19 Sep 2016

Low Plant Nutrient Levels in Palm Oil Reveal Need for Better Recycling Approaches in the Mill

September 22, 2016. Penang, Malaysia – Fresh fruit bunches (FFB) contain significant amounts of plant nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S), and magnesium (Mg). When FFB are harvested, these nutrients are removed from the plantation sites. It takes 5 metric tons (t) of FFB to produce 1 t of crude palm oil, and approximately 15 kg N, 2 kg P, 19 kg K, 1.5 kg S, and 5 kg Mg are removed from the soil. While some of it can be recycled back to the plantation as post-milling residue, such as empty fruit bunches and palm oil mill effluent, most is lost and plantations usually need to supplement the lost nutrients with fertilizers.

The International Plant Nutrition Institute - Southeast Asia Program (IPNI SEAP) embarked on a study at a Central Kalimantan project site to understand and quantify the progression of nutrient loss from harvest to oil production, and to clarify the nutrient content of the final palm oil product that emerges from mills. Results revealed that nutrient levels in this crude palm oil were negligible, i.e., N (0.02 kg/t), P (0.04 kg/t), K (0.01 kg/t), S (0.01 kg/t), and Mg (0.01 kg/t).

This indicates that most of the nu­trients in FFB must remain somewhere in the mill processing system. Though more studies are warranted, it is clear that better approaches to recycle nutrients from the mills back to plantations should be developed to improve the efficiency of use of plant nutrients in fertilizer management.

For more information, see the published research paper here.

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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

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