Palm oil BMP: Eliminating burning
Zero burning for new plantingsSince 1989 Good Hope Plantations in Malaysia has found that eliminating burning is practical for replanting or new oil palm plantings. With this method, useful parts of trees are harvested and the remainder are left on the ground where they can be spread out to provide protective ground cover, or piled into rows to prevent runoff and erosion.
The main issue of concern with zero burning is that it might lead to the infestation of beetle pests and stem rot disease. Ploughing, pulverising debris, or planting legumes minimizes this risk.
Benefits from zero burning
The main benefit derived from zero burning in Malaysia is that nutrients tend to be released more slowly during decomposition so that they can be utilized by newly planted trees. This reduces per-hectare inorganic fertilizers needed at the time of planting (e.g., nitrogen by 738 kilograms, phosphorus by 205 kilograms, potassium by 848 kilograms, and magnesium by 487 kilograms).
The organic matter also improves the soil and when used properly, can help with terracing and the reduction of runoff.
One study found that in 1993 the zero burning technique reduced costs for establishing plantations from 1,070 to 1,415 ringgits (the Malaysian unit of currency) when compared with plantations where burning was used.
Source: Adapted from "World Agriculture & Environment" Clay (2004)