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Field Maintenance Guidelines

for Mature Rubber Area

B. Fertilization Guidelines

1. Introduction

The purpose of a fertilization program for Hevea is to maintain an

optimum level of nutrients in the trees which will ensure a satisfactory
girth increment, a vigorous system and a full crown. This state of
health will, in turn, contribute to optimum yields, minimize the effects
of diseases, promote bark renewal and extend the productive life of
the trees.

There are two common methods of determining the nutritional status

and fertilizer requirements of rubber. These are the soil analysis and
foliar analysis method.

Soil analysis deals with analyzing the physical and chemical

characteristics of the soil which enable soil technicians to analyze the
condition of the soil and determine the type of inputs and fertilizers
needed to maintain healthy plant growth and development.

While foliar analysis focuses on analyzing the nutrients status and

elements present in the plant to determine its availability and
sufficiency to support plant growth requirement.

Both methods will provide valuable information to plantation managers

in determining appropriate fertilizers and other inputs to be used
during applications.

2. Variables

There are innumerable variables which affect the state of health

of rubber trees. Some of the major ones are:

a) Soil nutrient status

b) Physical characteristics of the soil
c) Clone

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d) Age of tree
e) Exploitation system used
f) Type and condition of ground covers
g) Terrain
h) Rainfall pattern

As these factors vary from field to field, so do the nutrient

requirements of the trees and, as far as practical, the fertilizer
program should be tailored to meet the specific requirements of each

3. Soil Analysis

The following are some of the factors to be considered while

determining a fertilizer program.

3.1 Soil Series

In the event the soil series, on which the estate is located, is known
and has been adequately described in literature or data like previous
plantation records, further soil analysis will not be required, except for
those areas which are atypical and whose characteristics are

3.2 Sample Methods

If the soil characteristics are unknown, a soil survey should be made

as follows:

a. For each field of about 25 hectares, collect five samples of topsoil

from the top 25 cm of soil at five random but typical locations.
Blend them together to form one composite sample. The
composition sample should be free of leaves, wood or other plant

b. From one of the five sites collect another soil sample from a depth
of 50 cm and a third sample from a one meter depth at the same

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Exhibit 10: Soil Survey and Sampling

3.3 Sample Preparation

a. Each sample should be spread thinly on a clean surface and

placed in the shade to dry. Direct sunlight should be avoided.
Occasionally stones may be removed. However, if the sample is
gravelly, this fact should be noted and the gravel retained in the

b. When the samples are nearly dry, lumps should be crushed and
each sample homogenized.

After homogenizing, place about 100 gram of each sample in a

polyethylene bag and clearly identify each sample as topsoil, 50
cm depth, or one- meter depth. Be sure to include the block
number and the sample collection date on the label.

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c. Place the polyethylene bags in cloth bags to prevent damage or

loss during handling and shipping. They should then be sent to
the appropriate soil analysis laboratory.

d. Standard analysis of both physical and chemical characteristics

should be requested and should include the following:

Table 8: Soil Physical Characteristics

Physical Optimum
Characteristics Range of Values

Sand 30
Clay 35 – 50%
Depth to Hardpan 1 meter or more
Peat 0%
Slopes 2 – 9 degrees
Water table 1 meter or more

Table 9: Soil Chemical Characteristics

Chemical Characteristics Range of Values for Top Soil

Nutrient Low Moderate High

P.H. < 4.0 4.0 – 5.0 > 5.0
Nitrogen (%) < 0.5 0.5 – 2.0 > 2.0
Av. Phosphorous (ppm) < 15 15 – 25 > 25
Exch. Potassium (m.e.%) < 0.2 0.2 – 0.4 > 0.4
Exch. Calcium (m.e. %) < 0.5 0.5 – 1.0 > 1.0
Exch. Magnesium (m.e%) < 0.2 0.2 – 0.4 > 0.4
C.E.C 15 m.e/100 gr
Organic Matter 3–4%

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Exhibit 11: Soil Pit and Soil Profile

Field Maintenance Guidelines
for Mature Rubber Area

i. If there is no deficiency in the soil, one set of soil samples is

enough for the life of the planting. Where values are low,
correction must be made in reference to the Soil
Characteristics table as discussed in this chapter.

ii. If a deficiency is detected for one more of the nutrients, except

nitrogen, appropriate fertilizers should be applied to raise the
nutrient level to an acceptable value.

Another soil sample should be taken in five years, to determine if

the deficiency has been corrected. This correction should be made
by increasing the amount of the appropriate fertilizer over that
called for in the leaf analysis.

Judgment must be used in determining the amount of additional

fertilizer to apply.

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Exhibit 12: Dimension of Pit

Field Maintenance Guidelines
for Mature Rubber Area

4. Leaf Analysis

4.1 Leaf Samples

Leaf sample for analysis should be collected from each block once
each year beginning when the block is three years old.

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Exhibit 13: Trained Field Maintenance Crews Gathering Leaf

Samples iin Young Rubber Areas for Nutrient Analysis
Field Maintenance Guidelines
for Mature Rubber Area

4.2 Procedures

Leaves should be collected and processed according to the following:

a. Leaves collected should be whole, undamaged and not discolored.

They should be at least 100 days old but not more than 200 days
old. The 100 day old leaves are preferred.

b. The area to be sampled will be one block (25 hectares)

c. While pursuing a diagonal course through the block, collect

leaves as follows:

1. Collect leaves from 40 trees per block.

2. Collect four whorls of leaves from the shaded portion of the

canopy of each tree.

3. Collect the four basal leaves from each whorl.

4. Discard the petiole

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d. This should provide a sample of 640 leaves (920 leaflets) per

block. Cut the leaflets into one-inch strips at right angles to the
midrib. It is not necessary to remove the midrib. Use gloves. Do
not handle the sample with the bare hand.

 Dry the sample with occasional mixing , as required in a warm

air oven at 90 degrees until completely desiccated, or air dry
the sample in the shade.

 When the sample is dry, crush the leaves to make a

homogeneous sample and send to an appropriate analytical
laboratory for analysis and interpretation.

 Identify the samples with the following data:

 Sample Number

 Block represented

 Date sample

 Clone (s) sampled

 Age of trees

 Age of leaves (approximately)

 The following observations should be made at the time of leaf

sampling to record the following:

a) Tapping stand per hectare

Very good > 350
Good 300 - 349
Moderate 250 - 299
Poor 200 - 249
Very Poor < 200
b) Class of ground cover condition
Light 0 - 50 %
Moderate 50 - 75 %
Dense 75 - 100 %

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This includes all types of growth grasses, ferns, cover

crops, etc.

c) Class of canopy density

Good 80 - 100 %
Moderate 60 - 79 %
Poor 40 - 59 %
Very poor < 39%
The above information is necessary to make a valid fertilizer

4.3 Nutrient values for leaf samples.

Values for nutrients of leaf samples are as follows:

(Nutrient) Low Medium High

N < 3. 00% 3.00 – 3.60 % > 3.60 %
P < 0. 20% 0. 2 – 0.25 % > 0.25 %
K < 1. 0% 1. 0 – 1. 4 % > 1. 4 %
Mg < 0. 2% 0. 2 – 0. 25 % > 0. 25 %
Mn < 0. 9% 0. 9 – 1.1% > 1. 1 %
Ca < 100 ppm 100 – 400 ppm > 400 ppm

4.4 Laboratory Analysis

As a rule, the laboratory which analyzes that leaf samples will also
recommend a fertilizer program based on the analysis.

When this is the case, the program may be followed after first
determining that it is a reasonable program in terms of cost and
fertilizer composition, as compared to previous experience.

4.5 Fertilizer Recommendation

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When fertilizer recommendations are not provided with analysis, the

tables in the appendices can be used as reference to prepare a
fertilizer program.
5. Rules for Application of Fertilizers

5.1 No fertilizer may be applied to dirty tree rows, under any


5.2 When a tree row, which was dirty, but has been sprayed at least
one weak prior, and where the weeds are not all dead but are
dying, may be applied.

Dying weeds will not take up fertilizer. However it is better to

spray earlier to get 100% weed death before fertilizer
applications. The sprayed strip must be 1.20 cm wide on each
side of the tree (a total width of 2.40 cm)

When the crown shade is so dense that nothing grows

underneath the trees, i.e. no grasses, bushes or ferns, fertilizers
may be spread out in the middle of the inter-row.

5.3 In all strip sprayed areas (mature and immature) under flat
conditions fertilizer is applied between the trees across the row.
The objectives is to get the fertilizer to the feeder roots and keep
it away from the weeds.

These roots are around the drip line of the tree.

5.4 On all slopes in hilly areas, the fertilizer must be applied in a

semi circle on the ground above the tree and never below the
tree. On all terraces the fertilizer should be applied on the back of
the terraces and never at the front of the terrace.

5.5 It is not necessary to sweep up leaves before fertilizing. This is

a waste of money.

5.6 All fertilizer split on the paths or roadways during distribution

must be swept up and thrown onto the rubber.

5.7 All empty sacks must be collected and counted at the end of
each day to be sure that no fertilizer has been left in the field.

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5.8. Never apply Urea to immature rubber. The lack of shade will
allow the nitrogen to volatilize in the sunlight.

5.9 Never apply Urea to mature rubber which is wintering because

50% of the Nitrogen will be lost to volatilization in the sunlight.
6. Fertilizer
The recommended mixture should be mixed properly using hand tools
such as shovels. Only mix one type of mixture at a time, and for
preference mix only in amounts sufficient for one block or +/- 25
hectares in area at any one time.

In this way the amounts are kept to a reasonable volume, which

facilitate proper mixing. The different fertilizers must be mixed well

6.1 Mixing Procedure. When mixing by hand, not more than 500
kilos should be mixed at any one time. When mixing, divide the
amounts of fertilizer to be mixed into equal parts. Make 4 piles of
this fertilize, a little of each type. The piles of fertilizer should be
turned in from the corners.

Using shovels the fertilizer is then moved to and blended. The

resulting pile is divided again into four piles, and remixed, until a
homogeneous mixture is achieved. Mixing by layers is also
accepted practice.

6.2 If for any reason one is obliged to use Urea in the dry season, it
should be applied as follows:

One person goes in front with a shovel / hoe opening a small

furrow. Another workers comes behind with the fertilizer. This is
placed in the furrow, which is then closed using his feet, so that
the fertilizer is completely covered.

6.3 The “drip” line is the line on the ground beneath the edge of the
canopy. The feeder roots are mainly found along the edge of the
“drip” line.

6.4 When a tree stands alone in a row because the neighboring trees
have died, apply fertilizer to both sides of the tree on the sprayed
row. Apply where the drip line of the canopy crosses the sprayed

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6.5 When applying fertilizers in a block which has a stream or river in

it or close to it, care should be taken that the workers do not
throw fertilizers in the water to finish the task quickly.

6.6 Every worker must have a measuring cup to make sure the
correct amount of fertilizer is used.
7. Mature Trees

Where there is no accompanying recommendations made on the soil

or foliar analysis conducted or where a rubber consultant was not
used, the tables in the following appendices 1.0 to 4.0 may be used to
formulate a program, always taking into account the field observations
mentioned .

Wintering Application

Depending upon the nutrient status as shown by leaf analysis, more

than one application of fertilizer may be recommended. However, the
most important round of fertilizer is just prior to wintering. The
objective here is to provide the tree with a little extra nutrient just
before it re-foliates. Timing of application is thus vital. Late application
loses us all the advantages of fertilization we are seeking and wastes
time and money.

It should be noted that the time of wintering changes from year to

year, and fertilizer application must be made to conform with the
biological timetable of the trees.

Typically a tree loses its leaves over a period of 3 - 4 weeks. It is a

slow process with leaves yellowing and then falling. This process is
hastened by dry weather, provided the leaves are over 300 days old
(since the last defoliation). After defoliation the trees will remain bare
for about 2 weeks and then start to re- foliate.

It is important to bear in mind that where the weather is dry, the fact
that the fertilizer has to incorporate into the soil, and converted into
assimilable form by the trees, and be absorbed, trees should then be
fertilized under favorable weather condition.

The tree rows must be clean, and provided this is the case, the
fertilizer should be applied between the following points of the
defoliation and re-foliation processes.

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Start: At least 25 % of leaves defoliated (on the


End: Before the new leaves emerge. This should give a

“window” of about 4 weeks. Apply fertilizer to early
wintering clones first.
Every effort must be used to apply the fertilizer on time.

The following tables may be used as reference in formulating a

fertilizer program using the foliar analysis table as guide.

1. Nitrogen
2. Phosphorous
3. Potassium
4. Magnesium

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