Publications

Closing yield gaps in oil palm production systems in Ghana through Best Management Practices

Rhebergen, Tiemen; Zingore, Shamie; Giller, Ken E.; Frimpong, Charles Adu; Acheampong, Kwame; Ohipeni, Francis Tetteh; Panyin, Edward Kofi; Zutah, Victor; Fairhurst, Thomas

Summary

The area under oil palm in Ghana has expanded but average fruit bunch yields remained low, resulting in large yield gaps. This study assessed the potential for increasing yield with 'Best Management Practices (BMP)' on plantations and smallholder farms in southern Ghana, compared with current standard practices, i.e. reference (REF) yield. We evaluated short-term (≤1 year) yield increases with 'yield taking' (improved crop recovery), and long-term increases (>1 year) with 'yield making' (better agronomy) practices and identified the factors that contributed most to yield improvements. Average fruit bunch yield increases with BMP were 2.1 t ha−1 (+19%) and 4.7 t ha−1 (+89%) with yield taking and 4.7 t ha−1 (+36%) and 7.6 t ha−1 (+76%) with yield making at plantations and smallholder farms respectively. Short-term yield improvements were achieved with more frequent harvesting events and improved field access, which can help finance inputs needed for the yield making phase. Our analysis suggests more balanced palm nutrition could contribute considerably to yield making, particularly on smallholder farms. Improved fertilizer recommendations are therefore essential for sustainable oil palm production in Ghana. Increasing yields to 21.0 t ha−1 on land already planted to oil palm, can increase national fruit bunch production from 2.5 Mt to 6.9 Mt, sparing 600,000 ha of land. However, labour constraints on plantations and lack of access to credit and agricultural inputs on smallholder farms are major hurdles that need to be overcome to increase production.