Sustainable Palm Oil Practices >Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) and Empty Fruit Bunch Application as a Nutrient Source in Oil Palm

Land Use and Management
Zero Burning Replanting Technique
Integrated Pest Management
Palm Oil Mill Effluent Treatment
Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) and Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB) Application as a Nutrient Source in Oil Palm
Water Management
High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF)

Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) and Empty Fruit Bunch Application as a Nutrient Source in Oil Palm
Oil palm plantations produce large amounts of by-products, particularly POME (treated) and EFB at the rate of 0.1 and 0.2 tonnes respectively for every tonnes of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) processed. In 2003, a total of 2,106,956 tonnes of FFB were processed, resulting in 211,000 tonnes of treated POME and 421,000 tonnes of EFB being produced. These by-products are good sources of plant. Nutrients and they are recycled into the fields as organic fertilizers.
Palm Oil Mill Effluent

Palm oil mill effluent (POME) contains organic matter and plant nutrients which are excellent substitutes for inorganic fertilizer. In view of its proven value, majority of POME produced by palm oil mills is fully recycled as manure.



The effluent fractions that are most suitable for land applications are the digester bottom solids and the aerobic pond solids. Several methods of land application of POME are available. These include application through flat beds/long beds, furrow irrigation, sprinkler and tractor-tanker system.



Raw POME is high in BOD and acidic with pH of around 4.0. After treatment, the pH is raised to around 8 and BOD is lowered. In terms of nutrient value, anaerobic sludge of treated POME contains high plant nutrients. Application of anaerobic sludge in the oil palm fields is carried out using the tractor-tanker system at the rate of 360 and 500 liters/palm/year for coastal and inland soils respectively. In terms of fertilizer value, this application is equivalent to 1.96 kg urea, 1.83 kg Christmas Island Rock Phosphate (CIRP), 1.45 kg Muriate of Potash (MOP), 2.3 kg kieserite for coastal and 2.99 kg urea, 2.80 kg CIRP, 2.22 kg MOP, 3.5 kieserite for inland soils.


Empty Fruit Bunch

Empty fruit bunches (EFB), besides being rich in plant nutrients, also improve soil physical and chemical properties in the following manner when used as mulch.

  1. Increases soil organic matter content.
  2. Improves soil structure.
  3. Increase infiltration and aeration.
  4. Reduces run-off.
  5. Improves soil water retention.
  6. Increases soil fauna micro activity.
  7. Increases cation exchange capacity.
  8. Reduces soil temperature fluctuation.

As EFB mulching incurs additional cost, its benefit should be maximized by giving priority to areas with poorer growing conditions, e.g., lateritic and sandy areas.



Mulching is carried out at a rate of 250 kg EFB/palm/year. In terms of fertilizer value, one tonne of EFB is equivalent 8 kg urea, 2.9 kg CIRP, 18.3 kg MOP and 4.7 kg kieserite. The evacuation of EFB from oil mill to the field is by tractor-trailer where the EFB is side-tipped to the “station” between the palms along the harvester’s paths. In estates where rail transportation is available, the loco/wagons/tractor system is the most suitable for transporting and spreading of EFB. EFB mulching is carried out once a year.



With the development of the composting system, the fore-described application of POME and EFB is expected to be gradually phased out in favor of the more easily handled compost.