Estate Scale Experiments (ESE) in Oil Palm: Supporting the Oil Palm and the Fertilizer Industry to Meet the Demands of Sustainable Intensification


24 Mar 2015

2014 Annual Interpretive Summary

Implementation of this project is between 2015 and 2019 in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. This project builds on the analytical approaches of Plantation IntelligenceTM to 1) guide the establishment of Estate-Scale Experiments (ESE) in commercial palm oil production systems, and 2) analyze and distill the results generated within such ESE for fertilizer use decisions that lead to higher returns on investment in fertilizer.

This 6,000 ha trial was implemented from January 2015 to enable full integration into the partner plantations processes of fertilizer recommendation and application. We deploy a single treatment [NPKMg rate], at three levels: ‘normal’ (the rate that would be applied conventionally), +25% and -25%. This is a low risk design that will provide good insight about fertilizer productivity. The total fertilizer application, hence cost, will be almost the same as ‘normal’ (a slight deviation could occur due to unequal block size). The treatment is varied block-by-block. Fertilizer is applied in the normal way (i.e., hand/machine). IPNI SEAP and Agronomy R&D of the partner plantation jointly adjust recommendations when leaf analyses results are available and regular rates defined. Fertilizer rate adjustments are only made for KCl, Urea, NPK, and Zn. The rates for rock phosphate, dolomite, kieserite, and borate remain unchanged. Empty fruit bunch application will be modified if needed and it is planned for the 30% of sandy soils in the KSY1 estate.

Project field implementation has started in January 2015. Fertilizer remains the largest single variable cost to plantation managers, but the actual effects of the fertilizer applied are largely unknown at the estate scale. Should managers reduce or increase rates, where, and by how much? The estate scale experiments embedded within the commercial production system answers these questions, because the experiment occurs at the scale at which the managers’ decisions are implemented.