugarcane trash can be used as mulch.
Yielding palm of 3 years age and above – minimum of 150 litres/day.
5 hrs of irrigation per day using 4 drippers per palm @ 8 litres of water /hr/dripper.
Removal of all inflorescences during the initial three years to gain adequate stem girth, vigour and root system. Ablation is done at monthly intervals by pulling out the young inflorescence.
For five year old palm, apply 50 kg compost of FYM or grenn leaves may be applied.
Fertilizer schedule: N: P: K : Mg So4 (g/palm/year)
1st year = 400:200:400:125
2nd year = 800:400:800:250
3rd year onwards = 1200:600:1200:500 (2 equal split doses on July- Aug & Dec – Jan)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maintenance of paths:
In young plantation, the maintenance of paths is important for inspection and in later years for harvesting. This is carried out by timely weed control as done in the case of ring weeding.
The bunches produced initially will be very small and have low oil content. Removal of such inflorescences is called ablation or castration. Removal of all inflorescences during the initial three years is found to improve vegetative growth of young palms so that regular harvesting can commence after three and half years of planting. Ablation is done at monthly interval by pulling out the young inflorescence using gloves or with the help of devices such as narrow bladed chisels. Ablation improves drought resistance capacity of young palms by improving shoot and root growth especially in low production areas where dry condition exists.
Oil Palm Ablation
Severe pruning will adversely affect both growth and yield of palm, cause abortion of female flowers and also reduce the size of the leaves. It was suggested that the palms aged 4 – 7 years should retain 6-7 leaves per spiral (48-56 leaves), those aged 8 – 14 years 5-6 leaves per spiral (40- 49 leaves) and those above 15 years should have 4-5 leaves per spiral (32 – 40 leaves).
Pueraria phaeseoloides, Calopogonium mueconoides, Centrosema prutascens, Mimosa invisa, Mucana sp.
Insect pollination in oil palm:
The oil palm, hitherto though to be wind pollinated, has been now proved to be an a insect pollinated species. From West Africa, the original home of oil palm, eight species of pollinating weevils were reported. Occurence of Eldeidobius kamerunicus in the oil palm plantations of Kerala was introduced during 1985 from where it was introduced and got established in little Andamans during 1986. The weevils are dark brown in colour. Adult weevils feed on the anther filament. Eggs are deposited inside the male flowers and larva feeds on the spent flowers. Life-cycle is completed within 11 to 13 days. Males live longer than females. The activity of the insects is in accordance with the receptivity of the male and female inflorescences. It was roughly estimated that 40 palms in a grove might be the minimum to sustain a sufficiently high continuous population of pollinators to pollinate. All are receptive female inflorescences. The weevils carry maximum pollen during the third day of antheses. Antennae, rostrum, thorax, legs etc. are the main sites of pollen land.
Introduction of weevil in India increased the fruit let from 36.8 percent to 56.1 percent resulting in 40 per cent increase in F/B ratio. The maximum attainable pollination potential was as much as to cent percent with 57 percent increase in FFB weight.
Trap the adults with fermented castor cake or pheromone bait. Use Bio agents like virus (Baculovirus oryctes) and Fungi (Metarrihizium anisopliae). Treat the compost pit with Carbaryl or Quinalphos @ 0.025 % to kill the young stages of pest.
Red palm weevil:
Removal of damaged and rotten bunches and apply tar to the wounds and cuts on the stem portion to avoid egg laying. Trap the adult beetles using pheromone baits. Root feeding of Monocrotophos (10ml of insecticide in 10 ml of water).
Red Palm Weevil
Root feeding of Monocrotophos (10ml of insecticide in 10 ml of water).
Stem wet rot:
Removal of infected portion and protective covering with Carbendazim (1%) + Monocrotophos (1ml) paste.
Bud rot disease:
The affected crown should be removed and drenched with Carbendazim or Thiram @ 0.1 %.
Basal stem rot:
Removal and destruction of diseased palms. Apply 5 kg of Neem cake per year per tree.Root feeding with Calixin 10 ml or 10 g Aureofungin sol in 100 ml of water per tree per year.
First harvest can be done 3.5 to 4 years after planting. Few ripe fruits are loose/fall off indicates the bunch is ready for harvest. In Young palms, Chisel harvesting is followed. If palms become taller (from 10th year onwards), then harvesting is done by hook. Harvesting rounds should be made as frequent as possible to avoid over ripening of bunches. Harvesting rounds of 10-12 days are generally practiced. During rainy season harvesting rounds of 6-7 days are followed.
25 – 30 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches/ hectare.
The use of palm oil in food products has attracted the concern of environmental activist groups; the high oil yield of the trees has encouraged wider cultivation, leading to the clearing of forests in parts of Indonesia in order to make space for oil-palm monoculture. This has resulted in significant acreage losses of the natural habitat of the orangutan, of which both species are endangered; one species in particular, the Sumatran orangutan, has been listed as critically endangered. In 2004, an industry group called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed to work with the palm oil industry to address these concerns. Additionally, in 1992, in response to concerns about deforestation, the Malaysian Government pledged to limit the expansion of palm oil plantations by retaining a minimum of half the nation’s land as forest cover.
Palm oil is also an important source of calories and a food staple in poor communities. However its overall health impacts, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease, are controversial and subject to ongoing research.
Much of the palm oil that is consumed as food is cooking oil, to some degree oxidized rather than in the fresh state, and this oxidation appears to be responsible for the health risk associated with consuming palm oil.
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