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Nov 18, 2013

Magnesium – the “forgotten” Nutrient for Oil palm

Magnesium (Mg) is an essential nutrient for plant growth and yield development. Mg deficiency occurs first at older leaves but plants already suffer from a lack of magnesium, long before deficiency symptoms are visible on leaves. Mg deficiency leads to yield reduction accompanied by poorer quality.


As the central atom of chlorophyll, magnesium plays an important role in photosynthesis – a process of carbohydrate formation in leaves. Additionally Mg is involved in the transport of these carbohydrates from leaves to the root system and fruits. These carbohydrates are required for bunch (fruit) formation and for root growth. By improving the development of strong root systems magnesium is also increasing water and nutrient uptake, and is promoting a better nutrient-use-efficiency.


Demand-oriented magnesium nutrition positively influences yield formation, but also quality parameters – an aspect that has been gaining importance in oil palm cultivation.


“One of the most important quality parameters in oil palm is the oil to bunch ratio,” as Dr. Bernd Ditschar from K+S KALI GmbH explains during the first oil palm conference organised by GREPALM (Gremial de Palmicultures de Guatemala) in October, in La Antigua, Guatemala. “Magnesium provides fruit bunches with carbohydrates to increase yield and oil content in each single fruit of the bunch.” In 2005 the MPOB (Malaysian Palm Oil Board) demonstrated in a 5 years experiment that the oil-to-bunch-ratio was increased after application of 0.4 respectively 0.8 kg MgO per palm and year in the form of ESTA Kieserit. Similar studies conducted by other scientists were shown similar results.


This is why magnesium plays an important role in the Best Management Practice (BMP) project implemented by K+S KALI GmbH. The project’s aim is to demonstrate a sustainable increase in oil yield on existing oil palm areas, by implementing best practices in combination with recent agronomical findings to avoid further expansions by converting rainforest into oil palm plantations.

During the first two years (2011 and 2012) of the BMP project the Best Management approach has already increased oil palm yield.

The BMP-approach was initially developed by the IPNI in South-East Asia (International Plant Nutrition Institute) and has been transferred by K+S KALI GmbH to oil palm plantations in Columbia an Ecuador. All agronomic practices included in the process of cultivation and harvesting have been taken into consideration. Efficient and balanced fertilisation is an integral part of the BMP concept. “The primary objective is to use well-balanced nutrient applications to increase nutrient efficiency and to minimise nutrient losses. Thus to ensure optimum growth conditions for oil palms”, as Dr. Ditschar emphasised at the conference.

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