Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 83, Issue 2, pp 163–178 | Cite as

A conceptual framework for determining economically optimal fertiliser use in oil palm plantations with factorial fertiliser trials

  • Michael J. WebbEmail author
Research Article


The theory, and the statistics and mathematics of using factorial fertiliser trials to assist in making fertiliser recommendations for neighbouring commercial plantings is presented as a conceptual framework and in a format for practical application. As an example, the yield and leaf nutrient levels from a typical factorial fertiliser rate trial (nitrogen by potassium) were modelled using multiple linear regression and the resulting response surfaces used to determine the maximum agronomic yield and optimum economic yield and to calculate the requirement for ‘basal’ fertiliser. Leaf nutrient data in both the trial and commercial plantings was used to estimate the requirement for ‘corrective’ fertiliser, where necessary, to increase the leaf nutrient levels to the target leaf nutrient level for maximum yield. All the mathematics required can be incorporated into a spreadsheet calculator that uses costs (e.g. fertiliser) and prices (e.g. oil) to calculate optimum economic fertiliser application rates. Problems with extrapolating the results of fertiliser trials to commercial plantings can be overcome by matching each trial with a corresponding commercial planting domain.


Fertiliser response Regression models Economic optimum Oil palm Fertiliser nitrogen Fertiliser potassium Application rate 



This research was conducted while the author was employed by Papua New Guinea Oil Palm Research Association. The author wishes to thank Dr Hugh Foster for an introduction to the use of multiple linear regression as a method of analysing factorial trials; and Thomas Fairhurst for critically reviewing and improving the manuscript before submission. The author also wishes to thank staff of the Papua New Guinea Oil Palm Research Association and Milne Bay Estates for conducting and maintaining Trial 504.


  1. Anderson RL, Nelson LA (1975) A family of models involving intersecting straight lines and concomitant experimental designs useful in evaluating response to fertilizer nutrients. Biometrics 31:303–318. doi: 10.2307/2529422 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Campbell LC (1998) Managing soil fertility decline. In: Rengel Z (ed) Nutrient use in crop production. Hawthorn Press Inc., New York, pp 29–52Google Scholar
  3. Corley RHV, Tinker PB (2003) The oil palm, 4th edn. Blackwell Science, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  4. Foster HL (2003) Assessment of oil palm fertiliser requirements. In: Fairhurst T, Härdter R (eds) Oil palm: management for large and sustainable yields. Potash & Phosphate Institute/Potash & Phosphate Institute of Canada/International Potash Institute, Singapore, pp 231–257Google Scholar
  5. Hartley CWS (1988) The oil palm, 3rd edn. Longman, LondonGoogle Scholar
  6. Kraip J, Webb MJ (2005) Monitoring of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) leaf nutrient variations to help interpret routine leaf sampling results: PNG OPRA trial 136. Papua New Guinea Oil Palm Research Association, Kimbe. p 29Google Scholar
  7. Melling L, Goh KJ, Hatano R (2006) Short-term effect of urea on CH4 flux under the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) on tropical peat-land in Sarawak, Malaysia. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 52:788–792. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-0765.2006.00092.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Rankine IR, Fairhurst TH (1999) Field handbook-oil palm series, vol 3. Mature, Potash and Phosphate Institute, SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  9. Smith FW, Loneragan JF (1997) Interpretation of plant analysis: concepts and principles. In: Reuter DJ, Robinson JB (eds) Plant analysis: an interpretation manual. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, pp 3–33Google Scholar
  10. Verdooren R (2003) Design and analysis of fertiliser experiments. In: Fairhurst T, Härdter R (eds) Oil palm: management for large and sustainable yields. Potash & Phosphate Institute/Potash & Phosphate Institute of Canada/International Potash Institute, Singapore, pp 259–278Google Scholar
  11. Wilkie AS, Foster HL (1989) Oil palm response to fertilisers in Papua New Guinea. In: PORIM international palm oil development conference, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 5–8 September, 1989, pp 395–405Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Davies LaboratoryCSIRO Land and WaterTownsvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations