Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2022-905
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2022-905
 
10 Oct 2022
10 Oct 2022

Estimating oil-palm Si storage, Si return to soils and Si losses through harvest in smallholder oil-palm plantations of Sumatra, Indonesia

Britta Greenshields1, Barbara von der Lühe1, Felix Schwarz1, Harold James Hughes1, Aiyen Tjoa2, Martyna Kotowska3, Fabian Brambach4, and Daniela Sauer1 Britta Greenshields et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
  • 2Faculty of Agriculture, Tadulako University, Palu, Indonesia
  • 3Department of Plant Ecology and Ecosystems Research, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
  • 4Department of Biodiversity, Macroecology & Biogeography, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

Abstract. Silicon (Si) is known to have multiple beneficial effects on crops. Most plant-available Si in soils is provided through litter decomposition and subsequent phytolith dissolution, especially in strongly desilicated tropical soils. The importance of Si cycling in tropical soil-plant systems raised the question if oil-palm cultivation, the oil palm being a Si-accumulating crop, alters Si cycling. As Si accumulates in plant tissue, we hypothesized that i) Si is stored in the aboveground biomass of oil palms with time, and that ii) the system might lose considerable amounts of Si every year through fruit-bunch harvest. To test these hypotheses, we sampled leaflets, the rachis, fruit-bunch stalk, fruit pulp, kernels and frond bases from mature oil palms planted on well-drained and temporarily flooded riparian smallholder oil-palm plantations (n = 4 each) in lowland Sumatra, Indonesia. We quantified Si concentrations of these oil-palm parts by NaCO3 extraction. We further estimated Si storage in the total above-ground biomass of the oil palms, Si return to soils through decomposing pruned palm fronds, and Si losses from the system through harvest, to assess if Si return to soils via pruned palm fronds sufficed for maintaining Si cycling in the system, or if any measures are needed to compensate for Si export through fruit-bunch harvest. At all sites, leaflets of oil-palm fronds had a significantly higher (p ≤ 0.05) mean Si concentration (≥ 1 wt. %) than the rachis, frond base, fruit-bunch stalk, fruit pulp and kernel (≤ 0.5 wt. %). All analysed oil-palm parts had a Si/Ca weight ratio ≥ 1, except for the rachis. At well-drained sites, mean Si concentrations in leaflets increased with palm-frond age (R² = 0.98). Estimates of Si storage in the total above-ground biomass of oil palms, Si return to soils through decomposing pruned palm fronds, and Si losses through harvest were similar at well-drained and riparian sites: a single palm tree could store about 4–5 kg of Si in its total above-ground biomass, a smallholder oil-palm plantation of 1 hectare could store about 550 kg of Si in the palm trees’ above-ground biomass. Pruned palm fronds were estimated to return 110–131 kg of Si per hectare to topsoils each year. Fruit-bunch harvest corresponded to an annual Si export of 32–72 kg Si per hectare in 2015 and 2018. Thus, on smallholder plantations in our study area, more Si can be returned to soils through pruned palm fronds than is lost through fruit-bunch harvest. Greater Si losses would occur if oil-palm stems were removed from plantations prior to replanting. Therefore, it is advisable to leave oil-palm stems on the plantations e.g., by distributing chipped stem parts across the plantation at the end of a plantation cycle (~25 years). This would return about 550 kg ha-1 Si stored in the palm trees’ above-ground biomass to the soils.

Britta Greenshields et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-905', Anonymous Referee #1, 09 Nov 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-905', Anonymous Referee #2, 09 Nov 2022

Britta Greenshields et al.

Britta Greenshields et al.

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Short summary
Silicon (Si) can have multiple beneficial effects on Si-accumulating crops such as the oil palm. In this study we quantified Si concentrations in various parts of an oil palm (leaflets, rachis, fruit-bunch parts) to derive Si storage estimates for the total above-ground biomass of an oil palm and 1 hectare of oil-palm plantation. We proposed a Si balance by identifying Si return (via palm fronds) and losses (via harvest) in the system and recommend management measures that enhance Si cycling.