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In the oil palm plantations of Ecuador, two factorial trials (namely CP06 and CP08) were used to assess the effects of N, P and K fertilization on the soil chemical characteristics after 10 years of fertilizer application. The use of ammonia-based fertilizers has resulted in a drop in soil pH, which has reached 1.2 units in one of the two trials. A drop in cation exchange capacity (CEC) was also found, and a loss of exchangeable cations that probably reflected leaching of excess N as nitrates. The use of KCl enriched the soil in K, which contributed to impoverishment in Ca and Mg. In both trials, the highest N and K application rates had no significant effect on yield in comparison with an intermediate fertilization rate; however, their effects on the fertilized soil significantly increased the risk of N and cation leaching towards the deep soil layers. We also compared the effects of the N, P and K factors on soil properties outside the fertilizer application zone. In both trials, the mineral reserves played a major role in meeting the needs of the control palms, which had not been fertilized for 10 years, as no significant yield drop has been observed except in trial CP06 when no KCl was applied. However, uptake of nutrient in the control plots did not lead to significant impoverishment of the soil.

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Experimental Agriculture
  • ISSN: 0014-4797
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