18 Sep 2014

Plantation Intelligence for Oil Palm Sustainability

September 18, 2014. Penang, Malaysia – Total crude palm oil production in 1961 was about 1.5 million tonnes, estimated at US$1.3 billion. For 2013/2014, production is 58 million tonnes with an estimated value of over US$40 billion. Now a major player in the global vegetable oil market, the oil palm industry has recorded unprecedented growth in the last few decades. Will this spectacular trend continue?

The sustainability of growth will depend on the industry’s adaptability to changes that are driven by fluctuating prices, costs of labour and fertilizer, trade laws and the ability to respond to increasing environmental and social responsibility. With this in mind, IPNI’s Southeast Asia Program (SEAP) sees Plantation Intelligence (PI), a business intelligence approach adapted for the oil palm industry, as one way forward.

Originally developed by IPNI to understand the response of oil palm to fertilizers, especially in the context of 4R Nutrient Stewardship (apply the right source of nutrients, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place), the scope for PI is not limited to fertilizer response alone. This presents an opportunity for managers to improve production systems through better management of fertilizer and other inputs.

While most plantations know their business well, even the best managers can sometimes find themselves guessing when a situation of unprecedented growth creates a knowledge vacuum.

Consisting of a series of insights that are generated by an innovative analytical process, PI describes the status and trends of key performance indicators in oil palm. Developed in partnership with oil palm companies, the PI approach provides information for evidence-based agronomic decisions in commercial plantations for sustainable intensification.

The PI process recommended by IPNI is straightforward and begins with commitment from senior management. The next step is data processing. Since plantations already keep records of input and output for their plantation blocks, these valuable datasets, usually used for accounting and financial planning, are re-analyzed for agronomic purposes.

For almost two years, several large operators have worked with IPNI’s SEAP to develop the PI process. Preliminary results for analysis of yield patterns, yield age profile, fertilizer response and labour productivity have generated new insights into plantation performance (presented at the International Oil Palm Conference 2014, see below). These insights are now being used by IPNI plantation partners to design and implement commercial scale trials to clarify and improve fertilizer performance over thousands of hectares.

By offering managers specific, focused analyses of yield performance, profitability, and fertilizer response as well as labour productivity, PI has the potential to revolutionize the way plantations are managed. Skilled managers will be able to make better decisions and back them up with analytical evidence. In the long-term as more datasets are analyzed, patterns, trends, and variations will emerge to help managers understand operations more thoroughly and stay ahead of uncertainty while maintaining profitability.
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About IPNI
The International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) is a not-for-profit, science-based organization dedicated to the responsible management of plant nutrition for the benefit of people. Through cooperation and partnerships with respected institutions around the world, IPNI adds its strength to agronomic research, education, demonstrations, training, and other endeavors. Best management practices for nutrient stewardship encourage the concept of 4Rs - applying the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. To learn more about IPNI, please visit: www.ipni.net

Dr. Thomas Oberthür, IPNI Director of Southeast Asia Program • Email: toberthur@ipni.net

Additional Resources

Press release pdfSize: 0.09 MB

Presentation at IOPC 2014Size: 7.34 MB

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