Oil palm grows best in areas with a mean maximum temperature of 30- 320C
and on an average of at least 5 hours of sunlight. It can be grown in areas, which
receive well distributed annual rainfall of 200cm or more. However, it can tolerate
2- 4 months of dry spell. The oil palm grows on wide range of tropical soils. The
adult palms can withstand occasional water logging, but frequently water logged,
extremely sandy and hard lateritic soils should be avoided.
The only variety recommended for commercial cultivation is Tenera, which is a hybrid
between Dura and Pisifera.
The fruits are separated from the bunch and seeds are extracted by scraping off
the exocarp and mesocarp with a knife, or by retting in water. The seeds are then
dried by spreading them on concrete or wooden floors under shade for 2 days. Such
seeds can be stored for 3-9 months at about 270C without much reduction
Seeds are soaked in water for 5 days, changing the water daily. Thereafter, the
seeds are spread out to dry for 24 hrs. The dried seeds are put in polythene bags
and placed in germinator maintained at a temperature of 400C. After 80
days, the seeds are removed from polythene bags, soaked in water for 5 days changing
the water daily and dried in the shade for 2 hours. The seeds are then put back
into bags and kept in a cool place in order to maintain the moisture content. Germination
commences in about 10-12 days. The percentage of germination obtaind by this method
Polybags (preferably black) of 400-500 gauge measuring 40 x 35 cm are used. The
bags are filled with topsoil and compost and are arranged at a spacing of 45 x 45cm
and one sprouted seed is dibbled per bag. A good mulching during summer is desirable.
Watering the seedlings weekly thrice is recommended. A fertilizer mixture containing
15g N, 15g P2O5 and 6g K2O at the rate of 8g in
5 litres of water for 100 seedlings are two months and eight months old.
It is planted in the main field in triangular system at spacing of 9m accommodating
140 palms/ha. Planting is preferably done at the onset of monsoon during May-June.
The polythene bag is torn open and the entire ball of earth is buried in the pit
(50 x 50 x 50cm) and levelled.
Mg application is necessary only if deficiency symptoms are noticed. Fertilizers
are preferably applied in 2 equal split doses (May and Sept), within 2m diameter
around the palm and forked in. supply of sufficient quantities of green leaf or
compost is advantageous, especially where the soil is poor in organic matter.
Dead and diseased leaves and all inflorescence should be cut off regularly up to
3 yrs after planting. When the palms are yielding, judicious pruning to retain about
40 leaves on the crown is advocated. It is necessary to remove some of the leaves
while harvesting. In such cases, care should be taken to avoid over pruning. In
addition, all dead and excess leaves should be cut off and crown cleaned at least
once in an year, usually during the dry season.
It is a cross-pollinated crop. Assisted pollination is done to ensure fertilization
of all female flowers. However, this is not necessary if the pollination weevil
Elaedobius kamerunicus is introduced in the plantation. They congregate
and multiply on male inflorescence during flower opening. The weevils also visit
the female flowers and pollinate them effectively.
First harvest can be taken 3.5 to 4 yrs after planting. When a few ripe fruits are
loose/ fall off, the bunch is ready for harvesting. Processing over ripe fruits
reduces quantity and quality of oil.
A chisel is used for harvesting bunches from young palms. The stalk of the bunch
is struck hard with the chisel to cut off and push the bunch out. When the palms
become taller, a harvesting hook has to be used. When the palms are too tall, it
is necessary to climb the palms for harvesting.
The pest causes severe damage to emerging fronds and spindle. The adult beetle feeds
on the softer tissue of the rachis, resulting in snapping off of the fronds and
spears at the feeding sites. Field sanitation and elimination of breeding sites
are essential components of the pest management operation. This pest can be suppressed
by using the virus Baculovirus oryctes.
Red palm weevil
This is a major pest of oil palm in India. These weevils lay their eggs at the cut
end of petioles or other wounds. The emerging larvae tunnel into the crown and feed
on the growing tissues. Palms infested by the red palm weevil start wilting and
leaves show gradually increasing chlorosis and fracture in strong winds. If detected
early, treatment of affected palm with carbaryl 0.2% would save the palms.
Many birds such as the forest crow, the house crow and the common Indian myna cause
severe damage to oil palm fruit bunches. These birds feed on the mesocarp of the
oil palm fruits. The damage can be minimized by scaring the birds and covering the
ripe bunch with wire net, 150 days after fruit set.
This disease occurs in the nursery. It is recognized by regular or irregular brown
to black leaf blotches surrounded by yellow haloes, which develop along the margin,
centre or tip of the leaves. It causes heavy seedling loss. The disease can be controlled
by spraying mancozeb or captan @ 200 g/ 100 litres of water. Copper fungicides should
not be used because of the extreme susceptibility of the oil palm seedlings to copper
This is noticed to affect oil palms of all ages. The incidence is less than one
percent. Yellowing starts from tip of the innermost whorl of leaves. Small lesions
occur at the distal portions of spear and rotting extends downwards. As the disease
advances, new leaves become rudimentary and show rotting. General decline in vigour
and production is then noticed. Occurrence of spear rot without yellowing has also
been noticed. Distinguishable marginal yellowing of leaflets and sudden drying of
leaves showing yellowing are other symptoms. Rouging of all the affected palms may
be adopted to prevent further spread of the disease. In early stages of the disease,
the affected portions of the leaves may be removed and burnt.
Sparse or no fruit set followed by complete drying or rotting of the affected bunches
are the typical symptoms. The extent of incidence can be up to 20%. This malady
is generally attributed to excess pruning, mutual shading, under-pollination, moisture
stress and unhygienic conditions. The situation can be improved by assisted pollination
as well as by adopting hygienic measures like removal of infected bunches and dry
For mature plantations not exceeding 40 ha, a hand-operated hydraulic press will
be enough for extraction of oil. In the case of large scale plantations, the hydraulic
press will not be economical and as such, mechanically driven oil mills have to
be established. The fruit bunches brought to the factory are first quartered by
means of a chisel. Then are then sterilized in steam or boiling water for 30-60
min. the objective of this process is to inactivate the fat splitting enzymes, which
are present in the fruit, which may raise the free fatty acid content of the oil
and also to soften the fruit for easy pounding. The sterilized fruits are stripped
off from the bunch and then pounded. The pounded fruit mass is then reheated and
squeezed using a hydraulic press. It is then boiled in a clarification drum where
the sludge will deposit and pure oil float over the water. The oil is then drained