PalmCow field activities: soil properties and Ganoderma in palm oil plantations

PalmCow researchers have been busy collecting data to help understand some of the impacts of grazing cattle within palm plantations in Indonesia.


Measuring soil resistance using a penetrometer.

Measuring soil resistance using a penetrometer.

Soil physical and chemical properties, and compaction

PalmCow research team members from the Indonesian Center for Agricultural Land Resources Research and Development (ICALRRD) have begun to taking soil measurements and to collect soil samples. Their goals are to characterise the properties of the soil, and to investigate the extent to which grazing cattle within oil palm plantations may have an effect on soil compaction.

Intact soil sampling using a sample ring.

Intact soil sampling using a sample ring.

Dr Neneng L Nurida and Dr Maswar, together with a team from BPTP East Kalimantan and PalmCow Field Officers recently visited Tajer Mulya village in the Paser district, East Kalimantan. They visited land belonging to the Karya Mandiri farmer group, which has applied an extensive grazing system.

The group’s land area is comprised of 20 ha, owned by 10 farmers with an average number of 10-15 head of Bali cattle owned by each farmer. Cattle are intensively rotated on this site every day within a 15 year old oil palm plantation.

Preliminary observations of the soil properties from this site included measurements of soil resistance (using a penetrometer), completing intact soil sampling using a sample ring to allow soil physical properties to be observed, and composite soil sampling (to characterise soil chemical properties).

The team were joined for discussions at the sampling site by PalmCow project leader Adjunct Professor John Ackerman, Dr Peter Horne from ACIAR, and Mr Syed Haider from DFAT.

Soil samples were brought to the Laboratory at ICALRRD to analyse their chemical composition. 


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The effect of grazing on Ganoderma in oil palm plantations

Another team from The Indonesian Centre for Estate Crop Research and Development (ICERD) including Professor Deciyanto Soetopo, Dr Suci Wulandari, and Tri Eko Wahyono recently travelled with their team to Riau province to investigate the effect of grazing on Ganoderma presence, and its subsequent effect on palm production. Dr Geoff Smith from UNE also visited the team as part of his scoping trip on Ganoderma transmission, soil compaction and nutrition, and palm productivity.

Sampling was completed within two systems. This included an intensive system where no cattle are grazed under the palm oil plantation (Tandansari village, Kampar district) and an extensive system where cattle are grazed under palm oil plantation all day (Cinta Damai village, Kampar district).

The plantations sampled belonged to three farmer groups (Mitra Sehati, Sari Mulyo, Cinta Bangun). Data were collected on the amount of flowers, the number of female and male flowers; the amount of anthesis flowers; spikelet numbers; and the number of pollinating insects. Samples of soil where cattle traffic had occurred were also collected, and sample trees were tagged for collection of additional data at harvest.

Early detection of Ganoderma is difficult, and it is currently only present in some areas. Further information is also required on the mechanisms of its transmission, and modes of action. Proposed research includes utilising existing Ganoderma infection data to identify any correlations between its instance and factors that may relate to transmission such as cattle numbers present, and distance to the nearest village.