07 May 2013

***DRAFT*** Review - Oil Palm: Management for Large and Sustainable Yields

The Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science included the following review of this publication in their 2004 issue 167 on pages 365–366:

Th. Fairhurst and R. Härdter: Oil Palm - Management for large and sustainable Yields. Potash & Phosphate Institute (PPI), Potash & Phosphate Institute of Canada (PPIC), and International Potash Institute (IPI, Basel), 2003: 382 pages with many figures, photos, and tables, ISBN 981-04-8485-2.

Palm oil (in fruit mesocarp) and palm kernel oil (seed) together rank second (to soybean oil) in the world's production of vegetable oils. Soil scientists, biologists, agronomists, and students not very familiar with the soil/nutrient requirements, with the generation of planting material, the management practices as well as with the special experimental demands of this important perennial crop will highly welcome and benefit from reading and absorbing this book. It is organized in four parts: 14 text chapters, 15 appendices giving methodological hints on growth, soil' and leaf analysis, several color plates on disease/deficiency symptoms, and finally a detailed subject index.

All chapters are written by long-term experts in oil palm production addressing plantation managers and advisors with an academic education. Their common focus is to close the gap between potential yield (5–7 t oil ha-1, note the theoretical yield potential of the species Elaeis guineensis is assumed to be 10–11 t oil ha-1) and the actual yields in plantations of 3 t ha-1 (Breure) by:
  • describing the botany and in a special chapter the cloning procedure and higher productivity of clonal palms (Ng Siew Kee et al.)
  • considering the soil types and land classes suited best for oil palm (Paramanthan)
  • explaining all agronomic procedures in the nursery, in young and mature plantations (Gillbanks; UexküII et al.)
  • emphasizing the beneficial effect of legume cover crops for N, fixation and soil protection (Giller and Fairhurst)
  • advocating the utilization of mill by-products and field residues (Redshaw)

Because fertilizer costs are the most important production factor, several chapters deal with the macro-/micronutrient demand and status of oil palm (Goh and Hardier), the assessment of fertilizer requirements and efficiencies (Forster), and with the design and statistical analysis of fertilizer experiments (Verdooren).

Yield optimization in oil palm plantations (of different planting material and age respectively under different ecological conditions) is nowadays facilitated much by the development and use of appropriate database management (DBMS) and geographical information systems (GIS) coupled with GPS. This allows a more precise management of individual palms and fields (Fairhurst et al.).

Each chapter of the book presents a wealth of interesting information for the scientific reader, and summarizes at its end the 'important points for practical planters'. It is this combination between still open questions to the researcher (nutrient dynamics/interactions in the oil palm/legume rhizosphere, assimilate partitioning and hormonal (epigenetic) regulation in the generation, and cultivation of clones/seedlings) and the quick transfer of knowledge into the field which makes this book attractive. The multiple interrelationships in the agronomic management of oil palm and the multiple- author design of the book cause, unfortunately, some overlapping and – at few places – unclear definitions/dimensions. Both, however, do not narrow the great value of the book to those searching for a high-standard, science-based guideline to oil palm production. The book should thus be on the private shelf of students of tropical agriculture as well as in university libraries accessible to readers searching for the balance between modem food production and protection of the environment. ©2004 WILEY-VCH Vertag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

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