Researchers to work together in solving oil palm issues

A palm oil plantation in Kampung Perpaduan, Sabah. – Filepic

KUCHING: Researchers from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) will work with Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa) member companies on research and development projects to address issues faced by the oil palm industry in the state.

The projects are mainly targeted at agronomy issues, fertiliser recommendations and best management practices of oil palm on peat soil; issues related to poor fruit set in peat and mineral soils; low oil extraction rate; weevil population study; insect pests, especially termites and Tirathaba bunch moth; rat management in oil palm estates; and control and management of ganoderma and other oil palm diseases.

“The identified R&D projects are expected to be implemented from April onwards, with regular meetings to be held to monitor and report on progress,” Soppoa said in a press release.

It said a small task force, comprising members of the MPOB research team and Soppoa’s R&D research committee, would be set up to prioritise the identified projects for implementation.

The R&D projects came about following a workshop held by MPOB in collaboration with Soppoa in Sibu recently.

It was conducted by MPOB biology research division director Dr Norman Kamarudin and his team of research officers, while palm oil industry consultant Chung Giat Fee gave a presentation on rat management in oil palm estates.

Following the workshop, MPOB director-general Datuk Dr Choo Yuen May held a dialogue with Soppoa members present to discuss issues affecting the oil palm industry in the country.

Soppoa had previously highlighted to MPOB its concerns over substantially lower fresh fruit bunch yields in Sarawak and the declining trend of oil extraction rates since 2009, especially in the coastal region.

More recently, it said, oil palm estates had been affected by serious infestation of Tirabatha, particularly in the lower Baram and central coastal regions, poor fruit set, bunch failures, lower frond dessication and acid sulphate soil problems.

“In view of these adverse trends and other related issues, Soppoa had requested for MPOB’s collaboration to intensify research and development projects to help identify the causes for the lower performances and problems faced by Sarawak planters, and to recommend solutions to enhance productivity and improve overall performance in plantation management.

“This is to ensure that the Sarawak oil palm industry can realise its full potential and be on par with the rest of the country,” Soppoa said.

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