10 Jan 2012

SEAP Quarterly Newsletter 2012-01

In this IssueOil palm research activities in SEAP
IPNI Program Updates
Oil palm research activities in SEAP

2012 IPNI Scholar and Science Awards

Wanted: Oil palm consultant

News From the Region


Coffee harvest in Indonesia poised for highest in three years

Vietnam coffee crop seen dropping 20% as rains damage flowers

Coffee grounds great for start-up


Malaysia's palm oil exports hit RM80 Billion in 2011

Belgian palm oil market pledges to become sustainable by 2015

Plantation company PT Bakrie Sumatera Plantations beef up its R&D unit


Indonesia rice surplus target date delayed

Thailand to fall behind in rice exports

IRRI and RDA developed ANMI, a rice variety that can withstand brown planthopper


Soil microbiologists discover microbe of global agricultural significance

Dr. Thomas Oberthur, Director, Southeast Asia, together with Dr. Joska Gerendas of K + S and Pak Pahala of Meroke PT (K + S business partner in Indonesia), travelled to Kalimantan in March to join the work in the Nutrient Efficiency BMP Project in Oil Palm plantations (SEA 05). This project, which started in October 2011 in collaboration with Sampoerna’s Sungai Rangit PT plantation, looks into issues associated with nutrient use efficiency of oil palm grown in coarse-textured soils.

Plantation companies commonly apply fertilizer seven times a year: N and K twice a year; P, Mg, and B once a year. Applying fertilizer at high doses could result in high nutrient leaching in sandy soils. It is hypothesized that a more frequent fertilizer application should improve the fertilizer use efficiency of oil palm, by either increasing yield at a given fertilizer rate or reducing fertilizer input for a given yield level.

In this project, two BMP treatments where fertilizer is applied as N-P-K-Mg-B-S mixture in 4 splits at the recommended (BMP 1) and at a reduced rate (BMP 2), are tested against two reference treatments (i.e., at normal and reduced fertilizer rates) following current standard practices of fertilizer application. These treatments are replicated three times within 2 estates of the plantation, totalling 12 commercial blocks. Additionally, each block has embedded omission plots for for -N, -P, -K, -Mg, -B, -S, each with 36 palms to determine fertilizer use efficiencies.

Weighing and mixing of fertilizer.

Dr. Oberthur’s visit coincided with the second application of fertilizer blends. Mixing of the bulk blends using Korn Kali, granular urea and amophos proved to be challenging, as well as the simultaneous application of fertilizers in the general blocks and in the omission plots. The estate’s fertilization crew applied fertilizer in the main block and the SR research team took care of the omission plots where individual small bags were prepared in advance for each individual palm.

A Standard Operations Manual for the fertilizer blending procedures was developed in English and Bahasa Indonesia.
2012 IPNI Scholar and Science Awards
The International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) is once again offering its IPNI Scholar Award to honor and encourage deserving graduate students, and the IPNI Science Award to recognize and promote distinguished achievements by scientists.

“We are proud to continue to offer these awards as they clearly have many positive benefits,” explained IPNI President Dr. Terry Roberts. “For students in the middle of, or just beginning, their research programs the Scholar Award provides a well deserved nod of encouragement, while the Science Award shines light on the accomplishments of established scientists. These awards are made possible by our member companies and are evidence of their respect for science.”

The Scholar Award requires students who are candidates for either a M.S. or Ph.D. degree in agronomy, soil science, or related fields to submit an application and supporting information by June 30. Individual graduate students in any country where an IPNI program exists are eligible. Only a limited number of recipients are selected for the award, worth USD 2,000 each. The application process is available on-line only. Recipients are announced in September.

The Science Award goes to one individual each year, based on outstanding achievements in research, extension, or education which focus on efficient and effective management of plant nutrients and their positive interaction in fully integrated crop production, enhancing yield potential and/or crop quality. It requires that a nomination form (no self-nomination) and supporting letters be submitted by mail before September 30. The Award announcement is December 1. It includes a monetary prize of USD 5,000.

More information about past winners of these awards, plus details on qualifications and requirements for both awards can be found at the IPNI website: >http://www.ipni.net/awards<
WANTED: Oil palm consultant
The International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), a scientific research organization dedicated to responsible management of plant nutrients in agriculture, has a job for a junior Oil Palm Consultant who meets the following criteria:
  • Indonesian nationality
  • At least 3 - 5 years experience in oil palm project management
  • Substantial work experience in the oil palm plantation sector, specifically in agronomy and soil fertility management
  • Exposure to research and development (R&D) with oil palm plantation companies or the wider sector
  • Fluent in Bahasa Indonesia
  • Reasonable level of English proficiency, must be able to write work reports in English
  • Able to work independently and communicate well with plantation work force and R&D partners
  • We offer 150 - 200 days contract employment per year for at least three years
  • Consultant fee commensurate with experience

Interested applicants are invited to email detailed resume and a recent photograph to seap@ipni.net.
News from the Region
Coffee harvest in Indonesia poised for highest in three years
The coffee harvest in indonesia, the third-biggest grower of the robusta variety used in instant drinks and espressos, is set to climb to the highest in three years, potentially capping a 12% rally. Production may increase 20% to 10 million bags this year from 8.3 million bags a year earlier, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. That's the most since 2009, according to U.S. government figures, and more than the 9.1 million bags predicted by Volcafe, a unit of ED&F Man Holdings, Ltd.

Robusta futures jumped to a five-month high in February as Vietnamese growers, the world's biggest, held back supplies. Global coffee exports fell 9.9% to 7.99 million bags in January from a year earlier, according to the International Coffee Organization. Shipments from Vietnam fell 19% to 292,000 tons in the first two months, according to the General Statistics Office in Hanoi. Farmers withheld beans after prices plunged 14% last year, forcing roasters to tap European stockpiles.

However, Suyanto Hussein, Chairman of the Indonesian Coffee Exporters Association (AEKI) expressed doubt that the country's coffee production in 2012 could rise as high as 9.1 million bags as predicted by Volcafe. Suyanto said that although weather condition has improved, the effect of the extreme weather condition last year would still undermine the local coffee production.

Pranoto Soenarto, Director of coffee producer and retailer PT Excelso Multi Rasa, expressed a similar pessimistic view. He expected that a significant jump in the country's coffee production could be realized starting 2014 after the replanting program sponsored by the government has been realized.

Source: Agroasia, March 2012, www.agroasianews.com
Vietnam coffee crop seen dropping 20% as rains damage flowers
Robusta coffee production in Vietnam, the world’s largest grower, may decline as much as 20% next year after rains damaged flowers and aging trees trim output, the Vietnam Coffee & Cocoa Association said.

Rains in the Central Highlands during the flowering stage hurt crop prospects and early blossoming coincided with the harvesting of the 2011-2012 crop, according to the organization known as Vicofa. The number of trees older than 20 years, which are half as productive as young trees, will rise to 30% of the total next year, it said.

“Due to abnormal weather developments, coffee trees have been flowering during harvesting and continuous rains caused difficulties for flowers to become fruits,” Vicofa said. “It will have a negative impact on the yield and output of the 2012-2013 crop.”

Production will rise to 20.6 million bags in the 12 months to Sept. 30 from 18.75 million a year earlier, a unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. A bag weighs 60 kilograms. Vicofa did not forecast the output for the 2012-2013 season.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, February 27, 2012, http://www.businessweek.com
Coffee grounds great for start-up
A business that recycled the coffee grounds thrown away by cafes was an idea that seemed so simple, Mark Henderson was sure someone was probably already doing it. Fortunately for the Canberra entrepreneur, this was one idea that no one had previously cottoned on to as the premise for a company.

It was only last year that the former IT consultant was told by a barista in a Civic cafe that the shop threw away 10 kg of coffee waste a day. ''If that shop opens seven days a week for 50 weeks a year, you're talking about a significant amount of waste - about 3.5 tonnes,'' Mr Henderson said.

He and former colleague Geoff Howell spent three months researching what that waste could be used for and found there was strong anecdotal evidence to suggest coffee grounds could be used as a slow-release fertilizer. The pair discovered there was no company anywhere in the world manufacturing fertilizer from coffee waste and, after seeking advice from business contacts, they quit their well-paid jobs to establish Espressogrow in late last year.

The company, which will purchase coffee waste from cafes and turn it into fertilizer, was just named one of the top 10 start-ups of 2011 by BRW magazine. The business is in its final funding stages and plans to manufacture the fertilizer in Australia, the US and Europe. Mr Henderson hopes the product will hit retail shelves in the second half of this year.

Mr Henderson says the organic fertilizer will be sold in pellets and it will smell like coffee, rather than having the unpleasant smell of animal fertilizers. He hopes that by giving a commercial value to coffee waste, Espressogrow will encourage recycling practices in the coffee industry.

''In the US, per head of population, 4.2 kilos of coffee is consumed a year,'' he says. ''By purchasing the coffee grounds, it instantly becomes a valuable commodity to a retailer so we're actively encouraging them to be sustainable.''

Source: Canberra Times, February 12, 2012, http://www.canberratimes.com.au
Malaysia's palm oil exports hit RM80 Billion in 2011
Palm oil is Malaysia's biggest commodity exports, registering RM80 billion (US$ 26 billion) last year. In second place was rubber with RM20 billion, according to Deputy Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainudin. He said the country's total commodity exports were RM130 billion last year. Other commodities exported included cocoa and kenaf.

He also said efforts to promote Malaysian commodity products would continue in both new and traditional markets such as Japan, China, United Sattes, West Asia and Europe. Meanwhile, Hamzah said his ministry was encouraging cocoa cultivation due to high demand for the commodity in the world market.

"The ministry organized the People's Cocoa Programme last year to encourage people to use idle land near their houses for cocoa cultivation. "The ministry will provide quality cocoa seeds hoping that cocoa output will increase in the next few years," he said.

In the 1990s, Malaysia was among the world's major cocoa producers. Cocoa cultivation area in the 1990s was 420,300 ha compared to only about 20,000 ha now.

Source: BERNAMA News, February 09, 2012, http://www.bernama.com
Belgian palm oil market pledges to become sustainable by 2015
The Belgian Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil has launched its charter, which pledges that by the end of 2015, all palm oil designated for the Belgian market will be produced based on the sustainability criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

"The establishment of the Belgian Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil is a highly commendable and progressive initiative undertaken by organisations towards 100% cent sourcing of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) by 2015," the Secretary General of RSPO, Darrel Webber, said in a statement.

He said the Belgian initiative demonstrates strong commitment and leadership in promoting sustainability among European product manufacturers, continuing the positive trend initiated by the Dutch national industry commitment in 2010. The charter was signed by several parties in the palm oil supply chain -- from processors and product manufacturers to industry associations.

Today RSPO CSPO represents 11% of all palm oil produced globally. To this end, RSPO looks forward to working closely with the Belgian Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil and its members to raise consumer awareness of sustainable palm oil.

Vice-President of the RSPO and Senior Policy Officer for Food and Agriculture World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Adam Harrison urged all companies using palm oil to set ambitious time-bound targets for procuring certified sustainable palm oil, both in Belgium and in the other countries they are active, and begin buying it as soon as possible.

RSPO said it recognises that initiatives like the Belgian and Dutch National Commitments are of crucial importance in order to boost the uptake of CSPO and should be regarded as best practices in Europe. It added it eagerly awaits the next national industry commitment to 100% sourcing of certified sustainable palm oil by 2015, and urged other European countries to follow these examples and solidify Europe's leadership in responsible supply chain practices.

Source: BERNAMA News, January 31, 2012, http://www.bernama.com
IPNI partner PT Bakrie Sumatera Plantations beef up its R&D unit
Major plantation companies are beginning to develop their own research and development units to anticipate tougher competition in the global market in the future, as industry players lament the government's lack of attention and support.

Jakarta-listed and IPNI partner PT Bakrie Sumatera Plantations, for instance, is starting to strengthen its R&D unit, called Bakrie Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), through cooperation with leading research institutions to capitalize on their experience and vast resources.

On March 2, BARI signed MoUs on research cooperation with state-owned Oil Palm Research Center (more popularly known under its local abbreviation of PPKS) and the Indonesia Rubber Research Center. PPKS is the country's oldest research institution for oil palm and the largest producer of oil palm seeds. The Indonesia Rubber Research Center is also one of the oldest research centers, in existence for 20 years.

The cooperation is expected to help BARI to be more productive in developing new technology to support the production process at Bakrie Sumatera, which operates rubber and oil palm plantations as well as producing downstream palm oil products. BARI headquartered in Kisaran, North Sumatra, was officially launched in July 2011 with investment of about Rp 12.5 billion (US$ 1.4 million).

Source: Agroasia, March 2012, www.agroasianews.com
Oil Palm Upcoming Events
4th Palm Oil Summit
9 – 10 July 2012
Bali, Indonesia
Hotel to be advised

Theme: Sustainable Yields and Downstream Processing

Key highlights:
  • Demand for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil & its future for European & US markets
  • Replanting trees with higher yielding varieties
  • Improved agriculture practices and mechanisation
  • Oleochemicals & Specialty Fats Outlook
  • Value addition in downstream processing Read More

Palm Oil Africa
5 – 6 Sept 2012
Accra, Africa
Hotel to be advised

Theme: Reviving the Palm Oil Industry in Africa - Challenges & Opportunities

Key highlights:
  • Financing & Investment Prospects
  • Land regulations, labour laws, logistics & infrastructure support
  • Applying large-scale cultivation expertise from Asia & opportunities for downstream processing
  • R & D on improved planting materials & techniques Read More
Indonesia rice surplus target date delayed
Indonesia's Ministry of Agriculture said that Pres. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's target for the country to achieve a 10 million-ton rice surplus by 2014 looks increasingly impossible to be realized.

Vice Minister of Agriculture Rusman Heriawan said that due to various lingering problems such as poor infrastructure facilities, and difficulties faced by farmers in obtaining fertilizer and seeds, as well as the spread of diseases, the target must be delayed.

The Office of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy has approved the request for a delay, and decided a new target of 2015. Under this new scenario, rice production growth in 2012 is expected to reach 3.2% and 4.15% per year from 2013 to 2015.

Source: Agroasia, March 2012, www.agroasianews.com
Thailand to fall behind in rice exports
Thailand might lose its leadership in rice exports to Vietnam very soon because of the government's rice mortgage scheme, according to Thai Rice Exporters Association president Korbsuk Iamsuree. She said Vietnam may surpass Thailand within five years.

According to the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, both countries would each export 6.5 million tonnes of rice this year. Thailand and Vietnam together provided the largest share of the rice volume traded in the global market last year. However, their market share slightly declined from 2010 due to the rising demand for Indian rice.

Ms Korbsuk said Myanmar is another strong competitor in the long run as the country, known as the rice bowl of Asia, is trying to boost its rice exports.

"The government has promised that it will buy the largest volume of rice at high prices that it can in order to satisfy the farmers. This has raised domestic rice prices and caused the export price to increase," she said. The total export of Thai rice had plunged 50% year-on-year. The country exported only 700,000 tonnes in the first two months of this year.

"The Free On Board (FOB) price for rice in Thailand is set at US$550 per tonne, higher than India by $100, but the government still plans to raise the FOB price to $800 a tonne," the rice official said. She said the government will likely achieve its rice export target for this year of three million tonnes but Thailand can actually export 10 million tonnes of rice a year. The government has been buying rice from all farmers since October but it has yet to be sold to foreign countries or the private sector, she added.

Source: Bangkok Post, Feb. 24, 2012, http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/news/281393/thailand-to-fall-behind-in-rice-exports
IRRI and RDA developed ANMI, a rice variety that can withstand brown planthopper
In 2002, South Korea had four major problems in rice: blast, bacterial blight, cold stress, and brown planthopper (BPH)—the country’s most destructive rice insect pest. The job of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was to breed a new rice variety that is tolerant of these problems yet safe to the environment and for consumption.

BPH damages rice crops every year in many Asian countries, with estimated annual losses of 2–3 million tons across the region. The pest not only brings viral diseases but also sucks the rice plant to death. Serious infestation causes hopper burn in rice fields and often results in complete yield loss.

Rice plant resistance is the best strategy to control BPH, not the use of pesticides. The pest has evolved and become virulent to resistance genes that were introduced 15 years ago into rice varieties. Thus, scientists are in constant search for genes that can withstand BPH.

In 2005, Kshirod K. Jena, IRRI senior scientist and plant breeder, and his Korean team then discovered a major resistance gene, Bph18. The tricky part is that this gene is from an indica rice (IR65482-7-216-1-2), a rice variety that is popular in tropical countries, and not from the japonica rice greatly preferred by the Koreans. Discovering the gene is a success in itself, but transferring the Bph18 gene and the Bph18 gene alone from indica to japonica is yet another large hurdle to jump.

Luckily, in 2005, IRRI, in partnership with Japan, completed the rice genome sequence. The vast information from the sequence enabled the team to find the main traits of the new gene, which Dr. Jena identified for BPH resistance. It also helped develop a DNA marker, which will be 100% associated with the BPH resistance trait of the plant. He then introduced Bph18 to the elite japonica variety Junambyeo.

Thanks to marker-assisted breeding and background genotyping, the usual 10 to 14 years of conventional breeding can now be completed in 6 years. In the case of Korea, it took only 2 years to identify the kind of rice plant [line IR83261BC3- 3-3-3-B (SR30071BC3-3-3-B)] that is suited for a local adaptability test. Replicated trials in different regions of the country were done in 3 years.

Dr. Jena and his Korean team of scientists took only 5 years to breed and release a new rice variety, ANMI, which is a Korean word for safe and delicious rice. Officially released in South Korea on 6 December 2010, ANMI is highly resistant to BPH, blast, bacterial blight, and cold stress. This variety is also high yielding, very palatable, and looks glossy with a stickiness that is just right.

Source: Rice Today, January-March 2012, http://irri.org/knowledge/publications/rice-today
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Soil microbiologists discover microbe of global agricultural significance
Scientists at the University of Aberdeen in the UK have shed new light on a century-old gap in the understanding of how ammonia-based fertilizers are inactivated by microorganisms in soil.

Organisms that oxidize ammonia were first discovered in 1890. Although a natural process, a major consequence of the activities of such organisms in soil is the transformation and loss of nitrogen fertilizers used to improve crop production, resulting in groundwater and atmospheric pollution.

Over the past hundred years, all the strains cultivated have only grown in standard laboratory conditions at higher, neutral pH, and not in acidic conditions.

However, the majority of Scottish agricultural soils - and 50% of the worlds agricultural soils - are acidic, so the mechanism by which loss of fertilizer occurs in these soils has remained a mystery until now.

In two separate papers published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, research performed at the University of Aberdeen has identified a novel organism, named Nitrosotalea devanaterra, which performs the process of ammonia oxidation in acidic conditions, and has also demonstrated that this organism is abundant and globally distributed in acidic soils.

The research team has now been awarded a 0.5 million, 3.5-year research grant by the Natural Environment Research Council to investigate the highly unusual physiology of Nitrosotalea devanaterra and to find out more about its potential role in the loss of ammonia-based fertilizers and nitrous oxide gas emissions from soil.
Disclaimer: News from the Region is a selection of regional agriculture-related articles extracted from internet sources. IPNI does not verify, endorse, or take responsibility for the accuracy, currency, completeness or quality of the content in these sites. Due to the nature of this service, IPNI cannot always verify every single news item. Be sure to check with the official websites of the companies, universities, research centers, and government agencies before using any information in the SEAP newsletters or webpages, as IPNI cannot vouch for news items submitted by the public. Links to external websites are included for the sole purpose of providing easy access to the source. The inclusion of external hyperlinks does not constitute IPNI’s endorsement of the views expressed by these websites. IPNI shall not be responsible for any damages caused directly or indirectly by the use of any information or content from within linked websites.

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