Diet

Sustainable palm oil brings excessive yields and on the similar time promotes human and environmental well being

Palm oil is a widely used ingredient in processed foods and a popular edible oil that is often preferred over other vegetable oils because of its affordability. Unfortunately, oil palm plantations dominate many tropical systems, and production is criticized for its intensive management that reduces biodiversity, contributes to climate change, and exposes agricultural workers and their communities to toxic chemicals. In order to improve the sustainability of palm oil production, a study recently published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change experimentally tested whether oil palm plantations can still achieve high yields and at the same time reduce the intensity of agriculture – i.e. use less fertilizer and replace Herbicides for weed control through mechanical weed management. The researchers found that using more sustainable practices did not reduce oil palm yield because of the lower cost of inputs, but increased profitability. While it was expected that reduced fertilization would affect soil productivity, the study showed no negative effects on soil fertility and instead found that water infiltration and retention capacity increased when less fertilizer was used. The researchers found no direct impact of reduced chemical consumption on above-ground and underground biodiversity, suggesting that less intensive management may take more time to recognize these benefits and that vegetative diversity may need to be added to monoculture plantations to achieve one to get big impacts on biodiversity. However, the key results are important as they suggest that palm oil production does not have to be as intense to generate high yields, and that integrating practices to improve the health of the environment and rural communities can still be profitable .

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