Sustainable and environmentally friendly oil palm production with BCG model

Story and Photos: Thitinai Pongpiriyakit, Agriculture and Food Cluster, GIZ Thailand

These days, agriculture is not only focused on production efficiency. The environmental impact of production should also not be overlooked. Many countries are now focusing on economic development with sustainability in mind. This can be seen from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Thailand has a way to achieve this goal through the BCG (Bio-Circular-Green Economy) Model, which is a holistic development model consisting of three main economies:

  • Bio Economy (B) is the use of available resources to create value by using knowledge and innovation.
  • Circular Economy (C) is the use of resources in a cost-effective way and maximises benefits by minimising the amount of waste from the production process.
  • Green Economy (G) focuses on minimising environmental impacts arising from the production process to achieve sustainability in economic development.
Department of Agriculture (DoA), Department of Agricultural Extension (DoAE) and GIZ staff meet with oil palm Smallholders.

Implementing this model in concrete terms requires the cooperation of the public and private sectors if it is to be successful. In terms of oil palms, the Department of Agriculture has collaborated with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) to develop knowledge on oil palm production with smallholder farmers to raise the level of sustainable palm oil and palm oil production to international standards and elevate the quality of life of smallholder farmers. The Department of Agriculture plays a role in the curriculum and prepares demonstration plots and prototype plots.

There are two demonstration plots located within the Agricultural Research and Development Centre in Krabi and Suratthani. Prototype plots are also operated in three provinces of Suratthani, Krabi and Chumphon to showcase Best Management Practices (BMP)  

DoA, DoAE and GIZ staff visit a smallholder demonstration plot.

BMP management helps increase the efficiency of oil palm production based on yield taking, which is managing oil palm harvesting in the most effective way possible and which can increase productivity in a short term of six months. The other part is increasing yield making from oil palm trees for a long term by monitoring, utilising palm production technology, applying fertilisers according to the leaf analysis results and the “4Rs” principle of Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place.

The following five greenhouse gas reduction measures are implemented to help reduce emissions and increase carbon sequestration.

  • Harvesting ripe palm fruits: In the oil palm production process, greenhouse gas emissions are generated. If ripe oil palm is harvested, the amount of palm oil per unit area will increase compared to the unripe harvest. Therefore, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per unit area will be less than if ripe oil palm were harvested.
  • Fertiliser application according to soil and leaf analysis: This is a process that uses fertiliser accurately and efficiently. This reduces the impact of over-utilisation of fertilisers required by palm oil causing the remaining fertiliser to remain in the environment. This applies particularly to nitrogen fertilisers. If the right type is used in the right amount, this could reduce nitrous oxide emissions.
  • The use of Empty Fruit Bunches (EFB): Mulching increases the amount of organic matter, improves soil structure, and reduces water runoff and soil leaching in oil palm plantations. EFB also can store carbon or greenhouse gas in oil palm plots. In addition, oil palm fronds are spread around the plantation. This method gives the same results as using EFB mulching and circulates resources to benefit the plot.
  • Planting ground cover legumes: This method can prevent soil erosion in oil palm plantations, reduce weed competition within the plot, reduce the use of chemicals for weeding, and help in carbon sequestration of greenhouse gases from legumes within the plot. In the demonstration plot, a legume crop is planted, namely “caeruleum” (Calopogonium caeruleum). It is a plant that is resistant to diseases, insects, as well as to shade and drought conditions. Caeruleum vines and plants are green all year round and reduce the chance of a fire in the plot.
  • Inter-cropping in oil palm plantations: This increases carbon sequestration within oil palm plantations, which not only helps to reduce greenhouse gases, but also maximizes the use of land, generates income for smallholders and reduces the price risks of oil palm production.

BMP along with 5 greenhouse gas reduction measures of the demonstration plot and oil palm production prototype plot of the Department of Agriculture, in line with the BCG (BCG Economy) model, is shown in graphic form below.
The Department of Agriculture’s demonstration and prototype plots for oil palm production in the upper South region will be an important part of supporting the sustainable production of oil palm smallholders through, leading to sustainable oil palm production in Thailand. ■

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