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Publication | 29 October 2020

Comparative analysis of nutritional status and growth of immature oil palm in various intercropping systems in southern Benin

Global Food and Nutrition Security
Beninese smallholders associate food crops and cash crops with immature oil palms to reduce field maintenance costs and gain income before the palms reach productive phase. Little is known about the effects of these crops on the nutritional status and growth of the palms in their immature phase even though the yield of adult palms can be affected by the management practices during this phase. The objective of this study was to evaluate the most common oil palm-based intercropping systems found in southern Benin in terms of nutritional status and growth of the palm. Within 15 oil palm farms, we compared 15 immature oil palm fields where the crop succession associated with the oil palms was dominated by maize, cassava, tomato, and pineapple. The nutrient concentrations in the soil and the palm leaves, and growth indicators were measured at the end of the immature phase. We found that the palm growth indicators were the lowest in the successions with pineapple. N and P nutrition of the immature palms was satisfactory but K was deficient in all systems, especially in those with pineapple. The K levels in the soils and palm leaves were correlated. Rough field budgets comparing the amounts of N and K applied to the crop successions with their N and K exports from non-returning products indicated that soil indigenous K supply would be particularly depleted in the systems with pineapple. We concluded that the young oil palms were affected by the competition for K exerted by the crop successions with pineapple even though they were the most fertilized in the region. The high profitable crop is therefore associated with the lowest growth rates of the immature palms. The mineral fertilizer management in these oil palm temporary intercropping systems should be improved.