Explaining yield gaps in smallholder oil palm production in Indonesia


Oil palm production is receiving much publicity – though generally negative. This is often associated with an assumption that the expansion of the area under oil palm occurs at the expense of tropical rainforest. Conversely, oil palm is a very efficient crop for vegetable oil production and if managed properly one of the most attractive sources of biofuels. Present yields of oil palm plantations are far below their theoretical potential due to imperfect management, especially for smallholders. Yield intensification would make area expansion unnecessary. There is also great potential to expand oil palm production into vast areas of degraded anthropic (human-induced) savanna lands.

Last year we have used PALMSIM (oilpalm similation model) to quantify the yield gap for smallholders and large government owned and private oil palm plantations in the entire oil palm growing area in Indonesia. 

In the next phase (from July 2019 onwards)  we aim to assess which factors are responsible for how much of the yield gap in smallholder plantings. In the first period (2019) we can only host internship students as field sites need to be set up and surveys as well. Afterwards (2020-2021) we can host master thesis students to do measurements and analysis of data. In such a thesis you will be engaged either in surveys, demonstration fields, or both. 


The research will be conducted in collaboration with private companies and Indonesian Oil Palm Research Institute (IOPRI) and other research institutes/NGOs active in Indonesia.


Background in forestry or plant sciences with a strong interest in quantitative analysis. Statistical background for analysis of survey and measured data. One of the two prerequisite courses for master thesis at PPS.




From September 2019 onwards


Lotte Woittiez                                     0317 – 48 21 41                      lotte.woittiez@wur.nl

Maja Slingerland                                0317 - 48 35 12                       maja.slingerland@wur.nl

Martin van Ittersum                            0317 – 48 23 82                      martin.vanittersum@wur.nl