Oil Palm Nursery Management: 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow shares tips that worth the try

Oil Palm Nursery Management: 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow shares tips that worth the try

Kangoma M. Turay, an alumnus of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, runs a successful oil palm nursery business in Lofa County. His company, the Agro-Lite Liberia scope of operations covers all aspects involved in oil palm nursery preparation and management. In an interview with AgriGrind, Turay shared important management areas that guarantee success in the oil palm production business.  

Go for quality germinated seeds

According to Turay, it is never wise to pick the cheap and low quality nursed palm seedlings over the expansive but high-quality seedlings. 

Your selection must not be based on how cheap it is but rather its quality,” says Turay.  

“Getting the best one that is viable, time conscious, less costly and with high yield productivity is key to your selection process. It is better to select the best variety that will meet your expectations than the one that is cheaper and less productive. But this can only be done by consulting nursery companies like Agro-Lite Company in Liberia.”

Choose only recommended varieties

Although many people are producing and selling nursed palm seedlings, Turay says that not all seedlings produced are real recommended varieties.

He says the Tenera (Dd) is a preferred variety for a successful oil palm production.  

I will recommend Tenera (Dd). It has large mesocarp (or greasy as we may say in Liberia) with a thin layer and reasonable size kernel. It has high oil content. It is the product of the crossing between Dura (DD) and Pisifera (dd). 15 to 30 tonnes of Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB)/ ha or 3 to 6 tonnes of Crude Palm Oil (CPO)/ ha under irrigated conditions,” he says. 

The farm size and water availability drive the selection of nursery types 

Also, Turay says that the selection of nursery types depends on two major factors. First, he says the size of farmland and second, the nearness of water.

Nursery Types 

Nursery types include the double stage nursery and the single-stage nursery. The application of any of the two nursery system boils down to the size of the farmland, according to Turay.

“In most cases, double stage nursery is recommended for large scale planting that is greater than 500 hectares. This is the type of nursery we use at Agro-Lite Lite hence we produce on a very large scale. On the other hand, if you have a land space that is lesser than 500 hectares, the most common nursery I will recommend is the single-stage nursery,” he says.

Advantages of Single Nursery System

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“If you are selecting the single-stage nursery, you will only need bigger polybags in which you will plant your already germinated seeds directly the same way as planting in the pre-nursery polybags. With this, you do not require to buy two sets of polybags (bigger and smaller polybags),” says Turay. 

With this system;

You can distribute with all the requirements in terms of layout, equipment, and labor of the pre-nursery. 

It cuts down the cost of double labor.

After planting the palm seeds, there is no further movement until field planting. 

The root system is not disturbed; therefore, root establishment and growth is faster.


It requires a greater volume of water and much more labor during the first two or three months.

It also requires more soils since all the thinning is done at the large polybags stage.

It is more difficult to observe and supervise when the seedlings are spread over a large area.

It is not advisable for large scale planting which requires a very large area to prepare and also involves high cost.

The Dual Stage Nursery

Unlike the single-stage nursery system, the dual-stage nursery system involves two planting stages before the field planting is finally carried out. 

Turay says: “One will have to plant the germinated seeds in small pre-nursery polybags (smaller polybags) that you will packed closely together in a very small area for the first two to three months. You will then continue by planting seedlings out in the large polybag nursery where they remain for a further 7-9 months before field planting.” 


One will need a small section of nursery for the first 2 to 3 months.

Less water is required for the first 2 to 3 months.

You will find it very easier to observe seedlings and oversee nursery work during the critical early stage (2 to 3 months after planting).

One can carry out thinning very quickly and easily at the first stage before planting into large bags.


Cost of labor for double works “further” operation is created which can be very labor-intensive.

It may experience potential slower growth compared to the single-stage, especially with poor shade management.

If transplanting is not done properly from small to large polybags, this could give rise to severe transplanting shock.

Polybag filling and placement

One should fill polybag with topsoil up to the bag edge and placed in the nursery beds at least four weeks before the planting date. This, Turay, says it will allow the settling, topping up with soil and pre-planting irrigation.

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Additionally, polybags must be turned inside out so that they balance on the ground and will not fall.

Again only the best topsoil available should be used in any nursery. They must be free draining, friable, sandy clay loam and free from contaminants (chemicals, etc.). You can premix the soil with animal dunks or compost if possible.

Nursery material (polybag) 

“To prepare a successful nursery for oil palm, make sure you have decided on the type of nursery you want to establish. The materials you will need for your nursery site will then depend on that,” says Turay.

The most common type of nursery (mostly used by smallholder farmer) will require the following:

  • Shading (you must construct a shade that will protect your young plants from direct sun rays.)
  • Fencing 
  • Polybags (Smaller ones for dual state nursery at stage one)
  • Larger polybags for single stage nurseries
  • Topsoil
  • Oil palm Seeds and
  • Watering can (for smallholder farmers).

Fertilizer and stages applications 

The application of fertilizer depends on the type of soil you’re using for your nursery preparation. 

Turay says that no fertilizer application should be made until one completely developed leave is visible. This can be seen between 5-8 weeks.

There are highly recommended fertilizers as Grofas Kuning (22:22:10:1) which should be applied four times weekly in its pre-nursery period. These are preferable for the viability of your young plants in the nursery. However, organic compost (animal dunks) can also be used within this pre-nursery period (4-8 weeks) if you do not have Grofas Kuning.


Staffs of Agro-Lite Liberia thinning seedlings

Thinning is perhaps one of the most important procedures to be carried out in the nursery.

According to Turay, thinning ensures that only the most uniform nursery palms which are likely to give the highest yields are planted in the field.

He says that thinning should be carried out when seedlings are about 7 months old when the fronds of adjacent palms have not started to overlap.

Also, thinning and selection at the pre-nursery stage is carried out before transplanting to large polybag (3-4 months stage- for dual-stage nursery), according to Turay.

“This is one of the advantages of the two-stage system when the first stage thinning of undesirable palms can be done quickly over the huge number of young seedlings. 

“The main types of undesirable palms (should be thinned) at this stage are as included narrow (grass leaf), rolled leaf, twisted leaf, crinkled leaf and stunted or weak (runts) palms,” he says.

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To be successful in your oil palm nursery preparation, the availability of enough water is the key. This is done to ensure the optimum growth of the seedlings.

The polybag soil in the nursery must be carefully moist with no dry patches to allow unimpeded growth and to prevent any dehydration of seedlings.

Make sure you water the seedlings twice every three days for the first 4-8 weeks.

Water requirements (quality and quantity), must be determined before starting site preparation. The easiest source of water is where there is a large natural pond or lake, says Turay. 


“The most recommended age of seedlings for planting I would make to any farmer is 12 to 14 months old healthy seedlings with 1-1.3 m height from the base and 13 functional leaves with good width at the collar,” Turay advice. 

The Standardized Plant Population is 143 plants per hectare or 57 plants per acre.

Spacing in the field: 9m × 9m × 9m (triangular planting)

Pests and Diseases in the Nursery

Another most important part of oil palm nursery management is pest and disease issues.

Pest infestations and disease infections can cause alarming losses if not recognized at an early stage and brought under control immediately.

However, Turay says that most pest and disease problems can be avoided by correct agronomic and management practices. 

Also, common pests in a nursery are ants, red spider mites, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and rats. 

Common diseases are Curvularia, Cercospora, Glomerella and blast disease.

To curtail this issue, routine prophylactic spraying should be a standard practice in the nursery, says Turay.

“In the pre-nursery stage, prophylactic spraying should be carried out twice per week preferably in the morning before foliar application or in the evening after the last watering. 

“Insecticides (eg. Kaltane at 25 ml/pump) and fungicides (eg. Captane at 20 gram/pump) for 700 seedlings can be mixed together and the various brands alternated at every spray round,” he says.

Additionally, Turay advice that the pest and disease prophylactic spraying should only be carried out 2-3 months after transplanting and can be mixed with foliar application in the main nursery.

 “Normally spraying is done at weekly intervals. Kaltane at 45 ml and Captan at 20 gram per pump for 350 seedlings are usually mixed with 60 gram of Grofas Kuning for prophylactic spraying in the main nursery, with alternate spraying of Rogor at 20 ml and Benlate at 20 gram at every spray round,” says Turay.


3 thoughts on “Oil Palm Nursery Management: 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow shares tips that worth the try

  1. Very informative I couldn’t have agreed with Mr tulay more than what he has narrated, this is the only way Liberians can uplift this country from poverty to a middle class nation. Am very thankful to agrigrind Liberia for informing the public about happen in the agriculture sector of our country.

  2. Great Mr. Turay, it’s just the way through the process of nursery establishment and transplanting seedlings. Note the seedlings should be transplanted at the beginning of every raining season as to strengthen the seedlings in the new environment before the dray seasons.
    It help to prevent more death rate……… etc.

  3. Agrigrind has indeed proven to being the champion of agriculture revolution in Liberia. Never before had the Liberian media been so farsighted to extending its reportorial coverage to essential sectors like agriculture. It has always been about politics, leaving the pillar on which sustainable growth and development stands. We have, in the past, worked to ensure some of our local journalists take interest in sharing lights on the nation’s most vital sector as a means of strengthening Liberia’s export relations with the outside world, especially the nation’s agriculture goods, yet no one has seen reason to do so. Howbeit, we are grateful that Arigring is doing its very best to expose our sector to the outside world. As a farmer myself, it gladdens my heart to see such a reporting. With Agrigrind, I believe the work of most Liberian farmers will come to the limelight. Thanks and keep it up!

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