The use of microbe plus to improve phosphorus availability from rock phosphate under oil palm (Elaesis guineensis, Jacq.) nursery

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November, 2015
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Although there are several options open to process Rock Phosphate (RP) into a form that is more plant available, the options for small-holder farmers are limited. Practical alternative methods and technologies of rock phosphates have to be developed for the farm level. The use of Microbe plus to improve RP solubility under oil palm nursery was evaluated at Oil Palm Research Institute (OPRI) of Ghana, Kade – Kusi, in the Eastern Region from May 2013 to May 2014. The study consisted of 16 treatments replicated 3 times in a 4 by 4 factorial experiment arranged in Randomized Complete Block Design (RCBD). The factors tested were: P fertilizers (Po ; Triple superphosphate, TSP; Senegal rock phosphate, SRP; Togo rock phosphate, TRP) and Microbe plus rates (0, 50, 100, 150 %). Data collected included number of fronds/palm, butt, height, LA, LAI, dry matter, frond nutrient contents, soil pH and soil available P. The results showed that the P fertilizers and Microbe plus rates applied alone or their interactions had no significant (p>0.05) effect on frond numbers/palm, butt, height, LA, and LAI. Frond nutrient contents, dry matter produced and soil parameters on the other hand, were significantly different from each other (p<0.05). The highest pH of 5.1 and available P of 180.36 mg kg -1 was observed at 10 months after transplanting (MAT) following the application of TSP. The use of MP100 showed pH of 5.2 and available P of 142.55 mg kg -1 at 10 MAT. The combined applications of TSP + MP150 produced the highest dry weight (285.50 g) and available P (180.90 mg/kg) (which represented 42 and 285 % increase respectively over the control). Also, TSP + MP100 treatment recorded 47 % increase in dry weight over the control at 10 MAT. Soil pH produced by the combined applications was also within the critical range (4 – 6.5) for oil palms, except for TRP and MP 50 and MP 100 which was below the critical range. Besides, the combined application of Microbe plus with TSP or SRP proved to be better option in terms of vegetative growth than the TRP. In all, the xiii combined use of MP 100 and P fertilizers gave the highest vegetative and soil parameters measured. Economically, the most cost effective nutrient input was the use of TSP alone whiles the least cost effective options were MP150 with TSP or SRP or TRP. The correlation matrix also showed a strong positive correlation (r = 0.873) between seedling height and butt; a weak positive correlation (r = 0.325) between soil available P and LAI, as well as, LA and LAI. (r = 0.528). Soil available P and biomass P correlated positively (r = 0.339), whereas, available P and biomass N correlated negatively (r = -0.543).
A thesis submitted to the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the Degree of Master of Philosophy in Soil Science, 2015