Soil Microbiome

Creating healthy ecosystems

We need to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment. Soil is the growth medium for everything we plant. So, as a start, we need to be less harmful to the soil. For plants, whatever happens underground is the new frontier. 

In agriculture, we need to encourage more microbial growth to make the soil healthier. Some of this can be achieved by quite simple things. For example, retaining vegetation under the palm canopy for as long as possible will reduce the amount of nitrogen fertiliser we need to use.

Protecting nutrients in the soil is a high priority. That means we need to reduce the amount of fertiliser and pesticides wherever possible, particularly in a rainy climate, where the runoff from chemicals leaches into the soil. So, we make an effort to target our fertiliser use to the palms that need it, which preserves soil quality and delivers the significant additional benefit of reducing fertiliser cost in our business.

We created our Crop Protection Research Unit to develop environmentally friendly and economically viable pest and disease control methods that protect the soil microbiome. The unit has developed breakthroughs in the oil palm industry with their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that we now employ across our plantations. That reduces the use of fertiliser, reduces our carbon footprint, and creates a safer working environment for our field staff.

We are working to use biological controls as much as possible, creating an ecosystem on our plantations that works to regulate itself. While we have a long way to go, we have made real progress towards maintaining the health of the soil and drawing more value from our plantation land, over the longer term.

Barn Owls
  We use barn owls to help manage the rat population. For example, we have nesting boxes set up on every 10 hectares to encourage pairs of owls to inhabit the plantation.  Since doing so, we have observed a significant reduction in the rat population, have needed fewer rounds of rat baiting, and have suffered less damage to the developing fruit bunches.

Beneficial Plants
A leaf eating caterpillar, the bagworm, can create enormous damage to the palm fronds – causing heavy crop losses. By growing strips of beneficial plants, we encourage the propagation of the bagworm’s natural enemies. The planting attracts insects such as the parasitic wasp that suppress bagworm outbreaks. Established in the right ratio, beneficial planting protects oil palms from pests in a 450 metre radius and, used throughout our estates, gives us a natural approach to pest management. 
Rhinoceros Beetles
  Our Research Unit discovered that by using a mixture of fungi, they can eliminate Rhinoceros beetles, which severely damage young palms. In fact, the team found that the mixture not only reduces palm damage, but also promotes root growth. Now, we apply the fungi to oil palm seeds prior to every planting. As a result, we need fewer insecticides and prevent valuable nutrients leaving the soil and we find there is less damage to the growing palms. The Research Unit’s outstanding work has formed the basis for what are now our standard replanting practices.
Your shopping cart is empty.