Yield gap analysis for oil palm production in Colombia


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. 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. In Colombia planting of oil palm is often on former grazing lands or in forests that have been formerly protected form exploitation by the fact that they were located in unsafe areas.

Last year we have developed, calibrated and validated PALMSIM (oil palm similation model) to quantify yield gaps in Indonesia. 

To calculate yield gap in Colombia we need to calibrate the model against best plantation practices in Colombia in different agro-ecological zones in Colombia. You will be collecting data and calibrating the model for Colombia. You will then assess the difference between what is currently produced and what the soil-climate combinations in this region would allow under different management strategies. You will display the land suitability and yield gap in maps and verify results with experts. We have a strong yield gap expert team that can assist in every step. 


The research will be conducted in collaboration with private companies and research institutes in Colombia, amongst which Cenipalma is the major partner.


Background in plant sciences with a strong interest in quantitative analysis. Modelling skills. Skills in GIS will be an advantage. Successful completion of the course Quantitative Analysis of Cropping and Grassland Systems, Systems Analysis, Simulation and Systems Management or Models in Forest and Nature Conservation. 




Start September 2019 


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

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