Sustainable Oil Palm Farming / Applying copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn)

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Figure 23: Copper sulphate

Download: Module 4: Fertiliser Application

Note: Copper and zinc fertiliser should be applied to peat soils only.


Correct copper or zinc deficiencies in oil palm plantations in peat soils in order to achieve optimum yields.


Copper and zinc fertiliser are applied according to the 4R principle: right type, right amount, right place, right time.


  • Usually when palms are still immature or young;
  • Not during very wet periods.


Once per year.

Labour time required

2—4 hours per hectare.

Equipment and materials

  • Bucket, bag or wheelbarrow
  • Kitchen scales
  • Black marker pen
  • Cup or small bowl
  • Knapsack sprayer with long lance (for aerial application)
  • Fertiliser


See: Table 5; Table 7.


Farmers and their families or hired labourers.


Copper and zinc fertilisation is usually necessary on peat soils only and not on mineral soils. When applying copper and zinc directly onto the soil, quite large amounts are needed because much of the fertiliser will be bound by the soil. An alternative in immature plantations is to apply copper and/or zinc fertilisers directly onto the leaves 1.

Copper / zinc application to the soil

Step 1. Before application, remove all weeds from the weeded circle.
Step 2. Weigh the amount to be applied in a small bowl or cup, using kitchen scales.
Step 3. Mark the bowl / cup at the right amount using the black marker pen.
Step 4. Apply the fertiliser evenly in the weeded circle.

Copper / zinc application to the leaves

Step 1. Make sure the knapsack sprayer is clean and works correctly.
Step 2. Fill the knapsack sprayer with water (4—5 L per palm).
Step 3. Weigh the amount to be applied in a small cup, using precise kitchen scales.
Step 4. Add the fertiliser to the sprayer and make sure it is dissolved well
Step 5. Spray the palms with the fertiliser solution. Considerations when spraying fertiliser to the crown:
  • Much smaller quantities are needed;
  • Spraying is cheaper and the nutrients are taken up faster compared with applying to the soil because the soil cannot bind the nutrients;
  • However, copper and zinc can be toxic if applied in too large quantities, especially when sprayed onto the leaves;
  • It is a good idea to try out the spraying and the application on the soil with a few palms (at least four for each treatment) to see if nutrient deficiency symptoms disappear.

Symptoms should disappear in 3—12 months.

Note: If not enough potassium is applied, the palms will still be yellow because of potassium deficiency, even if the copper and the zinc are effective.

Data recording

Every fertiliser application should be recorded in a logbook as shown in the example below.

Date Time Location Activity Input type Input amount Input costs Labour input Labour costs
People Hours
16/01/13 Field 3 Fertiliser: Cu CuSO4 15 kg 200000 1 4 40000


  1. K.H. Lim, S.S. Lim, F. Parish, R. Suharto, RSPO Manual on Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Existing Oil Palm Cultivation on Peat., RSPO, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2012.


The material from Applying copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) is sourced from Smallholder Oil Palm Handbook and put together by Lotte Suzanne Woittiez (Wageningen Universit) and Haryono Sadikin, Sri Turhina, Hidayat Dani, Tri Purba Dukan, and Hans Smit (SNV) in August 2016. See Module 4: Fertiliser Application for more information.

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