Frequently Asked Questions

? Where will we get literature on oil palm cultivation?
Ans.: Literature pertaining to oil palm cultivation is available at NRC for Oil Palm, Pedavegi -534 450, West Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh and its regional station, Palode, Trivandrum - 695 562, Kerala, Department of Agriculture/Horticulture in respective oil palm growing states.

? Who will supply seedlings, where it will be available?
Ans.: Seedlings are raised by the entrepreneur identified for the area. Farmers can directly approach the entrepreneur or the Department of Horticulture/ Agriculture of the area/district.

? Please tell us about marketing of oil palm and government support to cultivate oil palm?
Ans.: Oil Palm Development Programme (OPDP) is being implemented in 11 potential states (for oil palm cultivation) in India. As per that, oil palm potential areas were allotted to oil palm processing companies in respective states. Each company will take up area expansion in respective areas and collect the Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB). Price Fixation Committee of the respective states will fix oil palm FFB price. These FFB rates will be paid to the farmers by the processors within a fortnight/month

(Climatic Requirements, Pre planting, Planting, Irrigation, Fertilisers, Intercultural operations and Intercropping)
? What are the factors to be considered while selecting the plot for oil palm cultivation?
Ans.: Good soil i.e., well drained, deep, loamy alluvial soils rich in organic matter with good water permeability. Avoid high alkaline, highly saline (more than 8.5 pH), water logged and coastal sandy soils. Adequate water availability and power supply.

? Whether oil palm will come up well in black cotton soils?
Ans.: Soils having pH from 6.5 to 8.5 are suitable to grow oil palm under irrigated conditions. Oil palm will come up well in black cotton soils. Ill drained soils, saline and alkaline soils are also not suitable to grow oil palm. However, if someone is particular to grow oil palm in black cotton soils, drainage needs to be improved. It was observed that application of 1 truck load of red earth / sand / murram at a depth of 1-3 ft from the surface into the basin of 3 m diameter, improved soil and plant growth over a period of 3 years. Yield was also increased significantly.

? What are the precautions to be taken up while planting of oil palm in clay soils/new clay soils needed to bring for oil palm cultivation?
Ans.: Permeability of the soil has to be improved. This can be achieved through application of sand and copious amounts of organic matter. However, all these would involve additional expenditure.

? How many plants can be accommodated in one Acre/ha?
Ans.: Triangular method of planting must be followed with 9 meter spacing to accommodate 57 plants per acre or 143 plants per hectare.

? What is the best season for planting oil palm?
Ans.: Monsoon period is the best season for planting i.e., June to December. However planting can be done in other seasons as well with assured irrigation facility but will require additional care.

? How to manage irrigation in oil palm?
Ans.: Oil palm requires sufficient irrigation, as it is a fast growing crop with high productivity and biomass production. Do not grow oil palm if assured irrigation facility is not available. Insufficient irrigation will reduce the rate of leaf production, affects the sex ratio and results in inflorescence abortion and yield reduction.
For grown up yielding palms of 3 years age and above a minimum of 200-250 liters of water per day is must. However, in older plantations during hot summer this amount may be increased up to 300-350 liters.
When irrigation is not a constraint, basin irrigation can be taken up. Prepare irrigation channels in such a way that, the individual palms are connected separately by sub channels. If irrigation water is limited and land is of undulated terrain drip or micro sprinkler irrigation will be of advantage.
In drip system, a minimum of four drippers has to be placed for each palm. If each dripper discharges 8 liters of water per hour, 7 hours of irrigation per day is sufficient to discharge 224 liters per day. Drippers should be checked periodically for proper discharge of water. Basins must be adequately mulched, which will help to conserve moisture. Do not run irrigation channels along the palm rows.

? What is the frequency of irrigation in basin system?
Ans.: Required quantity (@ 200- 250 lit per day / palm normally and 300-350 lit/day/ palm during hot summer) of water could be given at weekly intervals. For light soils frequent irrigation with less water is to be given. If more water is given at a time, leaching of nutrients would be more. In heavy soils, irrigation intervals can be longer. Basins must be adequately mulched and covered with soil, which will help to conserve moisture effectively in basin system of irrigation.

? Whether drip irrigation can be provided to oil palm?
Ans.: Yes, drip irrigation can be provided to oil palm. In drip system, four drippers have to be placed for each palm (in light soils dripper number need to be increased). If each dripper discharges 8 liters of water per hour, 7 hours of irrigation per day is sufficient to discharge 224 liters per day. Drippers should be checked periodically for proper discharge of water.
Subsidy for drip irrigation for oil palm is available on the drip material (refer to Subsidies section of Blog)

? What are the water stress symptoms?
Ans.: If water is adequate, normally one unopened spindle, one partially opened spindle and one fully opened spindle can be seen in the crown of oil palm. If palm is under severe water stress two or more unopened spindles will be seen in the crown of the palm. More the severity of drought more the unopened leaves.

? How to manage oil palm during summer?
Ans.: When temperature reaches > 400 C and RH is low, if heat waves exist during summer, the adverse climate will affect oil palm growth and yield. Hence necessary precautions need to be taken during summer in oil palm plantations (Water stress to the palm can be identified in oil palm with the presence of two or more unopened spindles on the crown).
If irrigation is provided through basin method, in light soils provide more frequently with recommended quantity. In heavy soils provide recommended quantity in less frequency. If irrigation is provided through micro irrigation, check the discharge of drip/jets.
Mulching : In order to avoid losses through evaporation, check weed growth and conserve moisture, practice mulching in the palm basins with coconut husk, oil palm empty fruit bunches, oil palm/coconut fiber, maize stalk, dried oil palm fronds etc.

? If irrigation is not given for some time, what will happen to oil palm?
Ans.: If irrigation is not given to oil palm for some time, palm will be subjected to water stress. All biological activities will be stopped and three or four unopened spindles will appear in the crown, which is an indication of water stress. Insufficient irrigation will reduce the rate of leaf production, affects the sex ratio and results in inflorescence abortion and yield reduction. Although reduction in rate of leaf production can be seen immediately, yield reduction will be visualized only after several months to 3 years.

? How to provide good drainage in heavy soils?
Ans.: Provide trenches (1 feet width, 3 feet depth and to a required length) across the slope for every three or four rows of oil palm.

? What are the advantages of mulching?
Ans.: Mulching in addition to conserving moisture, maintain soil temperature, add organic matter and nutrients mainly potassium, improve physical and biological properties of soil and check weed growth in the basin area.

? What is the quality of water required to irrigate oil palm?
Ans.: The pH of the water should be neutral to acidic and Electrical Conductivity (EC) can be in the range of 1-2 m mhos.cm-1.

? What is the fertilizer requirement for oil palm?
Ans.: Oil palm is a heavy feeder and demands a balanced and adequate supply of macro, secondary and micro - nutrients for growth and yield. For newly planted crop, the first dose of fertilizer can be applied three months after planting.
Nutrient requirements are 400 gm of nitrogen, 200gm of phosphorous, 400 gm potash and 125 gm of magnesium sulphate in the first year;
800 gm of nitrogen, 400gm of phosphorous, 800 gm potash and 250 gm of magnesium sulphate in the second year;
1200 gm of nitrogen, 600gm of phosphorous, 1200 gm potash and 500 gm of magnesium sulphate need to be applied in third year onwards.
Borax @ 100 gm per palm per year is recommended when the deficiency symptoms are noticed.
Fertilizers are to be applied in a minimum of three to four equal splits in a year. If good FYM is available, add 50 – 100 kg FYM or 100 kg green manure per palm along with the second dose of fertilizer application. Five kg of neem cake per palm can also be applied. However care should be taken to reduce the nitrogen through chemical fertilizer in proportion to that available in FYM.
Broadcast the fertilizers around the clean weeded basin, about 50 cm away from the palm base as the absorbing roots are concentrated there and incorporate fertilizer into the soil by forking. Irrigate the palms immediately after fertilizer application.
If the native soil fertility is high, nitrogen application can be reduced. Where yields are 30-35 t/ha amount of potash may be increased to 1800-2400 gms/palm/year. (3-4kg of muriate of potash/palm/yr.)

? Is it good to give fertilizer through drip system?
Ans.: If provision exists in the drip system, it is always good to give fertilizers through drip irrigation.

? What is the quantity of fertilizer to be applied for oil palm, in case through fertigation?
Ans.: Although this has not been established for oil palm, studies with other crops indicate that the fertilizer requirement can be reduced up to 50% through fertigation.

? What is the frequency of fertilizer application in oil palm?
Ans.: Fertilizers can be applied in 3 / 4 splits in oil palm. Based on the soil (sand) type more number of splits is also advised.
? What is the method of fertilizer application?
Ans.: Fertilizers are to be applied in 3 / 4 equal split doses starting from June. After application of fertilizers, magnesium and boron can be applied with a 2/3 days gap respectively. Broadcast the fertilizers around the clean weeded basin, about 50 cm away from the palm base as there exist the absorbing roots and incorporate fertilizer into the soil by forking with iron rake. Irrigate the palms immediately after fertilizer application.

? Whether oil palm needs copper?
Ans.: Yes, it needs copper in minute quantities.

? What type of intercrops can be grown in oil palm? What are the precautions to be taken while growing intercrops?
Ans.: Oil palm is a wide spaced perennial crop with a long juvenile period of three years. A lot of horizontal and vertical space both above and below ground is available. This space can be used to generate income during the juvenile phase of the crop. Crop selected for intercropping should be compatible with the main crop and should not compete with the oil palm for light, water and nutrients. Crops like vegetables, banana, flowers, tobacco, chillies, turmeric, ginger and pineapple etc. can be grown. In case of maize, sorghum, and sugarcane proper spacing needs to be given. Oil palm crop should not be affected due to shade and root competition of inter crop. While growing pulses like green gram, black gram, cowpea and oilseeds like gingelly, groundnut which do not require frequent irrigation, care must be taken to irrigate oil palm regularly, so that oil palm does not suffer for lack of water. While raising intercrops avoid tying or cutting of oil palm fronds, which will reduce photosynthetic activity and avoid ploughing close to the palm base, which will cut the absorbing roots and thereby reduce intake of water and nutrient. Allow oil palm to grow freely.
Maximum number of green leaves should be retained on the palm, only the lower dried and senile leaves must be pruned. Severe pruning must be avoided, as it will adversely affect the growth and yield.

? Whether cocoa can be grown as intercrop in oil palm?
Ans.: Yes, Cocoa can be grown as intercrop in oil palm when, oil palm attains age of 10 – 12 years or 5 – 6 meters height. Cocoa should be planted in a single row in the inter row spaces of oil palm @ 158 plants per acre or 395 plants per hectare. Care should be taken to avoid excess sunlight or complete shade while cocoa is planted. Cocoa should not compete for water and nutrients with oil palm, hence water and nutrients need to be provided separately as per recommendation.

? How many leaves have to be retained in the crown?
Ans.: In order to have better photosynthetic activity in the palm and for good growth of the palm, 45-50 leaves needed to be retained in the palm crown.

? Whether pruning can be done?
Ans.: No, pruning cannot be done in oil palm. However older leaves, senile leaves, pest or disease affected leaves can be removed selectively.

? How to control weeds?
Ans.: Regular manual weeding should be taken up. Herbicides, preferably contact herbicides should be used. Among systemic herbicides, Glyphosate (750 ml/ha/ year or 17.5 ml/basin) is recommended for effective weed control. Weedicide is applied while weeds are in early growth stage for effective control. Weedicide is applied on a clear sunshine day, with 8 hours of dry atmosphere after spray. Avoid irrigation while weedicide is applied. The effect of weedicide would be seen in one week after application. Apply 2/3 times in a year if weed density is more. Mulching, growing cover crops and intercrops also reduce weed growth.

? Whether ploughing can be done in oil palm?
Ans.: No, ploughing shouldn’t be done in oil palm. Oil palm roots are at a very shallow depth. Ploughing close to the palm base, will cut the absorbing roots and there reduce intake of water and nutrients. This will lead to reduction in the rate of leaf production, affects the sex ratio and results in inflorescence abortion and yield reduction.

? Some palms are giving more male flowers only, why?
Ans.: Stress caused due to lack of sufficient irrigation, lack of adequate nutrition, severe ploughing, severe leaf pruning, pest/disease incidence, will increase the sex ratio resulting more male flowers than female flowers.

? Why some bunches are aborting?
Ans.: Stress caused due to lack of sufficient irrigation, lack of adequate nutrition, severe ploughing, severe leaf pruning, pest/disease incidence can lead to abortion of bunches.

? Some palms are huge and robust, but not yielding, why?
Ans.: Tenera oil palm which is commonly grown commercially is a hybrid, obtained by crossing a female parent Dura and a male parent Pisifera. Sometimes few palms show Pisifera characters, which is huge, robust without any yield.

? Whether hard soil will affect yield?
Ans.: Hard or compact soil will severely affect root growth, which in turn affect the uptake of water and nutrients, ultimately lead to less leaf production, affects sex ratio and results in emergence of more male flowers and affects the yield.

? What is ablation?
Ans.: Ablation is the removal of male and female flowers produced in the early stages in plantation. This helps the plant to gain adequate stem girth, vigour and develop adequate root system. Ablation should be done immediately after appearance of inflorescence. Inflorescence can be removed easily by hand pulling. Ablation can be extended up to two and half to 3 years depending on the plant growth and vigour.

? How many leaves can be removed during harvesting?
Ans.: In oil palm dead, dried and diseased leaves only can be pruned. The leaves, which are obstructing harvesting, can be removed.

? What are the cost effective management practices to get higher yields in oil palm?
Ans. The cost effective management practices are :
1. Use all the organic residues from the oil palm gardens to recycle the nutrients. This can cut the cost of fertilizers up to 75%. Apply fertilizers  continuously as per recommendations. 
2. Adopt micro irrigation system, which may involve large initial investment, but in the long run works out to be more cost effective, as it saves water and produce more yield per unit of water used. It also reduces weeding costs.

? How to overcome salt water problem in oil palm?
Ans.: Normally oil palm does not come up well in saline as well as alkaline soils. Therefore, try to avoid growing oil palm with salt water. If already planted and encountering with salt water problem, try to leach the salts with additional water and also add organic matter continuously to minimize the adverse affects.

? What are the causes for premature fruit dropping in oil palm?
Ans.: During initial years of bearing, immature fruit drop is common. But with advance of age this will be stopped. Sometimes it may be due to physiological imbalance or due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity during summer. Try to provide irrigation at frequent and regular intervals during summer. Add mulch in the palm basins. If it appears to be due to a pathological problem try to contact area Horticulture Officer / office of Assistant Director of Horticulture / Factory personnelor NRC for oil palm for remedial measure.

? From which stage onwards intercultural operations are to be taken up in oil palm?
Ans.: Intercultural operations are most important immediately after the seedlings are transplanted in the main field. At this stage the seedlings are very small and widely spaced, hence the seedlings should not face any competition from weeds. To achieve this, basins should be kept clean all the time. Secondly, during the first three years as the seedlings don’t occupy all the land that is provided, care should be taken to raise come intercrops or green manure crops  so that the seedlings will not experience, hot winds or excessive soil heating, which may hinder the seedling growth.

? What are the causes for getting yields in high and low quantities alternatively in a year in oil palm?
Ans.: Yield cycles with in a year and between years is common in oil palm i.e. when the palms yield continuously high yields in certain years, sometimes they will be followed by low yields in the following year later with good yields in the following year/s if managed well. This should not worry the farmer. However, care should be taken to provide consistently good management through out the productive life of the palm.

? What is the cause for producing male inflorescences in high proportions in some palms, though good water management conditions are existing?
Ans.: The reasons could be
1. The palm might have produced high bunch number in the previous year.
2. Malpractice like Deep ploughing in basin area
3. Lack of irrigation
4. Lack of Nutrition

? How to grow oil palm on hill slope areas, how to irrigate and apply fertilizers ?
Ans.: Planting can be done on the terraces with three meters radius on one side andbund on the other side. Half moon shaped basin can be prepared around oil palmafter planting for irrigation. Fertilizers can be applied with in the basin.

? How much yield can be obtained from one ha Oil Palm plantation?
Ans.: Oil Palm starts flowering from 18 months after planting, ablation will be practiced till 2.5 years to 3 years. Under well managed conditions, during initial stages (4 to 6 years), it gives upto 20-24 small bunches (weight ranging from 3-15 kgs.). Over the years gradually the bunch size will increase and the average bunch number would be 10-14. In adult plantations the bunch average size ranges from 20-35 kgs. From well managed plantations, an average yield of 12-25 tonns/ha can be obtained during 5-9 years of age and 25-30 tonns/ha from 10 years of age and above.

? Which variety of seedling is good? Whether Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, PNG or Palode and which will yield best?
Ans.: Research results showed that, they are all uniform in their yield performance, hence all of them are equally good.

? Whether I can grow coconut, cashew, and citrus as inter crops in adult oil palm?
Ans.: Coconut should never be grown in oil palm plantations. Cashew and citrus are not recommended as inter-crops.

? Can I plant the seedlings, which are emerged from the falling fruits in my garden?
Ans.: No, commercially grown oil palm is a hybrid, hence the seeds obtained from them should never be used to raise new garden in view of segregation.

? Many farmers are telling that in adult palms, entire root system was spread all over, Can I irrigate 4 palms by making a big basin or flooding the entire row?
Ans.: Yes, if water is not a constraint, and field is leveled, wetting the whole plantation can be done using check bunds. However, care should be taken to see that all the palms are uniformly irrigated.