Which Nutrient is Lacking? Watch Out For These Signs

Oil palms are like young children. They too need extra vitamins and supplements to keep them healthy and strong. In oil palms, added nutrients are often provided in the form of fertilizers.

There are many articles about how to detect whether you oil palms are lacking nutrients and this includes looking for overall or general symptoms.

However, apart from the macro symptoms, there are micro signs pointing to the lack of one or more specific nutrients in your oil palms. Here they are:

Nitrogen (N)

When your oil palms have Nitrogen deficiency, they will start to turn yellow or light green color. Usually this will be seen in younger palms as older adult palms rarely show signs of N deficiency. The yellowing will appear in the entire leaf and will not appear as spots or sections.

In severe cases, the midrib section will also become completely yellow and the leaves will start to curl and die, starting from the tips and the sides. Even the weeds and ferns on the trunks of oil palms can show yellowing.

Potassium (K)

When K deficiency happens, irregular spots which are yellow or orange in color will start appearing on the leaves. Usually these spots will appear on the older leaves first. When the spots are held up to the sun, they usually look transparent and allow light through.

K deficiency can also be observed in cover plants surrounding the oil palms, whereby their leaves show necrosis (black , dying areas) at the tips and edges.

K deficiency can also cause ‘white stripe’ whereby the pinnae leaves grow long and soft, with long yellow stripes running through the length of the leaves. This condition has been attributed to the lack of K, N and Boron deficiencies as well as N/K imbalance.

Phosphorus (P)

P deficiency does not show on the leaves of oil palms, only on the trunks. These types of palms will have trunks that are narrower than usual and taper off towards the top, forming a triangular outline rather than a straight and tall appearance.

Magnesium (Mg)

Mg deficiency resembles Nitrogen deficiency in that the leaves turn light green or yellow. However, in the case of Mg, only pinnae leaves exposed to the sun will turn yellow and shaded leaves will remain green. This step is essential in telling the difference. Young leaves will also typically remain green.

Boron (B)

It’s actually very easy to spot Boron deficiency in your oil palms. In almost all cases, the tip of the leaves will become hooked. This means that they will grow in the shape of a ‘Z’ with sharp angles. These leaves will also be very stiff and brittle.

Copper (Cu) and Zinc (Zn)

Both these deficiencies are pretty rare and only occur in peat soil plantations. Contrary to main element deficiencies which affect the older leaves first, this one shows itself in young leaves first. Yellowing begins at the leaf tips but the mid-rib stays green.

For Cu, white streaks and mottles also appear on the leaves which later become rusty brown and necrotic.


The future of fertilizer

In the near future, it is predicted that with a growing population and an increased demand for biofuels, the total demands for materials cannot be fulfilled just by expanding harvested area. Therefore, in order to fulfill the demand, the production of grains has to increase by 50 percent during the coming four decades. As the demands increase, it is not possible to clear more and more land for plantation purpose.

To counter this problem, it is important to utilize fertilizer up to its optimum capability.  As clearing more land is not advisible, it is important that the production of materials for both food and fuels can be increased by utilizing fertilizer.

One way to meet the requirements in the future is by utilizing fertilizer that helps to produce more fruits or grains, based on the type of plant. With an increased production, the supply and demand can be balanced where there is more supply to fulfill the future need for raw materials. Therefore, the fertilizer in the future should be packed with nutrients that produce more fruits, based on the type of plant.

Next, in order to meet the demands, genetics advancement can be considered. Genetics advancement bring a meaning of engineering the genes of crops in order to increase production by either increasing the size of produce, or by enabling the fruiting periods to be more frequent. With this, more produce can be produced and collected.

Other than that, new type of fertilizer is predicted to be manufactured in order to increase yield. It is predicted that fertilizer with capabilities to increase soil fertility will be needed. This type of fertilizer will not only assist the crops growth, but will also enhance soil fertility where the soil will be able to support healthier and fresher crops. By using this fertilizer, plantation process will be easier as the nutrients from the fertilizer will remain in the soil although different types of plants are planted.

Currently, 40 to 60 percent of commercial fertilizers are used in the united States to produce food. To meet this demand, the removal of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from soils is expected to increase and thus there is a need for more recovery and recycling of farm and nonfarm waste in order to produce organic fertilizer that does not use nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

The use of potassium and phosphate fertilizers is predicted to increase over the coming years. Phosphate fertilizer, obtained from mined P205 rock, might not face any problem in the United States as the U.S. is just second to China in world’s highest phosphate mining industry. Potassium will also not face difficulties as Canada is one of the major miners of potassium.

Fertilizer: 3 Aspects to Help Your Plants Grow Better

There are many aspects that fertilizer promotes the growth of your plants. As we know, plants make their own food such as glucose by the process of photosynthesis. In this process, it involves the use of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to prepare food. Hence, it is undeniable that photosynthesis covers 95% of the plant’s food requirement. In this article, 3 aspects of fertilizer are discussed to help your plants grow better.

It is understandable that plants need oxygen for respiration, just like us. However, in order to stay healthy, plants still need basic nutrients, supplementary nutrients and micronutrients:

Basic nutrients or primary nutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) are 3 crucial essential nutrients that are provided in soil.

Supplementary nutrients: Calcium, magnesium and sulphur are also essential nutrients but they are just needed in moderate amount in soil.

Micronutrients: Iron, boron, copper, zinc, molybdenum and chlorine are required mineral nutrients in very little amount in soil. They play key roles to promote the growth of plant.

For nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, they are the most significant elements because they are:

  • building blocks for cells in the plants
  • needed in the greatest quantities
  • often depleted in New Zealand soils.

The first aspect is fertilizer replaces the losing of important elements. They supply plants with the elements, which are missing or in short supply that can be used by the plants for faster growth. Most of them supply nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The other elements are required in much lower quantities (trace elements) and are generally available in most soils. In nature, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium often come from the decay of plants that have died.

Moreover, the second aspect is it promotes the growth of clover through the nutrients in superphosphate. (It is a synthetic fertilizer and is the most important fertilizer used in New Zealand.) Then, the clover converts nitrogen gas in the atmosphere to the essential plant to become available nitrogen through the combination of potash to provide potassium. The second level of analysis is superphosphate was developed before to cope the shortage of phosphorus in soil. It is formed by finely ground phosphate rock with sulphuric acid. Phosphate is rapidly released into the soil, where plants can absorb it. The main nutrients in superphosphate fertilizer are calcium, sulfur and phosphorus.

Thirdly, it is found out that fertilizer especially manufactured nitrogen fertilizer is found to be more productive as it is applied at just the right time to increase production. For instance, urea (CO NH22) is the main nitrogen fertilizer, particularly on dairy farms. Diammonium phosphate (N4H2HPO4, more commonly known as DAP), contains both nitrogen and phosphorus and is commonly used in this contemporary of era. Thus, farming has become more intensive with fertilizer when more are produced from the same land due to the cost and availability of land and its demand.

In short, here are the 3 aspects that fertilizer help your plants grow better. Different nutrient combinations are produced to fulfill the needs of the soil and plants to promote the growth of your plants.

Organic and inorganic fertilizer – raw materials, production, pros and cons.


1. Raw materials

The raw materials for organic fertilizer mostly come from waste materials. Using organic fertilizer is basically recycling waste into useful fertilizer for plants. Some of the main sources of raw material for organic fertilizer comes from food waste, manure or animal dung, and palm oil waste such as palm oil husks.

2. Production

The raw materials are selected and dried to remove moisture and make processing easier. The particle size is reduced using appropriate equipment to shorten composting time. Commonly, compost processing is done using the withdrow composting method. The compost is dumped onto the ground with 1.5 to 2.5 meters height. It is mixed from time to time to ensure that oxygen reaches the bacteria needed for composting. The temperature when composting can reach up to 50 degree celcius due to bacterial activities. Once compost is fully dried, it is sent for granulation to make fine material. Screening is done to remove particles that are too big or too small and to remove unwanted particle like stone. Once done screening, the fertilizer is mixed with nutrients and dried before being packed into bags for customer pick up and delivery.


  • Improve soil structure to hold nutrients and water
  • Little to no risk of toxic build up.
  • Renewable, biodegradable and sustainable
  • Can be made at home


  • Need bacteria to process at high temperature, therefore limited during cold weathers
  • Need time to break down as natural ingredients break down slower


1. Raw materials

Inorganic fertilizer is usually made from fossil fuels. Nitrogen is used in the production of various nitrogen based fertilizer such as ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate and urea. Potassium is used in producing potassium sulfate and potassium nitrate fertilizer while phosphorous is used to produce phosphorus fertilizer.

2. Production

In producing inorganic nitrogen fertilizer, the most common process often applied is Haber process. In this process, CH4 or natural gas, supplies hydrogen and nitrogen is obtained from the air. The reaction between these two gasses produces NH3 which serves as feedstock for nitrogen fertilizer. Phosphate fertilizer is produced by extracting phosphate from minerals and converting into water soluble phosphate by reaction with sulfuric acid. Lastly, potassium fertilizer is made by potassium that is extracted from potash and purified to remove sodium chloride.


  • Immediate effect on plants
  • Can produce exact amount of nutrients needed by plants


  • Made from non renewable source such as fossil fuel
  • Danger of over fertilization
  • Leaching of chemicals into nearby ponds cause eutrophication


The origin of fertilizer – a look into the past

Fertilizer is proven to provide nutrient, growth and strength to plants and crops by feeding the plants with nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Looking into the past, the usage of fertilizer in plantation industry dates back to over 8000 years ago. Through a research performed, it is found that the first farmers in Europe introduced a revolutionary way of encouraging plantation growth and quality. These farmers were used to fertilizing their plants with animal manure. Manure was used directly as it was without adding in any chemicals and this was therefore known as organic fertilizer.

Currently, most farmers around the world, rich or poor, small farmers or international business farmers, are feeding their crops with animal manure in order to provide sufficient nutrients. The idea of using manure as fertilizer origins from farmers who also had herds of cattle alongside plantations. These farmers noticed that the areas where dung is naturally accumulated, or where animals usually hung out, had patches of fertile ground where early crops colonized. These crops could be any type, be it weeds or other fruiting plants whose fruits have been consumed by the animals. It is obvious that cropping and herding are very closely related and are ‘entangled’ from the start.

Other than organic fertilizer, inorganic fertilizer that is being used by some industries today, has been developed years ago in several different processes. Some of the most famous processes include the Haber process and the Ostwald process.


The Haber Process

In the early 20th century, Carl Bosch and Fritz Haber invented the Haber process. These chemists were presented with the Nobel prize for their valuable creation. The Haber process utilized molecular nitrogen (N2) along with methane (CH4) gas in the synthesis of ammonia (NH3). Part of the ammonia produced is used as ammonium fertilizer while a part of it is further used as the raw material for the Ostwald process.


The Ostwald process

The Ostwald process was developed by Wilhelm Ostwald and was patented in 1902. The process uses up the NH3, mainly from Haber process, and in return produces nitric acid (HNO3) which is the raw material for one of the most commonly used type of fertilizer globally. The Ostwald process is known as the mainstay of the modern chemical industry as it produces fertilizer with one of the highest usage around the world.


How Much Do You Know about Fertilizer?

How much do you know about fertilizer? Fertilizer is a substance or compound that is added to soil to improve growth and yield of plants. They can be organic and inorganic.

At first, they are used by ancient farmers. Its technology is developed rapidly since the chemical needs of growing plants have been discovered. Modern synthetic fertilizers or chemical fertilizers are composed mainly ofnitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium compounds with secondary nutrients. The use of chemical fertilizers has significantly improved the quality and quantity of the food available in this contemporary of era, even though their use for long-term is debated heatedly by environmentalists.

So, how much do you know about fertilizer? The analysis below will tell you further about the most important elements:

  • Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – They are available from air and water in plentiful supply.
  • Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (a.k.a. potash) – These are the three macronutrients or elements that you find in most packaged fertilizers.
  • Sulphur, calcium, and magnesium – They are secondary nutrients.
  • Boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc – They are micronutrients.However, the most important elements, which are needed a lot in the largest quantity by a plant, are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are considered as crucial as they are essential for these basic building blocks. For instance:
  • Each amino acid contains nitrogen.
  • Each molecule makes up every cell membrane that contains phosphorous (the membrane molecules are called phospholipids), and so does every molecule of ATP (the main energy source of all cells).
  • Potassium consists of 1 percent to 2 percent of the weight of any plant. As one of the ions in cells, it is vital to metabolism.

Therefore, without nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the growth of plant is simply stagnant because it fails to make the pieces that it needs. If any mentioned macronutrients are missing or difficult to obtain from the soil, growth rate for the plant will be limited. In nature, the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are often found from the decayed plants that are died. For nitrogen, the nitrogen cycle from dead to living plants is often the only source of nitrogen in the soil.

To make plants grow faster, what you need to do is to supply the elements that the plants need in readily available forms. How much do you know about fertilizer? The numbers on a bag of chemical fertilizer will tell you about the percentages of available nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that are found in the bag. Hence, it is suggested that 12-8-10 fertilizer has 12-percent nitrogen, 8-percent phosphorous and 10-percent potassium.

In short, as living organisms, plants are made up of cells. Within these cells, numerous metabolic chemical reactions are occurred that have the responsibility for growth and reproduction. Since plants do not consume food like animals, they rely heavily on nutrients in the soil with the basic chemicals for these metabolic reactions. Their supply in soil is limited, however, when plants are harvested, they will dwindle, causing a reduction in the quality and yield of plants.

The Best Ways to Apply Fertilizers in Oil Palm Plantations

We all know that fertilizers are good for oil palms. However, fertilizers need to be applied correctly and at the proper times. Otherwise, you risk over-fertilizing or under-fertilizing your oil palms. Both scenarios are bad for the oil palms as they may lead to diseases and even death.

It’s really important to know the correct ways and methods to put down fertilizers. This will ensure that all the fertilizers reach the plants rather than being washed away. If you’re placing fertilizers in your oil palm plantation, these strategies will help you:

The ‘Broadcast’ Method over the ‘Subsoil’ Method
A 2011 study published by MPOB found that the simple method of sprinkling granules of fertilizers in a weeded area around the oil palm tree is the most effective application method.

The other method, whereby fertilizers were buried under the topsoil in several pockets surrounding the tree was not actually as effective. In fact, burying the fertilizer under the soil resulted in 13% less fresh fruit bunches compared to the broadcast method. So, if you’re burying your fertilizer, it’s time to make a switch to simple sprinkling on the topsoil.

The Best Time to Apply
In order to reduce the leaching of fertilizers from the topsoil due to rain, it’s advisable not to apply fertilizers during the rainy seasons in Malaysia. This rainy season occurs towards the end of the year, usually starting in November to December each year.

Therefore, you should avoid placing down fertilizers during this period. The losses of nutrients due to heavy rainfall can reach up to 45% in certain cases, which constitutes a serious loss of fertilizers which can otherwise be used by the oil palm.

Experts advice that fertilizers be applied about three times a year.The best time to apply fertilizers is during three seasons, namely February to March, May to June and September to October. Fertilizers should be applied after some light rain so that the soil would be moist enough to dissolve nutrients, but not enough to wash it away.

Location of Fertilizers
Always scatter the fertilizers in a 2 meter weeded circular area around the base of the palm. The reason why you should try to weed the ground as much as possible is so that the weeds don’t prevent the oil palm from receiving its nutrients.

Preventing Soil Run Off
Several strategies can be employed to minimize soil run off. These include planting cover crops and platform cutting on sloping terrain. This minimizes the loss of fertilizers due to rain water causing the topsoil to be carried away.

General Fertilizer Ratio
With regards to the main NPK fertilizers, these ratios are those commonly recommended in the first few years.

Years after planting

Elements (gram/palm/year)





400 200 400
2 800 400


3 1200 600



After the third year of planting, the amount of NPK fertilizers can be maintained. However, there will have to be adjustments made based on annual or bi-annual soil tests to diagnose the nutrient condition of the soil. Additionally, other elements like Boron and Magnesium will have to be reconstituted based on soil chemical analysis.




How is fertilizer produced?

Fertilizer is produced normally in large amounts. One of the main type of fertilizer production route is through the compound fertilizer production line. The production line is capable of producing up to 5000 to 200000 tons of fertilizer per year. The production line can produce different types of fertilizer based on the different types and concentration of the fertilizer. Main types of fertilizer produced include organic, inorganic, biological and magnetic fertilizer. The fertilizer is normally made into spherical particles with a diameter ranging from 1mm to 3mm.

In the fertilizer production line, there are a few important parts of machine involved. The main parts in the line include automatic batching machine, fertilizer mixing machine, crushing machine, rotary drum granulator, rotary drum drying machine, rotary drum cooling machine, rotary screening machine and auto packaging machine. The fertilizer raw materials, products and other material are transferred from one equipment to another using belt conveyors.


  1. The raw materials are put into the bins based on the exact quantity needed. The conveyor belt sends the material to the crushing machine.
  2. The crushing machine crushes the lumps of materials into small sizes to meet requirement. The conveyor belt then sends the material to the rotary drum granulator machine.
  3. In the rotary drum granulator machine, water pumps pump in gas in order to facilitate the granulating process. In the machine, the solid powder of the fertilizer rises up by rotation of cylinder and scrolls down by gravity. A certain amount of adhesive is added to the cylinder based on the quantity of the material. Gradually, solid particles of fertilizer are formed. In cases where high nitrogen (up to 25 to 45%) fertilizer is to be produced, a nitrogen spraying system is installed in the granulating machine.
  4. The formed particles contain moisture that was added earlier by the water pumps. Therefore, the fertilizer is then sent to rotary drum drying machine to add in hot and cold air to both drying and cooling machines respectively.
  5. Once dried and cooled, the fertilizer then undergoes screening. Screening is an important process where only the fertilizer granules of allowable size is kept. The granules that are too big or small are rejected and reverted back to the crusher or granulator to be reprocessed.
  6. The qualified material from the screening process is then sent to packaging by bucket elevators. The material is then packed and stored for distribution to customers.

Why Do You Need to Use Organic Fertilizers?

Why do you need to use organic fertilizers?Many questions plagued people’s mind especially nowadays many organizations are emphasizing their usages.

The word “organic” in this case means that the product is only minimally processed, and the soil nutrientsremain bound up in their natural forms, rather than being extracted and refined. For fertilizers, “organic” does not refer to the standards of processing that are associated with delicacies.

What are organic fertilizers? In simple laymen language, they are usually made from plant, animal waste or powdered minerals. For example, it includes manure and compost, as well as bone and cottonseed meal. Generally, they are usually sold as “soil conditioners” rather than as fertilizer. It is because the ratios of soil nutrientsare hard to guarantee. Therefore, they may be processed in a factory, or, in the case of manure and compost, in a farm itself.

It is undeniable that a growing selection of more highly processed products is available now, with labeled analysis of nutrients and contents. For instance, Scotts Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Plant Food is a manufactured product composed entirely of chicken litter and ground up feathers, with an N-P-K ratio of 7:1:2. Garden Safe Organic Plant Food is made of poultry manure with a label that is very similar to chemical fertilizers.Thence,below are the reasons why do you need to use organic fertilizers.

Pros of Organic Fertilizers:

  • Besides releasing nutrients, as organic fertilizersbreak down, they improve the structures of the soil and increase its ability to hold water and nutrients. Over time, they will lead your soil and plants to be healthy and strong.
  • Since they are the ultimate slow-release fertilizers, it’s very difficult to over fertilize your plants.
  • There’s little to no risk of toxic buildups of chemicals and salts that can be deadly to plants, feeding important microbes in the soil.
  • They are renewable, biodegradable, sustainable, and environmental friendly.
  • They continue improving the soil even after the plants have taken the nutrients they need. Thus, the longer the soil is fed with them, the better its compositions and textures are.

Cons of Organic Fertilizers:

  • Microorganisms are required to break down and release nutrients into the soil.  But the good news is these microorganisms obtain energy from decaying plant and animal matter, so an application of organic fertilizer provides a complete package of nutrients for your soil.
  • They break down according to natural rules. You have to be patient as you won’t see improvement soon. In fact, you may notice a deficiency in your plants during the first couple of months until the first application breaks down. Then, you’ll most definitely be rewarded.

In short, organic fertilizersare plant or animal-based materials that are naturally occurring processes, such as manures, leaves and compost. Hence, why do you need to use organic fertilizers? It is becausethe danger of over-fertilization can be reduced as the soil nutrientsare released slowly and they can be available over a longer period and only few applications are required.


Here Are the Main Signs Your Oil Palms are Lacking Nutrients

As an oil palm plantation owner, there are many challenges and issues that need to be solved. In order for the production level to reach its optimum level, you would need to handle pests, diseases and various other things. One of the more outstanding problems affecting oil palm trees are malnutrition.

Most of the oil palm plantations in Malaysia are several decades old, or have been replanted over land that used to be planted with coconuts. Prolonged agricultural activity over several decades on the same location can deplete the soil of its nutrients.

Here are some of the signs that your palms need fertilizers:

Palm Fronds Turning Yellow

The most obvious signs of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium or N, P and K are a yellowing of the leaves. In oil palms this usually starts off with light green or yellow spots on older leaves.  These spots will turn reddish orange or just orange. If no fertilizers are applied, the leaves will start browning from the outer borders inwards.

The entire frond will eventually die and fall off prematurely. Usually, the leaves are the first to exhibit the effect of nutrition deficiency as they are the parts that conduct photosynthesis and make food for the rest of the palm.

Smaller Fruit Bunches

The health of an oil palm tree can be judges by the fruit bunches it produces. Unhealthy palms that don’t have enough fertilizers may produce fruit bunches that are smaller than usual. Additionally, the entire oil palm may produce less fruits on average.

If your palms are producing less fruit all of a sudden and no illnesses can be detected, there’s a high chance that this is due to a lack of proper minerals in the soil.

Shorter and Unhealthy Roots

When the oil palm doesn’t get adequate nutrients, it shows in the length of the roots. Oil palms usually grow individual roots that originate from the base of the trunk. Boron deficiency will cause the tips of the roots to wither and dry out.

Additionally, an overall lack of nutrients can cause the roots to be very short. This can really affect the stability of the palm. Palms without an adequate grip in the soil can fall over during heavy winds and rains.


Disfigured Fruits and Leaves

Palms that aren’t growing healthily may often show early signs by producing gnarled leaf fronds or unusual looking fruit. If you notice a number of these occurring in a certain area, you should not dismiss it and should take the necessary steps. The lack of nutrition in palms sometimes results in mutations that happen at random.

Slower or Stunted Growth

This symptom has to be observed over a longer period of several months, especially in younger palms. A lack of nutrition in the soil can cause stunting too, where the palms are shorter and don’t start producing fruit until very much later compared to other palms.

Conducting regular checks on your oil palms are necessary to determine which areas need fertilization. This practice can also prevent over-fertilization  from random application,which can be dangerous for the palms.