Sustainable Oil Palm Farming / Applying phosphate (P)

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Figure 20: Rock phosphate application

Download: Module 4: Fertiliser Application


  • Provide oil palms with sufficient phosphorus to produce optimum yields;
  • Limit the loss of phosphorus to the environment.


Phosphorus fertiliser is applied according to the 4R principle: right type, right amount, right place, right time.


  • When the soil is moist;
  • Not during very strong rains or in the middle of the rainy season.


1 or 2 doses per year (once per 6—12 months).

Labour time required

2—4 hours per hectare.

Equipment and materials

  • Bucket, bag or wheelbarrow
  • Kitchen scales
  • Black marker
  • Bowl of 1.5—2 L
  • Fertiliser


See: Table 4; Table 5; Table 6; Table 7.


Farmers and their families or hired labourers.


Apply phosphorus fertiliser by following these steps:

Step 1. Before application, make sure that erosion control (i.e. terraces, dams) has been installed on sloping terrain because P fertiliser remains at the top of the soil for a long time and is therefore sensitive to loss by erosion or runoff.
Step 2. Make sure the plantation is well maintained, noxious weeds have been removed and ground cover has been slashed to 50 cm height.
Step 3. Weigh the amount of fertiliser to be applied in a bowl or cup, using kitchen scales.
Step 4. Mark the bowl/cup at the right amount using a black marker pen.
Step 5. Apply the fertiliser in the following way:
  • For palms younger than 3 years after planting, P should be applied evenly in the weeded circle;
  • For palms older than 4—10 years after planting, P should be applied in a band around the weeded circle;
  • For palms more than 10 years after planting, P should be broadcast in the inter-row (excluding the harvesting paths), especially over the frond stack to prevent runoff.

If palms are on the edge of a river, road or ditch, avoid applying fertilisers on the side of the palm closest to the edge.

Note: For very acidic soils (pH < 4.0) and peat soils it is better to use rock phosphate than TSP (see Figure 20).

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: P TSP 300kg 300000 1 4 40000


The material from Applying phosphate (P) 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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