Sustainable Oil Palm Farming / Pest and disease census

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Download: Module 5: Pests and Diseases

In order to find pests and diseases in an early stage, it is necessary to do a regular ‘check’ of the plantation. This check is called a ‘census’ 1.

Doing a census correctly requires extensive field training. An effective and simple way to do census in smallholder plantations is not yet available.

To learn how to carry out a pest and disease census correctly, discuss with local plantations or refer to: Rankine and Fairhurst, 1999, Oil Palm Field Handbook Mature 1.

Census is generally performed on all the palms in every tenth row. The key pests and diseases to check for when doing a census include:

  • Rats: Damage to bunches in mature palms and young shoots in immature palms (see Section 4).
  • Rhinoceros beetle: Round holes in leaf bases, deformed leaves with some leaflet tips missing (see Section 5).
  • Leaf-eating caterpillars: Irregular holes in the leaflets and/or larvae on the lower fronds or the fresh fronds on the stack (see Section 6).
  • Ganoderma(see Section 7).
  • Spear rot, crown disease, bud rot (see Section 8).

On a score sheet or notebook, write down what pests and diseases have been observed and on which palms.

If signs of pests or diseases are observed, refer to the specific sections of this chapter to decide what to do next.

Data recording

Every pest census should be recorded in a log book 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 Pest census 1 2 20000


  1. 1.0 1.1 I.R. Rankine, T.H. Fairhurst, Field Handbook: Oil Palm Series, Volume 3 – Mature, second ed., Potash & Phosphate Institute (PPI), Singapore, 1999.


The material from Pest and disease census 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 5: Pests and Diseases for more information.

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