Cultivation of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) has increased tremendously in recent years owing to the rising demand for both vegetable oils and biodiesel feedstock worldwide. It is grown in more than 20 countries located between the latitudes of 20° north and 20° south of the equator. Globally, it occupies an area of 11 million hectare with a total production of 35 million tons of palm oil in 2007. It is estimated that the demand for palm oil would be 68 million tons, out of 170 million tons of vegetable oils by 2015. Presently, South East Asia is the dominant region of production, with Malaysia and Indonesia accounting for around 86% of the world’s palm oil production in 2007. India, China and the EU are the major global importers of palm oil.
The oil palm is essentially a crop belonging to the humid tropics, however, it has adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions ranging from wet tropical to dry semi-arid tropics. This plant grows and thrives on a wide range of soils. The most widely cultivated and high yielding oil palm variety is Tenera. The optimum plant density is 143 palms/ha.
Adoption of drip irrigation and fertigation proved to be technically feasible, economically viable and beneficial in many ways both in humid tropics and semiarid regions. Drip irrigation registered a higher yield (15 to 25%) as well as saving in water, fertilizer, energy and labor.
Under Indian conditions the 10 year old drip irrigated oil palm registered 26 tons/ha FFB, Net Present Value (NPV) of 12277 USD/ha, an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 63% and payback period of five years.
The crop water requirement was estimated at 1.4 to 2.8 mm/day in the nursery stage and 2.4 to 5.5 mm/day in the main field. Oil palm is a heavy feeder of nutrients. Its root system is shallow and fibrous, hence fertigation is recommended for higher availability and use efficiency. The aim of the fertigation program is to cover the difference between crop demand and supply. The recommended nutrient dose for drip irrigated oil palm is 150 N, 90 P2O5 and 425 K2O kg/ha. The nutrient uptake per ton of FFB is estimated at 8.0 kg nitrogen, 2.5 kg phosphorus, 13.2 kg potassium and 4.2 kg magnesium.
Other best management practices include canopy management, pruning, protection of crop from pests and diseases, need based weed management, harvesting and post harvesting operations to minimize losses.
Netafim Oil Palm Knowledge Leader
Mr. Ami Charitan (B.Sc.Agr.) has been positioned as Chief Agronomist of perennial plants and new perennial crop development at Netafim’s Agro-Marketing Division since 1997.
Since joining Netafim in 1960, Ami has assumed various agronomical and managerial positions, including President of Netafim USA, General Manager of Netafim Hatzerim and Farm Manager of Fruit Trees.
Research & Academic Background
Ami Charitan is involved in field experiments of advanced orchard irrigation solutions. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Soil Science and Horticulture from the Faculty of Agriculture, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1975), and has studied Business Management at the LAHAV program of Tel Aviv University.