Can Fertilizers Help Prevent Ganoderma Infections in Oil Palms?

The oil palm industry faces several threats to production. One of these is a fungi known as Ganoderma boninense, also called the white rot fungus. G. boninense is a relative of the famous Chinese Ganoderma herb. Unfortunately, this particular species isn’t economically viable. Instead, it causes basal stem rot (BSR) in Malaysian oil palm plantations. Oil palms that get infected will begin to slowly lose their health and productivity. Within 6 to 12 months of being infected, infected palms may completely die.

G. boninense is more common in palms that have been planted in soil that was previously planted with coconuts or oil palms. The disease was first detected about 50 years ago in coastal plantations but the infections have since moved inland.


The Challenges of Managing BSR

Basal Stem Rot is one disease that poses a real challenge to plantation owners and researchers alike. An effective cure for this disease has yet to be found. Right now, several BSR management techniques have been drawn up by experts. However, these management techniques all have limited efficacies.

Some of the BSR management methods around nowadays include soil mounding, trench digging, curative surgeries, chemical control with fungicides and biological control with other microorganisms. More often than not, several of these strategies will be used together in an integrated plan.


Why Nutrition is Important

When it comes to the immune system, oil palms defend themselves from invading microbes differently from humans. However, they share one thing in common with humans. A lack of nutrition leads to a weak immune system and this is true for plants too. G. boninense spreads more rapidly in palms that are malnourished.

When we as humans don’t get enough healthy nutrients and keep on eating junk food, we face a high probability of catching illnesses. In the same way, if an oil palm doesn’t have enough macro and micro nutrients, they too can fall sick more easily.

This does not mean that you should apply more fertilizers to your oil palms plantations. If you want to protect your palms from Ganoderma infection, it’s important to apply the right fertilizers and not morefertilizers.


What Fertilizers Help Control Ganoderma?

Plant nutrition has always been used as a strategy to control diseases, and it’s therefore no surprise that fertilizers have been used to control BSR. Surprisingly, researchers have found that it’s the micronutrients that help minimize Ganoderma infection.

This means that the levels of N,P and K doesn’t influence the oil palm’s immunity, though they do play an important role in other metabolic functions like growth and reproduction. The elements that are important to the oil palm’s defense against Ganoderma are Boron (B), Copper (Cu) and Mangan (Mn), Iron (Fe) and Silicon (S). Evidence shows that a combination of all three elements function better in providing protection than using each element separately.

Therefore, if you want your palms to withstand Ganoderma better, give them fertilizers with these micronutrients in addition to the main macro elements of N,P and K. It’s like making sure your children have enough vitamins to fight off infections so that they can grow up healthy and strong.




Tengoua, Fabien & M. Hanafi, Mohamed & Abu Seman, Idris & Kadir, Jugah & Nurul Mayziatul Azwa, Jamaludin & Mohidin, Hasmah & Rastan Syed-Omar, Syed. (2014). Effect of micronutrients-enriched fertilizers on basal stem rot disease incidence and severity on oil palm (Elaeis Guineensis JACQ.) seedlings. American Journal of Applied Sciences. 11. 1841-1859. 10.3844/ajassp.2014.1841.1859.