Establishment: Weeding Operations in Immature Oil Palms

Weeds are plants growing in areas where they are not wanted and are more harmful than useful, even after their possible beneficial effects have been taken into account (Koch et al, 1983). Chung (1997) reported that since weeds can reduce crop growth and yield, interfere with harvesting, crop recovery and other agricultural operations, control measures are necessary.

According to Corley et al. (1976), the following four types of weeding operations will be necessary in areas where legume covers are maintained:

  • circle weeding of palm circles (Figure 14) – for young palms, circle weeding is normally carried out to prevent weed competition
  • strip weeding to provide access for harvesting and other field operations – more relevant for mature palms
  • selective spot weeding to remove noxious weeds from the legume covers or natural ground covers (Figure 15 and Figure 16) and
  • periodic control of legume covers if growth is too vigourous – de-creeping for example (Figure 17)

The various herbicide application techniques and their respective productivity are highlighted in Teoh (1991) and Chee and Chung (1998). The latter also recommended the types of herbicides to be used for controlling the different types of weeds.

Another necessary estate practice would be calibrating and checking to ensure the correct dosage of herbicides to be utilized for each equipment prior to the actual weeding work (Figure 18). It should be emphasized that the quality of herbicide application (correct dosage, proper usage of equipment and correct area of application) should precede that of quantity or productivity (how many hectares a person or equipment can do in a day) of applying the herbicides. It would be of no use spraying a large area but not getting the desired kill as inevitably, the job has to be repeated. The same principle should also apply to pesticide spraying i.e. controlling rhinoceros beetles with Cypermethrin.

With the usage of AA+ Mulch, better control of weeds and creepers is possible (Figure 19). Problems of phytotoxicity (Figure 21) and lower frond scorching are also reduced, as herbicide spraying is more easily carried out, thus promoting better palm growth (more leaf area with minimal scorching) resulting in high early yields. The AA+ Mulch would also be useful if planting is to be carried out in difficult areas such as in steep terrain areas, to reduce the need for frequent fertilizer applications and weed control (Figure 20) during the first year of planting.

With proper field upkeep i.e. timely and quality circle and spot spraying, the young immature oil palm field should look like Figure 22.