5 Mistakes to Avoid When Applying Fertilizers

Fertilizers are an integral and important part of agriculture, especially in the oil palm industry. However, many farmers and planters are not aware that the wrong usage of fertilizers can be bad for their crops. Fertilizers should be applied carefully so that their effects can be optimized and they don’t pose a danger to the crops.

Most fertilizers come with a label on how they should be used, which includes the recommended weight per hectare. Planters should follow the guidelines that come with labels and manuals, otherwise they risking their plants’ health. Here are some other common mistakes that can be made when using fertilizers:

Using too much Fertilizer

Too much of a good thing can be bad for you. This adage is also true for fertilizers.

Most fertilizers today come in the form of dry powder or granules. Therefore, the recommended usage amount is usually expressed and kilogram per hectare or pounds per hectare. It is best not to go above that amount as using too much can damage the roots of your oil palm plants.

An unusually high amount of fertilizers can actually burn off parts of the palms, leaving them susceptible to infections from fungi such as Ganoderma boninense, the cause of white rot.

Not Doing a Soil Test

In order to know what fertilizers your oil palms need, you have to test the soil from time to time in order to know what nutrients have been depleted. When you have that information, you’ll be able to decide what types of fertilizers to get, whether NPK or one of the micronutrients. You’ll also be able to decide what ratio of fertilizer mix to obtain.

A soil test will also reveal the acidity and alkalinity of your plantation’s soil, which is called the soil’s pH. Certain fertilizers can correct the pH of soil to make it more neutral and better for the palms to grow.

Not Using Fertilizers at the Correct Time

The best time to use fertilizers is at least 1 to 2 months before the fruiting season. This is especially true for nutrients like Nitrogen (found in NPK fertilizers) which take about 3 weeks to reach their optimum effect.

Placing down fertilizers after the harvest season may not be such a good idea, as the abundance of nutrients, unused by the main crops, can encourage the growth of weeds and parasite plants.

Applying the Wrong Fertilizer

Blindly picking a random fertilizer is not the right approach. Once you detect some growth defects in your plants, such as smaller fruit bunches, less flesh, browning leaves and the like, the first thing you have to do is research. If you find that it’s caused by a specific nutrient deficiency, get a fertilizer that’s has a high amount of that nutrient.

Randomly buying and applying any fertilizer can make your palm’s problems worse, and even create new problems.

Sustainability and Safety

Apart from the three main nutrients, namely N,P and K, you also have to pay attention to minor nutrients like Potassium, Magnesium, Boron and others so that they’re not lacking.

Fertilizers should always be applied with the long-term wellbeing of your plantation in mind. This means that the soil has to be sustainable for the future use of generations to come.