Growing Oil Palm
Crop Nutrition Advice

Everything you need to know about Oil Palm Biodiesel, suitable products, field trials.

Key factors for growing Oil Palm

  • Suitable to be planted in flat land up to 20˚ in topography

  • Groundwater table should be below 1.5 to 2.0 m

  • A depth of 100 cm is optimum for oil palm growth. Palms grown in deep soils have lesser risk of water stress during low rainfall period

  • As oil palm is sensitive to poor drainage and drought, soils should be deep and well drained

Oil Palm crop rows

Oil Palm plants

Nutrient Requirements

  • Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (primary macronutrients) are absolutely essential for oil palm growth. Magnesium is also highly regarded as an important secondary macronutrient for oil palm.
  • Nutrient demand/uptake are well-reported.
  • However, calcium and sulphur are less discussed/studied.

Nutrient deficiencies


Nitrogen promotes high yields and ensures vegetative growth of the crop. It plays key role in synthesis of proteins, which are directly involve in growth and yield. Nitrogen deficiency causes uniform pale/yellow-green leaflets. Midrib tissues become bright yellow. Yellowing is equally pronounced on both upper and lower rank fronds. Growth rate will be reduced.
Excessive use of N fertilisers decreases yields and increases susceptibility to diseases and insect pests. White stripes/imbalance of N/K ratio and B deficiency symptoms may appear. Nitrogen applications can range from 0.25 – 1.75 kg/palm/year in mature palms and 0.25 – 0.75 kg/palm/year in immature palms (Goh & Hardter 2003).


Phosphorus promotes development of a good root system. It is also a prerequisite for flowering and hence – number of fruits, and maintenance of yield.  Phosphorus is essential for appropriate energy management in the plant. Phosphorus deficient palms have shorter fronds and trunk is small, stunted or have a pronounced pyramidal shape. Excessive use of phosphorus depress growth and retard the uptake of micronutrients.

Phosphorus applications can range from 0.3 – 0.8 kg/palm depending on the soil fertility (e.g. lower rates in alluvial or volcanic soils but higher rates in ultisols) (Goh & Hardter 2003).


Potassium enhances transport of sugars and fatty acids to the fruits. Potassium regulates water management, mainly through stomata aperture. The nutrient also enhances sugar- and ascorbic acid- contents of the fruit, reduces susceptibility to many kinds of abiotic-, and biotic- stresses. Potassium deficiency reduces bunch sizes, bunch number and palm disease resistance. Spots may develon on fronds, turning bright orange. White stripes may develop due to imbalances of N/K ratio.

Excessive potassium may cause deficiency of other nutrients such as magnesium.  Large applications of KCl may reduce oil to bunch ratio (Goh & Hardter, 2003 and Foster et al 1998) due to excessive Cl.Potassium fertilizer applications can range from 0.3 to 3.0 kg K per palm. In peat, for example, high potassium fertilization is required. In areas where leaching and runoff are high, potassium requirement is also high.


Magnesium is the central part of chlorophyll, playing an important rôle in photosynthesis. It is a carrier of phosphorus in the plant. It is an enzyme activator and a constituent of many enzymes. Magnesium deficiency symptoms are exihibited on older fronds. Magnesium chlorosis symptoms appear as olive-green to orange oatches on the distal end of older frond pinnae. In severe deficiencies, the fronds turn bright yellow and dries up.

Excessive magnesium input induces K deficiencies. Magnesium fertiliser applications can range from 0.06 – 0.25 kg/palm/year.


Calcium promotes cell-wall stability, hence providing the plant a strong structure, and resistance to diseases. Adequate calcium increases yields and prolonged shelf life. Calcium deficiencies is seldom reported. However, high ratios of K/Ca or Mg/Ca might cause symptoms of frond snapping.

Applications of calcium through rock phosphates is generally thought to be sufficient. However, this is highly unlikely as up to 114 kg/ha/year of demand has been recorded. Calcium has always been applied through liming. 100 – 150 kg/ha/year of CaO is required for peat.

Nutrient demand in Oil Palm


0 to 3 Years3 to 9 Years
N40191 - 267
P532 – 42
K55287 – 387
Mg748 - 67
Ca1385 - 114

(Adapted from Tan, 1976; Tan, 1967)

Nursery Seedlings at 5 months after transplanting from pre-nursery.


Expected Benefits

  • Increased oil extraction
  • More balanced nutrition
  • Increased nitrogen use efficiency
  • Enhanced crop health
  • Greater size and weight if the fruits
  • Higher yields

Related Trials

Potato with H2Flo
Karl-Johan Thim farm, Kristianstad, Skåne, Sweden, 2015


Yield increase
Potato with Polysulphate
Kozani, Greece, 2019


Yield Increase
Banana with Polysulphate
Juquiá, São Paulo state, Brazil, 2017


Increase in vigor


Here are some frequently asked questions we received from farmers regarding Oil Palm.

  • Yes. Calcium uptake is about 90 kg Ca/ha/year and Ca concentration in oil palm bunches is between 0.06 – 0.29% whereas Mg concentration in oil palm bunches is between 0.09 – 0.23%. In some trials, calcium has been shown to contribute to higher oil to wet mesocarp and oil to bunch ratios. The optimum leaf concentration of calcium is 0.5 – 0.75%.

  • No. Kieserite application supplies additional sulphur. However, Polysulphate supplies sulphur more efficiently due to the prolong release mechanism. Sulphate (SO42-) anions are susceptible to leaching due to the net negative charge of soils. Optimum S concentration is 0.2 – 0.23%.

  • It is important that we consume palm oil with sustainable certifications. These are largely produced by companies who are committed to zero deforestation and peat-planting. Palm oil is many times more productive than other oils per unit of land. The carbon footprint of producing palm oil can be further reduced through good agronomic practices and choices of fertiliser with lower carbon footprint as well as higher efficiencies.

  • Fertiliser efficiency is often low especially during the first year after transplanting. Controlled release fertiliser application in the planting hole results in better nutrient use efficiency, better growth, and reduced labour requirement.

  • There has been reports of higher incidences of BSR when fertiliser rates are high. Certain soils with higher pH are also associated with lower BSR incidences. Higher rates of fertiliser, such as ammonium sulphate has led to severe soil acidification. Therefore, fertiliser efficiency might also be important from a disease perspective.

  • Yes. After many decades of planting, there has been increasing reports of Zn and Cu deficiencies even in mineral soils where zinc and copper have not always been applied. It is important to observe for symptoms of deficiencies or monitor Zn and Cu levels in frond 17.

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