Detecting Nutrient Deficiencies in Palm Trees

Palm oil plantation management can be challenging for farmers especially when palm trees are one of the heavy feeders plant that requires a balanced and adequate supply of macro and micro – nutrients for healthy growth and yield. Deficiencies in palm trees can be simply avoided if we can detect the early symptoms of nutrient deficiency.

Early Detection

There are simple ways you can do to check the health of your palm trees and what nutrients it is lack of.

Magnesium (Mg)
Palm Oil deficient of magnesium will have the leaves mottled with yellowish translucent or necrotic spots (under the leaves). The leaflet of older leaves that are in direct sunlight will get yellow, wilted and die, starting at the tip of the leaflet. However, the leaflet that exposed to sunlight will turn yellow real quick compared to the shaded ones and the young leaves. However, Mg deficiency is rarely fatal in palms.

Potassium (K)
The lack of magnesium in palm oil tree will reduce the number of leaves in the canopy. Basically, the leaves of a Potassium deficient palm oil will turn yellow with irregular shapes appearing on the leaves. There will also be ‘white stripes’ on the leaves which can also means it has too much of Nitrogen (N) but lack of Potassium (K) and Boron (B).

Boron (B)
Sharply bent leaflet tips (hooked leaf) is a sign of Boron (B) deficiency in palm oil trees. Most often, the leaves will crinkle and appears to be dark green. Sometimes the tips of the leaves will be completely missing and new fronds will get shorter and shorter that makes the top of the palm crown appears to be flattened.

Manganese (Mn)
Leaves that appears to have necrotic appearance, such that it is visibly withered and curled. The leaf with frizzled appearance means it’s lack of the Manganese (Mn) nutrients in the soil or if the soil is high in pH value which greatly reduced the Mn nutrients.


Soluble fertilisers can be applied on the soil around the plant to maximise nutrients absorption through the roots. Spraying it on the foliage also will achieve the healing process of the palm trees, providing rapid results especially on nutrition deficient soils. However, these will only act as a supplement to the plants, and not a replacement of nutritions. Farmers have to understand that the soil application rate depends on the soil type and severity of the nutrient deficiencies. The fertiliser application can be repeated at every 2 to 3 months, depending on the severity of the problems and soil type and the response may only be seen up to 3 to 6 months after application.

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