Sustainable Oil Palm Farming / Circle weeding

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Download: Module 3: Plantation Maintenance


Figure 18: Cleanly weeded circle
  • Loose fruits on the ground are easy to spot and to collect (Figure 18)
  • Harvesting can be carried out quickly and efficiently
  • Efficient application and use of fertilisers


  • Palm circles (1.5–2.0 m from the trunk in mature plantations) are completely weed-free
  • Palm circles are free of rubbish


  • Shortly before the peak season (so that harvesting can be done more efficiently)
  • At the same time as path weeding (if possible)
  • Not when rain is expected that day (otherwise the herbicide will be washed away)


Every 2–4 months depending on the season and weed growth

Labour time required

  • Manual weeding: 4 days per hectare
  • Chemical weeding: 1 day per 2 hectares (together with path weeding)

Equipment and materials

Figure 19: Manual circle cleaning
Figure 20: Poorly weeded circle with loose fruits hidden below the weeds
  • Manual weeding:
- Chisel/spade
- Bush knife
- Rake
  • Chemical weeding:
- Knapsack sprayer
- Protective clothing
- Measuring cup (50–200 ml)
- Clean water (100–200 L/ha)
- Herbicide (0.5–1 L)
- Rake


Farmers and their families or hired labourers


Manual circle weeding

  • Pull out all vegetation in the circle or cut vegetation to ground level with a bush knife, or alternatively scrape away all plants in the circle using a spade (see Figure 19)
  • Rake weeds cut by a bush knife out of the circle
  • Avoid ploughing or disturbing the soil in the circle because it can damage the palm roots

Chemical weeding

If the weeds are tall (more than 50 cm), it is best to start with one round of manual weeding and then to spray the young re-growing weeds after one month, or when the weeds are at ankle height using the following procedure:

Step 1. Make sure the sprayer is calibrated and working properly.
Step 2. Prepare the herbicide according to the instructions on the package (see also Storing and spraying chemicals).
Step 3. Select a nozzle that gives a spray of about 1 meter wide.
Step 4. Spray the weed using the following technique:
  • Walk at a regular speed around the palm
  • Keep the nozzle steady and low above the ground
  • Do not swing the nozzle left and right
  • If the spray is not wide enough, walk two circles around the palm, one close to the trunk and one at 1–1.5 m from the trunk

Per hectare, expect to spray 100–200 L (0.5–2 L of herbicide), depending on the number of weeds.

Step 5. Spray any re-growth one month after the first spraying to fully kill the weeds.

Data recording

Every weeding activity 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 Path and circle weeding Round-Up 1 L 75000 1 8 80000


The material from Circle weeding 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 3: Plantation Maintenance for more information.

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