Chemical fertilisers contribute significantly to palm oil’s cost of production. There are also concerns that the uncontrolled use of chemical fertilisers can have negative implications on the environment. Many studies have evaluated alternatives not only to reduce costs but also to avoid complications associated with environmental pollution. This study investigated the viability of vermicompost cultivated in a media comprising oil palm empty fruit bunch (OPEFB) and anaerobically digested palm oil mill effluent (POME). Both these substances are abundantly available in Malaysia as by-products of the palm oil industry. Vermicompost application trials were conducted to study the growth pattern of the fronds and the stem heights of oil palm seedlings during the one-year trial period. Three distinct regimes were selected for these trials based on three different compositions of vermicompost: 100% OPEFB and POME (coded as V1), a mixture comprised of V1 and a chemical fertiliser at a ratio of 70%:30%, and 100% chemical fertiliser. The three fertiliser regimes were applied to three batches of three-month old oil palm seedlings at an oil palm nursery. The first regime, which involved treatment with 100% V1, showed a significant increase in the number of fronds (8.0), as well as in their heights (98.1 cm), at the end of the trial period. The results were comparable with those obtained for the other two regimes. The fronds, stems and roots (dry weight) of the V1 seedlings weighed 647 g, 274 g and 150 g per plant, respectively. These figures were higher than the corresponding values for the seedlings treated with 100% chemical fertiliser. The cation exchange capacity of the soil in which the V1 seedlings grew was also found to be higher than that of the soil treated with the other two regimes. Therefore, this study suggests that V1 exhibits good potential to be a viable substitute for chemical fertilisers.
* Malaysian Palm Oil Board, 6 Persiaran Institusi, Bandar Baru Bangi, 43000 Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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