Anticipating the drought caused by El Nino is a big challenge for oil palm plantations. In mid- 2019, a long drought hit almost all over Indonesia and caused drought in certain areas. For oil palm plantations, this has a very big effect, especially in reducing production. Prolonged dry condition causes low production and slow down the fruit ripening process. Other than that, the dryness also reduces the number of fruit cluster. The decline in production can occur due to changes in the physiology of oil palm plants such as:
- decreased CO2 absorption rate
- nutrient deficiency
- decreasing rate of photosynthesis
- decreasing the rate of leaf midrib production
- decreased sex ratio (more male flowers)
- decreased number of fruit bunches
- increasing the fruit miscarriage
- decreasing the yield
- delaying the first harvest
The decrease in palm oil production reached 2% in September 2019. Serious handling has been carried out by several oil palm companies together with Mertani by installing several IoT Automatic Weather Stations at several plantation locations in Sumatra and Kalimantan. The accuracy of data collection on rainfall, temperature, and humidity can help measure the level of oil palm evapotranspiration so that the control of water requirements needed for oil palm plants can be adjusted to yield standards for harvesting.
To find out the level of evapotranspiration in oil palm, there are various parameters used in the
Automatic Weather Station, including:
- air temperature, (ideal oil palm 24oC to 28oC)
- humidity, (ideal humidity 80% -90%)
- light intensity, and
- wind speed (ideal 5 km/h – 6 km/h)
Besides reporting the level of evapotranspiration, these parameters also can be used as predictive data on pest and disease attacks on oil palm plants such as mites during dry conditions.
IoT Automatic Weather Station Mertani is also equipped with a soil sensor feature so that the actual ground conditions can be monitored. Observation of soil conditions is needed to adjust the treatment in order to improve soil fertility, such as pH and soil conductivity. With the integration of weather observations and soil conditions, the increasing in palm oil production can be achieved.