Oil palm was introduced in India as a small-holders irrigated crop in 1989 to meet the ever growing demand for vegetable oils. It serves as a marked variation from traditional oil palm areas such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where it is cultivated as a rain fed crop in large nucleus estates.
Small-holders irrigated crop Water shortages Inefficient use of water Fixed duration of power supply Coarse to medium textured soils Leaching of nutrients Low water and fertilizer use efficiency Low FFB yields
Why drip is needed?
Economic importance of oil palm in meeting vegetable oil and biofuel demand. To conserve water, increase water and fertilizer efficiency. To optimized FFB and oil yields.
Location: Kothapally, Krishna district (17º 1′ 0″ N-latitude, 81º 12′ 0″ E-longitude), Andhra Pradesh, northeastern India
Area: 16 ha
Crop variety: Tenara;
crop age: 10 years
Crop spacing: Triangular – 9m x 9m x 9m
Plant density: 143 palms/ha
Climate: Semi arid
Rainfall: 1185 mm/year
Reference crop evapotranspiration: 1731 mm/year
Soil physical properties: Clay loam
Soil pH: 8.2
Bulk density: 1.5 g/cm3
Available soil moisture: 120 to 150 mm/m depth of soil
Water table: Below 6 m
Soil chemical properties: Low in N, medium in P2O5 and high in K2O/ha
Soil salinity (ECe): 1.2 dS/m
Water source: Bore well
Power source: Electric pump
Other water-related indicators: Water quality: pH 6.8; water conductivity (ECw): 0.81 dS/m
Agro-solution: What has been done?
Surface drip irrigation system Head control unit, main and sub-main pipes besides blind lateral (at 7.8 m spacing) and eight online drippers per plant with a flow rate of 8 LPH. Year of drip system installation: 2004
Agronomic and technical support
Crop water requirement and irrigation scheduling: Depth and frequency of water application; water quality consideration and measurement of applied water.
Fertigation scheduling: Soil and water analysis, estimation of nutrient dose, selection of fertilizers and compatibility, application skill via drip system, and foliar diagnosis for nutrient deficiencies.
System operation and maintenance: Pressure reading, valves operation, measurement of applied water. Cleaning of filters, fertilizer tank, acid treatment, chlorination, etc.
Training and capacity building: Soil water plant relationships, drip irrigation and fertigation principles, benefits, limitations and utility; water quality and herbicide usage.
Improved FFB yield: Conventional basin irrigation – 15 to 18 tons/ha and with surface drip yield has increased by 10% (20 tons/ha) in the first year and by 25% (25 tons/ha) in the second year after installing drip.
Water requirement and saving: Conventional basin irrigation – 1940 mm/year/ha and with surface drip – 1310 mm/year/ha. The water saving is 32% or 630 mm/year/ha. As an illustration, the saved water can irrigate 0.48 ha.
Economic indices: Internal rate of return (IRR) is 74%, payback period is four years and the net present value (NPV) is US$ 6034/ha
Additional benefits: Improvement in fertilizer use efficiency, management flexibility, less weed growth, and uniform irrigation of oil palm on undulated terrains.
Drip irrigation in oil palm is a technically feasible and economically viable technology. Farmer is willing to expand drip irrigation to the remaining oil palm area. Government subsidies of 50% on drip system cost for use in oil palm.
Oil palm best management practices: Drip Irrigation and fertigation scheduling.
Grow More: 10-25% FFB
With Less: 32% water saving.