Long-term crop residue application maintains oil palm yield and temporal stability of production

Our latest research paper covers the tropical crop oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and the use of the crop residues. The primary use of Oil palm is to produce palm oil extracted from the pulp of the fruit and the kernel. This palm oil is used for food and co

Posted on 14 August 2017.

Our latest research paper covers the tropical crop oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and the use of the crop residues. Edmeades (2003) found that crop residue application to soils could improve soil fertility and ecosystem functioning in a variety of crops. This is through the provisioning of trophic resources to the soil, modification of the soil abiotic environment and enhanced soil biological activity. The primary use of Oil palm is to produce palm oil extracted from the pulp of the fruit and the kernel. Palm oil is used for food and cosmetics but there are residues that are currently under-utilised at present, with chemical fertiliser application being a common practice. As part of our case study work package, Jake Snaddon is interested in the effects of applying the empty fruit bunch, the residue, to soils on crop yield and temporal stability of production.

 

The residue was applied to soils at three application rates to a field trial in Sumatra, Indonesia. Over 15 years, the effects of applying 30, 60, and 90t ha-1 residue were compared to a reference treatment of commercial chemical fertilisation application. The application of the residue increased crop yield by 2.4, 5.9 and 4.8% respectively over the 15-year period, despite small differences annually. In addition to crop improvements, soil organic carbon (SOC) and relative humidity was significantly improved under the medium application rate compared to chemical fertiliser application. This increase in SOC and humidity was associated with the increased crop yield but with a 2 year time-lag. This study indicates that application of the crop residue instead of chemical fertilisers can maintain the crop yield and temporal variability of the oil palm production. This is suggests that a management change in the growth of oil palm could improve environmental impacts of the crop production while maintaining the sustainability of this agricultural practice.

 

The research by Tao et al can be found at https://goo.gl/3rXCsg

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