Oil palm is a native of tropical west Africa wild types exist in forest areas of Africa. From here, it has been distributed throughout the world.
The main exporting counties are Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria. The oil palm belt of Nigeria span from Cross river State to Lagos state. The following are the producing states, Cross River, Eboyi, Akwa, Ibom, Abia, Rivers, Bayelsa, Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Osun, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti.
IMPORTANCE:- (1) the mesocarp oil is between 50%-65% depending on the variety. Mesocarp oil or red oil is rich in beta carotene a precursor of vitamin A It is also a major ingredient in cosmetics and body care product industries.
(2) Kernel is 44%-53% also use to produce kernel oil for cosmetics, soap and body care products. The residue called palm kernel cake (PKC) is for feeding poultry and pigs.
(3) The fibrous material after extracting the mesocarp oil is also fuel for making fire (Oguso, Iha in Yoruba Avuvu, in Ibo).
(4) The kernel shell after removing the kernel in also fuel for goldsmith and blacksmiths.
(5) The sap from the trunk is the most popular Africa wine (palm wine, Emu in Yoruba Mayan in Ibo).
(6) The leaf of oil palm is for making broom and used for thatching houses.
(7) The trunk as planks for rooting and for making bridge across rivers in rural areas. The oil palm is a monoecious plant (i.e the male and female flowers are on the same plant but occurs at different times. For this reason
cross pollination effected by wind and insects is common.
The flower are axillary with the female on the older lower leaves and the male on the upper younger leaves. After fertilization the female flower develops into bunch as shown in the picture below
(1) Dura:- Is the common wild plan found all over west Africa with thick
shell and large kernel. Has little pulp and produce a larger quaintly
of kernel oil than mesocarp oil.
(2) Tenera:- with thin shell and small kernel with thick mesocarp. Richer in
mesocarp oil than kernel oil. The kernel can even be broken with teeth.
(3) Pisifera:- produces fruit with very tiny endocarp which are usually sterile. Produces a large quaintly of mesocarp oil.
PROPAGATION:- oil palm in raised from seeds. The seed require some treatment to aid germination due to the hard nature of the kernel. It is advisable to purchase pre-germinated seeds from reputable government agencies like Nigeria institute from oil palm research
(NIFOR) or state Agricultural Development Projects (ADP). The pre-germinated seeds are raised in nursery for up to one year before they are transplanted into the field.
Nursery:- Start nursery work by November fill the nursery polythene bags with sterilized, filtered top soil. Plow and harrow the nursery site to suppress weed growth on the nursery site.
Arrange the bags in 40cm square spacing. Plant germinated seeds into these bags and mulch with partially decomposed oil palm bunch refuse, saw dust or wood shavings. Perforate each poly bag at the base to
allow excess water to drain. Apply fertilizer sulphate of amonia, and murate of potash as necessary spray with DITHANEM 45 against diseases at 2 weeks interval. When necessary, weed to eliminate competition
for air and water. The seedling should spend not less than one year in the nursery. The more matured they are at the nursery the better their performance on the permanent field.
TRANSPLANTING:- Transplanting should be done at the outset of rainfall
between March and June. The chances of survival reduces if transplanting in done later because the plants will not be well established before the outset of dry season in October. For this reason make sure transplanting in done at the onset of rainfall.
FIELD PREPARATION:- should start in the dry season by November the field should be bulldozed or the trees fell and rooted out. The land should be plowed and harrowed on the first rain and the field marked out for holes to be dug. The field should be lined at 29 feet triangular. This will give a population of 60 palm per acre or 156 per
hectare. The lining of the field should be as shown below to achieve the correct population.
Mark out field with pegs and dig the hole at pegged spots. The hole should be slightly bigger than the nursery poly bags. Transplant with the entire soil that comes with the poly bag. Remove the poly bag without injuring the mass of the root. Let the soil level of the poly bag be at the same level with permanent field at transplanting. If planted deeper or more shallow the survival of the palm will be impaired.
FIELD MAINTENANCE:- After planting protect the young plant from rodents like grass-cutter by collaring. This is the process where collar of wire netting is planted around each palm and pegged down. Each wire netting is about 46cm x 122cm collar round the base of each palm so that animals can not cut it. The common practice of maintaining palm field is to plant other arable crops like maize, tomato or water melon in the field after the palm. The idea is that as you maintain the arable crops you are also maintaining the palm.
The normal practice where the farm is very large is to give the farm out to arable crops farmers who will use the palm field to produce their own crops and maintain the palm along with their own arable crops. In this symbiotic association, cassava is always forbidden. This is because cassava attracts grass-cutter during the dry season.
Ring weeding of each palm is necessary and poultry manure applied to give the palm a good start. Prune infected leave and spray periodically to reduce the incidence of freckle.
Maturity takes three years.
Fruiting starts in the three first years after transplanting. The fruit may be small in quantity and may not be economical to harvest. But if there is cheap labour you can harvest and process. My friend at mostel farms made a small processing pit, the local type to process the first year harvest. While his director . quickly constructed the
main processing unit. At the end of the year he was able to get a good number of palm oil barrels.
HARVESTING:- Is done with sharp cutlass or small axe at the early age of the palm. The older branches should be pruned to allow harvesting of the bunch. Periodical check should be carried out at 2 weeks interval to locate ripe fruits. Over ripe or under ripe fruit produce poor quality oil. When harvested and processed at the right stage the
stage the oil quality is high.
The processing of palm fruit in very elaborate we will discuss it
under three major sub topics.
(1) How to produce red palm oil.
(2) How to produce palm kernel oil.
(3) How to produce bleached deodorized palm oil.
Until we meet again ciao.