Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fruiting heads

A four  year old oil palm tree with its fruiting head packed with 10- 15 fruit bunches
Location : Zone F

Top view of densely packed young oil palm tree
Location : Zone F
 The most important part of an oil palm in productivity terms is its fruiting head. Here are packed the fruits bunches or at certain periods mere clusters of finger-like long unproductive male flowers.  This is typical of a hermaphrodiate tree where both male and female flowers are borne on a separate inflorescences on the same tree.  If you are lucky in certain times of the year the fruiting head is densely packed with female flowers that bear the fruits later, while male flowers only give you unwanted waste fibrous materials.  For what it is any oil palm tree will return to bear female flowers after a while and that same tree could  later on bear a mixture of male and female flowers too.  So if you have some trees displaying male flowers, don't despair and cut those trees.  Sooner or later they will exhibit fine female flowers and fruits.  It would take about 5-6 months for the fruits to grow and ripen for the picking.  Depending on many factors, a well-grown tree after 10 years should be able to produce about  20 -30 kilos weight in a single fruit bunch.  Each fruiting head can consist between 15- 20 bunches with each one having different ripening periods.  The moral of the story is that you need to plant many oil palm trees to keep a small family alive.  Most native subsistence and commercial farmers in Sarawak now plant between 10 - 50 acres of oil palm trees per family  to gain adequate economic returns from their oil palm land, capital inputs and labour (usually self-employed family labour or employed immigrant Indonesian labour).  Finally it is important to bear in mind that the economic life of an oil palm tree is between 20 -30 years.  Thereafter you need to carryout re-planting works  if you happen to like cultivating oil palm trees  or decide on other options like developing the land for other commercial pursuits since you have a valuable and scarce property in hand i.e. your oil palm land bank.

The tree on the left has a mixture of fruit bunches and clusters of finger-like male flowers
Location : Zone D

Fruiting head of oil palm tree - Elaeis quineensis or commonly called the African Oil Palm.

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