Interest of farmers and potential investors increasingly heighten as oil palm production is considered as a sunshine industry in Southern Philippines.
The "Technoguide on Oil Palm Production and Disease Management", published by the Philippine Industrial Crops Research Institute (PICRI) in University of Southern Mindanao (USM) edited by Dr. Naomi G. Tangonan and through the funding support from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), was launched during BAR's National Technology Forum and Exhibition held last August 2010 at SM Mega Trade Hall, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City.
According to USM, oil palm is trading high in the world and domestic markets, and is now reputed as the university's highest agribusiness commodity earner. The techno guide contains compiled information about oil palm production and management, climate and soil requirements, diseases of oil palm and their management, and control of diseases of oil palm, among others.
Oil palm is a high value industrial crop in Mindanao. It grows best in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Basilan, and Agusan. The technoguide cited the most common occurrence of diseases in oil palm-producing municipalities of Sultan Kudarat include curvularia leaf spot, anthracnose, pestalotia leaf spot, and leaf blight. Moreover, majority of the farmer-respondents in Sultan Kudarat planted the Tenera hybrid due to its high yield, resistance to pest and diseases, and high economic return compared to the native one.
Some pointers in oil palm production and management found in the handbook includes the following:
- Oil palm is not grown in altitudes above 600 meters above sea level (2,000 ft)
- Success of oil palm plantations and high performance of the palms are closely linked to the use of high-quality planting material, good nursery management, proper field planting techniques, correct management of the young planting, and the selection of the best soils and environmental conditions to grow the crop.
- Plantations can be started with 4-6 month-old seedlings as long as the seedlings are well grown. Ten to twelve-month seedlings are the usual planting materials used. These are sturdy and easily survive field conditions.
- Fertilizers are to be spread immediately surrounding the base of the palm to ensure fertilizers are available to the roots of the palm then covered lightly with soil.
- Empty fruit bunches are good source of organic fertilizers such as potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium.
- Pruning some parts of the plant aims at improving structural integrity, influence flowering, and fruiting. The only pruning that most palms need is occasional removal of dead ad unnecessary fronds.