2016 in INDONESIA: Estate-Scale Experiments (ESE) for Oil Palm

Project code: IDN-28

This project builds on the analytical approaches of Plantation Intelligence (a) to guide the establishment of Estate-Scale Experiments (ESE) in commercial palm oil production systems, and (b) to analyze and distill the results generated within such Estate-Scale Experiments for fertilizer use decisions that lead to higher returns on investment in fertilizer.

Implementation is between 2015 and 2019 in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Treatment overview:
This 6,000ha trial is 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 MOP, Urea, NPK and ZA. The rates for RP, dolomite, kieserite and borate remain unchanged.

Results to date:
Project field implementation has started in February 2015. The dialogue process with partner plantation and supporting IPNI member companies was developed in 2015. The initial yield with information from more than 150 commercial size treatment blocks has been completed for 2015 and 2016. Yield analyses has commenced at the end of 2015 to understand the impact of different fertilizer rates. After 1 year of implementation, the impact of fertilizer treatments was not yet fully expressed but there is indication of a change in the ‘average bunch weight’ component of FFB yield. Spatial analysis using geographically weighted regression (GWR) was being developed to characterize local variation in response to fertilizer treatments within the trial area. 2017 fertilizer rate was determined by using local fertilizer response provided trough GWR analysis.

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.

More about: Southeast Asia Projects