In this ever revolutionary world, new technology is developed in a short period of time. In terms of agriculture, many new ways of plantation are developed. One of the ways is aeroponics plantation.
What is aeroponic plantation?
Aeroponic is a recently developed form of technology where plants are grown in an environment with air or mist. In this method, soil or an aggregate medium is not used.
How does it work?
The plants are suspended in a closed or partially closed environment. The dangling roots of the plants are sprayed with a nutrient-rich liquid. This liquid provided all the vital nutrients to the plants. The leaves extend above a support structure and are exposed to light that is either installed above the plants or in semi-closed structures, the plants absorb natural light from the sun.
Caring for aeroponic plants
Aeroponic plants are protected by keeping pests away. Since some plants are not fully protected from the outside environment and thus can be attacked by pests, regular schedules of pesticide application are followed. In a closed environment, however, there is a low risk of the plants being attacked by pests.
- Easy to care for as the plants are safe from outside pests
- Proper skills are needed to ensure adequate nutrients reach the plants
- Costly as the installation and maintenance is expensive
If you are a farmer, plantation owner or investor in agriculture, you will know that the agriculture industry relies heavily on fertilizers. However, the price of fertilizers can be rather volatile and unstable. This can seriously affect the cost of running a plantation as well as profit margins.
If you’re in the agriculture industry, it’s important to know what drives and influences the prices of fertilizers, whether they’re NPK, Urea, Ammonia based or others.
Harvest seasons, an increase in plantations, economic activities, currency rates, consumption patterns and more will cause the need for palm oil to increase. When that happens, the demand for fertilizers also increases.
When there’s a high demand for fertilizers, the prices of fertilizers will increase. In the same way, if the supply for fertilizers decreases, and the demand increases, the prices will go up too. In recent years, there has been a spike in demand for fertilizers, especially among emerging economies.
2. Availability of Raw Materials
In the fertilizer industry, the price and availability of raw materials are known as input cost. The main raw materials in the fertilizer industry are from mining. This includes factors such as industry trends, mining costs, weather and other macroeconomic elements. Raw material prices also differ from place to place, due to things like cheaper labour and machinery costs.
Logically speaking, the higher the input costs for fertilizers, the more expensive the fertilizers will be. One good example is natural gas, which is the raw material needed to produce Ammonia. Natural gas is usually found with petrol and its price has been steadily increasing over the past decade due to a decrease in global supply.
3. Transportation Costs
Major fertilizer producers in the world tend to import their raw materials. For example, in the US, Ammonia is imported from Trinidad and Tobago and this accounts for up to 30% of production costs.
There is a global supply chain happening in the world today and therefore, an increase in things like fuel or petrol prices will cause transportation costs to increase, and thereby also increase the cost of producing fertilizers.
4. Higher Revenue Margins
There are seasons when fertilizer producers, especially the larger ones, set higher fertilizer prices as they want to bump up their profits. Higher revenue and lower expenses will add value to a company’s stocks, so there are times that companies need to prop up prices to ensure the survivability of their company too.
What can governments do?
Although global fertilizer prices tend to be unstable, plantation owners don’t need to be overly concerned as governments will still protect agricultural costs. In Malaysia, there are several policies that will help farmers.
This includes a program where smallholders are given fertilizer subsidies, fertilizer aid and government-funded fertilizer producers that produce cheaper fertilizers.
In the long run, however, it is up to planters to plan their costs properly and take into consideration the unstable nature of global fertilizer prices in order for the business to be sustainable.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm oil futures jumped more than 1% on Wednesday as traders bet upcoming export data would overshoot forecasts.
The benchmark palm oil contract for September delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange was up 1.2% at 2,047 ringgit ($491) per tonne at the close.
Cargo surveyors and an independent inspection company had over Saturday and Monday reported more than 15% falls in exports for the June 1-15 period.
“The export rumour for June 1-20 period shows better numbers than in the earlier period,” a futures trader based in Kuala Lumpur said.
In other related oils, the Chicago July soybean oil contract was last up 0.5%.
The September soy oil contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange fell 1.2% and the Dalian September palm oil contract was also down 0.2%.
Palm oil prices are affected by movements in related edible oils, with which it competes for global market share. – Reuters
Palm oil has been gathering a bad rep for itself in recent decades. There are those who argue that this oil is high in saturated fats, which is dangerous to cardiovascular health or the health of blood vessels and your heart.
Apart from the effects on health, palm oil’s impact on the environment has also been called into question. However, scientific evidence has shown that palm oil is actually beneficial when consumed as part of a balanced diet.
Palm oil is rich in Vitamin E and Tocotrienols. Both these nutrients are strong antioxidants which are really useful in preventing diseases. Here’s a full explanation of how palm oil is beneficial:
- Prevents cancer
When taken according to recommended levels, palm oil provides your body with enough antioxidants to help prevent cancer. Antioxidants in palm oil neutralize toxins known as free radicals in your body.
Free radicals are able to cause your cells to mutate and turn cancerous. They can enter your body through polluted water and air, but antioxidants are there to stop them in their tracks.
- Good for your eyesight
Palm oil has beta-carotene, a type of nutrient usually found in orange, red and yellow coloured fruits and vegetables. There’s a type of palm oil that’s red in colour due to different processing steps that have more beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is a precursor of Vitamin A, which is important for maintaining good eyesight. Palm oil has been used to treat Vitamin A deficiency to a successful degree, especially
- Anti-ageing effects
The anti-ageing effects of palm oil come from its high level of antioxidants. Apart from preventing cancer, antioxidants also prevent the premature ageing of cells. This will help your skin stay youthful for as long as possible.
Too much free-radicals in your body can cause the skin to look wrinkled and saggy, which is why having adequate antioxidants is crucial.
- A good balance of lipids
The main cause of heart disease is a type of cholesterol called LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and trans-fat. Palm oil is completely free of trans-fat and is an affordable alternative for those in the food production industry who need trans-fat-free oil. Palm oil is actually better for your blood vessels and heart health compared to cooking with butter.
Palm oil has a balance of LDL and good cholesterol known as HDL (high-density lipoprotein) as well as LDL. When taken in moderate amounts according to the food pyramid, palm oil is able to give your body the balance of lipids it needs to function.
- High in Omega-3 fatty acids
The omega-3 fatty acid is important as a component to ensure that your joints are smooth and functions at its best. This nutrient is useful for those who are senior in age and suffer from joint pain and arthritis as it helps to lubricate joints.
Apart from that, Omega-3 is also helpful in slowing and preventing the effects of Alzheimer’s. This is because it helps to maintain the health of brain nerve endings and connections.
The only caution that experts mention about palm oil is that it should not be consumed in excess amounts by people with cholesterol problems. However, if taken in healthy amounts this oil is not only harmless, it’s beneficial.
Credit: Nirapai BoonPheng @ Shutterstock for the features image of the palm oil
Slow release fertilizer, such as the type developed by Greenfeed Company, promotes some positive contributions to the agricultural industry. A slow release fertilizer, as the name indicates, releases its nutrients slowly into the soil over a long period of time.
The difference between the slow release fertilizer and the conventional soluble fertilizer is mainly on how the nutrients are transferred to the plants. When slow release fertilizer is used, the coated layer of the fertilizer pallet will evaporate, and the pallet containing nutrient will be absorbed into the soil. The nutrients are then slowly released over a period of 6 to 9 months. This provides the plant with enough nutrients for at least 6 months.
On the other hand, conventional fertilizers release the nutrients at once into the soil as soon as they dissolve into water. This causes the fertilizer effect to wear off quicker while leaching off a portion of fertilizer into the ground.
One advantage of the slow release fertilizer includes a reduced frequency to fertilize the crops. In large agricultural lands, a high amount of energy, labour and time are needed to fertilize the whole field. While most conventional fertilizer has to be applied at least three times a year, the whole process can be completed in only one application using slow release fertilizer. This in return saves cost, time and energy.
By providing benefits such as mentioned above, there is a high chance that slow release fertilizer will become the future of agriculture.
As for humans, we might take supplements to keep ourselves healthy and away from diseases. For plants, fertilizer is equally important as supplements are to humans. In plants, being equally crucial, fertilizer and water play their important roles. Here is a guide to when to fertilizer your plants and to water them.
You should always keep in mind that fertilizer is absorbed by the roots of the plants. Since most fertilizer comes in the form of granules, it is important to water the plants according to your fertilizing schedule.
If you want to apply fertilizer to your plants, make sure they are not dried or browned up. Your plants should always be green or a little fresh at least when you apply fertilizer. Applying fertilizer to browned plants can cause them to dehydrate and die.
If you are applying fertilizer to the plants during dry seasons, water your plants thoroughly every day for at least three days before spreading fertilizer around the roots. This will ensure that the soil around the roots is moist enough for the nutrients from the fertilizer to travel through. Once you are done applying fertilizer, water your plants lightly once more to ensure that there is no fertilizer left on the leaves of your plants.
On the other hand, if you wish to apply fertilizer during the rainy season, be sure to predict the intensity of rain before applying the fertilizer. If it rains just enough to wet the soil till the roots, then the fertilizer will be efficiently absorbed. However, if you apply the fertilizer before a thunderstorm, it will end up being washed up before even reaching the roots.
Therefore, the moisture of the soil before and after applying fertilizer should be taken into count to enable maximum absorption of nutrients by the plants.
** Credit: Agus Andrianto/CIFOR @ Flickr for the featured image of a worker fertilizing on oil palm plantation in Papua, Indonesia
Tropical agriculture, like that in Malaysia, faces its own challenges. Many tropical countries are developing countries that depend on agriculture to drive their economies. This is why increasing and optimizing fertilizer efficiency is paramount.
If you have a plantation here, these are the main issues you may face while using fertilizers and how to overcome them:
It is the usual practice for many plantations is to apply their fertilizers by spreading them on the ground. This method, although it looks pretty simple on the surface, actually poses some challenges. For starters, it requires a lot of manpower to manually spread the dry fertilizers all over the plantation. Secondly, this method exposes the fertilizers to rain, which causes fertilizer runoff, whereby most of the nutrients are washed away by the rain or leaches through the ground.
How to overcome this: FELDA has worked on a solution to this problem, using a method called the Mulch method for mature palms. This method uses a tarp to cover the area around the palm after fertilizer application. This minimizes fertilizer runoff and increases efficiency since fertilizers only have to be applied once a year. You can find out more about the Mulch method at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zcw7g-CBhk)
2. Changing Fertilizer Prices
The prices of fertilizers can often be a challenge and are very much influenced by volatile market factors such as demand and supply. Availability of raw materials also influences prices to some degree. Fertilizer costs can become a burden to plantations during periods where there’s a sharp rise. However, a plantation cannot go without fertilizers for long. Research has shown that the productivity of an oil palm plantation starts to decline sharply one to two years after fertilizers have been stopped.
How to overcome this: Complete withdrawal of fertilizers should be the last resort. In the meantime, you can reduce your fertilizers and target usage. Withdrawal should be done only on the nutrients with least impact on FFB. You can also withdraw your fertilizers from the soil types, climatic zones and palm ages that are the healthiest and the most stable. However, this withdrawal should not be for long.
3. Environmentally Sustainable Fertilizers
With the global market for palm oil becoming more environmentally conscious, oil palm plantations have to become environmentally conscious too. This means taking steps to make sure that all agricultural practices on the plantation are sustainable. This term ‘sustainability’ means practices that are not harmful to the environment and can be carried out for years and years to come with no major negative impacts. The challenge for plantation owners is to make sure that the fertilization practices are sustainable too.
The main problem with agrochemical fertilizers is the presence of Nitrogen. According to research, 20-80% of the nitrogen in fertilizers is lost due to volatilization and runoff. Nitrogen runoff is especially harmful to the environment as it causes eutrophication, where algae overgrow in a body of water and kill all life living there due to lack of sunlight.
How to overcome this: There are many types of newer fertilizers that treat their nitrogen to make it less volatile and sensitive to leaching. Alternatively, you can also consider controlled release fertilizers that are less likely to pollute the environment due to runoff.
The pH value of a medium is how acidic or alkaline it is on the pH scale. The pH of a medium is measured based on the pH scale. The scale ranges from 0 to 14. Value of 7 on the scale is considered to be neutral, while values below 7 are acidic and above 7 are alkaline.
In soils, the pH values control most chemical processes such as nutrient availability. It is very crucial to maintain a proper level of pH in the soil to enable the plants to reach their full potential.
For most plants, the optimal pH range is between 5.5 to 7. However, some plants prefer a pH value of more or less than the common range. For example, blueberries and barley prefer a more acidic medium. While Lilac and Leather flower prefers an acidic pH value to grow in.
In certain cases, the pH value of a certain part of soil can become acidic. This happens due to a few reasons:
- Removal of produce
The parts of a plant, except the roots, is generally alkaline. Only the roots tend to be acidic. Therefore, when the plant is removed from the soil, some part of the roots remain and causes acidity
2. Nitrogen leaching from the roots of the crop
Since most fertilizers contain nitrogen, most of the nitrogen is stored in the roots of the plants. There is no doubt that a certain amount leaches out of the roots into the soil, thus increasing soil acidity in the area.
** Credit: Dwight Sipler @ Flickr for the Blue Hydrangea
As the need for food increases day by day, more and more land is cleared to plant food sources such as grains, paddy and wheat. Small scale farmers try to do their best to produce some food for income while large companies tend to clear acres of land at a time to plant the amount of food needed to feed the mouths of so many people.
A lot of time, money and energy is invested in developing a piece of land for agricultural purpose. However, some parts of the land may not be as productive or fertile as it is expected to be during the planning. For example, if a farmer clears and plants fifty rows of grains, one of the rows might just be on an infertile piece of land. However, he will keep fertilizing the row, hoping that the crops produce will increase.
Given the example, precision agriculture techniques can help reduce the risk of fertilizer and capital wastage alongside reducing the effect of fertilizer runoff into the neighbouring lakes and other water sources. Precision agriculture is a technology which utilizes satellites to determine the areas of land which have been barren for years.
Images from the satellite show the areas in a different shading where the infertile regions are marked. These images can then be provided to farmers who own the piece of land. By doing this, the farmers would not clear the land for agricultural use, knowing that the yield would not be rewarding. Therefore, instead of experimenting with the land, the farmers can directly use the land for other purposes such as building habitats for animals cattle, or goats.
This technology promises a reduced carbon footprint from agricultural activities. This is so, once the land is known as infertile, no projects for plantation will be carried out. Thus, lowering the risk of wasteful land clearing. Next, by knowing that the land is infertile, farmers would not plant any food there, thus avoiding the farmers from over fertilizing an area which can not produce a healthy plant. This in return helps reduce the damage done to the environment by the fertilizer runoff.
Palm Oil plantation owners and other stakeholders in this field should always strive to improve their plantation practices. One of the ways this can be accomplished is through getting certifications. Currently, the MPOCC of the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council has made one type of certification for oil palm smallholders.
This is known as the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil or MSPO Certificate.
What is the MSPO Certificate?
The MSPO certificate is an acknowledgement that the products of your plantation products are made through sustainable methods. This means there’s nothing that pollutes the environment and all processes are safe and complies Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
The main benefit of having the MPSO certificate is that your products will be more marketable overseas. Right now, many western countries, especially the European Union, have laws against buying palm oil linked to serious environmental issues like deforestation and wildlife destruction.
When Should I Get the MSPO?
Basically, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, under the Ministry of Primary Industries, is trying to get all palm oil plantations certified with the MSPO. This certificate ensures that certain standards of agricultural practices are met within your plantation or palm oil processing plant. It was first announced in 2013 but started out as a voluntary program.
However, in 2017, the announcement was made to make it mandatory for oil palm plantations and factories to be MSPO certified in three stages. The first two phases involved larger plantations and factories who previously had RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Oil Palm) certificates and those who did not have RSPO certification. The first phase ended in December 2018 while the second phase ends in June 2019.
The third and final phase involves all oil palm smallholders. Oil palm smallholders are compulsory to have this MSPO certification by 31st December 2019. Therefore if you haven’t started with the process, now is the time to do it.
How Do I Get The MSPO?
As a plantation owner, you should first submit an application to MPOB after consultation. After that, you will undergo two stages of audits and one peer review. If you pass all that, then the MPSO certificate will be issued to your plantation. However, that is not the end as there will be an annual re-evaluation so that the certificate can be renewed.
What Are The Benefits of Having the MPSO?
The MPSO certificate will give you an edge over competitors as it will ensure consumers and business partners know that your agricultural practices are safe for the environment and sustainable. Additionally, here are some other benefits listed out by MPOB:
- Continuous and increased production of fresh fruit bunches
- The rights of plantation owners will be ensured
- Better access to bank loans and capitals
- Cleaner environment for future generations
- A thorough record of your plantation management
- Minimizes the misuse of MPOB certificates and FFB theft
- Gaining the confidence and satisfaction of stakeholders
If you’re interested in more information on the MSPO, please visit the official MPOB website here.