Our efforts are directed towards appropriate soil management in order to improve its physical, chemical and biological properties, so as to promote a more healthy and vigorous development of the oil palm root system. Several years of work have shown that soil aeration is a fundamental factor, which largely determines the ability of the roots to explore the soil and keep the palm well-nourished and able to defend itself against pests and pathogens. Poor soil aeration can be caused by low hydraulic and gaseous conductivity (product of a low gross porosity due to the presence of very fine textures, compaction, and absence and deterioration of the soil structure) or by a high water table. These factors are closely linked to various nutritional and phytosanitary problems.
Several aspects of soil biology receive our interest, such as nitrogen fixation by legume cover plants, mycorrhizal populations, and evaluation of commercial products that according to their manufacturers promote the growth of beneficial organisms in the soil. We also try to stimulate root growth through the addition of compost produced from extraction plant wastes. The inoculation of the compost with microorganisms that suppress pathogenic organisms inhabiting the soil and the foliage, is another reason for our study.
Part of the research effort is directed to the study of the root system of the plant and the factors that restrict its development, such as the preparation of the soil for planting and the compaction caused by machinery transit within the plantations. Within this, we work on the development and evaluation of adequate methods and techniques to determine the vigor and health of the root system.
The knowledge generated through the study of the root system allows us to understand and propose methods of managing important phytosanitary problems, such as spear rots. It is thought that these growth disorders are not caused by a particular pathogenic agent, but that they are the result of accumulated stress situations, particularly when the root system has been adversely affected.
In addition, with state-of-the-art technology and equipment, studies are carried out on the physiology of healthy and symptomatic plants, to try to understand the cause(s) of spear rots. Physiological studies on different seed and clone varieties will also allow us to understand the factors that determine their productivity and optimize practices such as the choice of optimum planting density.