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Performance of Irrigated and Non-Irrigated Oil Palms

Literature Review : Performance of Irrigated and Non-Irrigated Oil Palms The growth and production of oil palms are known to be influenced by the variations in climatic conditions especially by the rainfall distribution in Malaysia. Although Malaysia has copious rainfall, there are certain areas which are drier than the rest due to the differences in the lands geography such as inland areas which are sheltered by mountain ranges and are relatively free from its influences. This will influence the ratio of female to male inflorescence by decreasing the number of female inflorescence and promoting inflorescence abortion. These might due to the differential costs of producing male inflorescence versus female inflorescence, size of the palm and also the relationship between sink and source. Water stress in oil palms could also effect the oil palm yield by affecting the bunch ripening and oil accumulation in the bunches. In addition to that, the decline in the physical state of the oil palm could also be seen when palms are subjected to water stress. These include an increase in vegetative disorders (accumulation of unopened leaves, premature drying out of lower leaves, broken green leaves, drying out of bunches and toppling of the entire canopy or in the worst case, die), decrease in trunk size, stunted young palms and declining frond production of about 4% to 12% as compared to a wet site. This is due to the limitation in the nutrient uptake by the oil palm since the nutrients are taken in from the soil solution. Low availability of water in the soil will cause the remaining available water and nutrients to be tightly held within the soil matrix. Besides that, water stress in oil palms will also induce the closure of stomata and thus reducing the transpiration and photosynthesis rate. Water deficiency in oil palm could also lead to the unavailability of nutrients in the soil solution. Since oil palm absorbs nutrients in the form of solution, it is vital that the soil has adequate water to dissolve the nutrients. Based on an experiment done by FELDA (2000) showing the effects of fertilizers on irrigated and non-irrigated, it is proven that irrigation has a positive affect on frond production, frond length, dry weight and leaf area as compared to non-irrigated site. Besides that, there is also an increase in bunch weight which directly influences the FFB yield which showed an increase of 35%. The yearly rainfall in the area also influences the FFB yield as too much rainfall coupled with irrigation will reduce the

Performance of Irrigated and Non-Irrigated Oil Palms

FFB yields due to excessive water in the soil which causes leaching and runoff of nutrients. This can be seen in the graph below where the rainfall exceeded 2000mm per year in 2006 AND 2010, the FFB yield declined. Although oil palm can tolerate rainfall up to 5,000mm per year, the soil must be properly drained in order for the oil palm to sustain its production. Overall, the FFB yield was higher and better in the irrigated plot as compared to non-irrigated plot. In order to prevent water stress in oil palms especially in the drier regions, irrigation set ups are proposed. There are many types of irrigation which can be used such as overhead spray, overhead sprinkler, layflat perforated polythene tube, drip irrigation and furrows. The advantages and disadvantages of the irrigation types mentioned above are listed in the following table. Table 1: Advantages and disadvantages of different types of irrigation. Irrigation Type Overhead Mist Spray System Advantages The mist distributed in a square. Delivered in fine mist for better penetration into the soil. Overhead Sprinkler No fertilizers wash off from the bad. Easy for cleaning. Can be used on undulating terrain. Creates larger wetted area. Uniform watering. Less blockage. Easy to maintain. Reusable. Can deliver necessary High capital cost. Larger water droplet size. Require more piping. Disadvantages Clogging of filter that requires frequent cleaning. Strong wind velocity affects the water distribution. Require more piping. High initial cost to set up. May have blind spot if fitted at wrong angle. Frequent cleaning is required if water is dirty.


Performance of Irrigated and Non-Irrigated Oil Palms

amounts of water. Layflat Perforated Able to adapt to the size of the field. Very fine mist droplet. No hardcapping. Low requirement. Low capital cost. pressure Drip Irrigation Provide localized Need a level base & free of hard/sharp article. Wind drift. Blockages. Interference fronds. Require clean water. Require sufficient pressure. Water jet may be impeded by tall seedlings. Regular flushing required to prevent clogging. Digging trenches for dripper lines close to palm causes root damage. Furrows Provide on-farm water management flexibility under many surface irrigation conditions. Medium maintenance. Do No not micro-climate prevent cooling intercropping irrigation. effect. High filtration and water quality demands. Difficult inspection during irrigation. High initial costs. Low WUE and fertilizer use efficiency. No mirco-climate cooling effect. Low water distribution. labor needs irrigation pattern with high WUE and fertilizer use efficiency. Reduce the growth of weeds between plant rows. Medium maintenance. Reduce and energy. by growing Polythene Tube

Performance of Irrigated and Non-Irrigated Oil Palms

Low water


and quality

High erosive potential of the flow. Difficulty in moving farm equipments. Evaporation surface. from water

demands. Easy inspection during irrigation. Low investment. primary

Implementing irrigation system in oil palm plantations proves to be beneficial not only to the oil palm itself but also to the estates in the long run. This can be seen in the physical conditions of the oil palm whereby there is an increase in the girth size and leaf area. The girth size of the oil palm is important as the trunks acts as sinks during immature stage and as a buffer during maturity so that the bunches are able to retain nutrients. A higher photosynthesis rate will also be recorded as the leaf area increases. This means that the palm will be able to produce more assimilates which in return will increase the bunch number and to a lesser extent, heavier bunch weight. This can be seen where FFB yields increased by 12.8% totaled over the 3 years of planting (Lee, Nga, Romzi and Ismail, 2005). Providing adequate amount of water to the oil palm through irrigation methods can also produce denser and healthier canopies that are able to shade the ground better to prevent weeds and reduce water loss from the soil. Proper irrigation could also increase the production of frond number by 18% (5-6 fronds/palm), during years where the dry spell is more prominent. Besides that, the amount of oil produced per palm will also have a significant increase as the kernel to bunch ratio is recorded to increase by 10%. In the long term, the plantation will be able to sustain yields of 30-36 t/ha for more than 10 years. In an experiment by Lee et. al. (2005), the yield response to irrigation in a drier region with poor soils condition was much higher at 73% but in a moderately wet region, it showed a 35% higher yield response. However, yield responses to irrigation are subjected to the humidity level at that point of time as low humidity will restrict photosynthesis and thus reduces the responses.

Performance of Irrigated and Non-Irrigated Oil Palms

The main challenges in implementing large scale irrigation are inadequate water supply and also unsuitable terrain. Inadequate water supply poses a huge challenge to us especially in the inland area due to the small amount of rainfall and also the difficulty in looking for a good water source. Unsuitable terrain such as uneven ground, terraced areas and slopes also influence the choosing and implementation of irrigation.