Identifying IPM and Biodiversity-friendly Agriculture Practices in Malaysian Oil Palm Production
Pilot on biodiversity, good practices, integrated pest management (IPM)
Oregon State University, SRUM Agroecología, UPM Universiti Putra Malaysia, Wild Asia
Crops or productive systems
March 2020 February 2021
Oil palm producers (including smallholders) and workers
About the project
The tropical areas suitable for palm oil plantations are incredibly rich in biodiversity. For many years, oil palm production has been associated with negative impacts on global biodiversity, as it significantly contributes to land-use changes in tropical forests, peatlands, and other species-rich habitats.
The major direct impact on biodiversity caused by palm oil cultivation is habitat loss caused by deforestation and the burning of peat or natural vegetation to prepare the land for planting.
Since the 1990s, palm oil has become a global commodity widely used in processed foods and is the highest yielding plant producing vegetable oil. Palm oil is produced from palm trees cultivated in Western Africa and South and Central America, but the most considerable extension of palm oil fields is in Indonesia and Malaysia, which provide 85% of the world production.
This pilot aimed to advance Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and biodiversity conservation practices at the farm level fo palm oil producers.
To sustainably produce palm oil, there is more than concentrating on preventing deforestation or habitat loss. Advanced integrated pest management (IPM), less toxic plant protection products, and improving biodiversity-friendly production practices are crucial to arrive at environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable production systems with maximum resilience.
The pilot included the development of an additional module of Malaysia-specific pesticide data for the Pesticides & Alternatives APP, a survey of biodiversity-friendly practices currently implemented by farmers, and a census of insect diversity and their associated host plants on oil palm farms – both pest and beneficial insects.
The results of this census provided important additional information about the natural history of beneficial and pest insects and their host plants in local oil palm production regions. An international team of entomologists and botanists discussed the results to understand plant-insect interactions and shed additional light on biological networks. The team discussions yielded first recommendations on how to promote more effectively the presence and conservation of these beneficial insect populations on oil palm farms.
Based on these results, SAN and its project partners recommended a set of effective IPM practices, suggested low-risk pesticides as alternatives to highly hazardous or high-risk pesticides, and proposed a habitat design for beneficial insects (multi-functional vegetation zones) that contribute to pest control.
Finally, the pilot provided a set of recommendations for a biodiversity and IPM support strategy that serves as a basis for a producer support program to reduce the pesticide footprint of oil palm production in Malaysia.
Ferrero, who supported the project, committed to securing a deforestation-free and exploitation-free palm oil supply chain. Since 2015, Ferrero sources 100% RSPO Certified and Segregated (SG) sustainable palm oil, and the company also established its own Palm Oil Charter to address the leading causes of deforestation and social issues. The WWF Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard 2020 recognized Ferrero as the company with the most sustainable palm oil out of 173 companies in the industry. Ferrero is also a member of the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG).
SAN developed recommendations for advanced IPM and biodiversity conservation practices based on beneficial organisms and low-risk pesticides tailored to Malaysia's palm oil production. The IPM and biodiversity package includes the Malaysia adaptation of the Pesticide & Alternatives App, an assessment of agriculture and IPM practices and pesticide use, and a census of pest and beneficial insects and their associated host plants.
Some of the outputs of the pilot were:
A description of current IPM, biodiversity conservation, and biodiversity-friendly agriculture practices.
A report of beneficial insect diversity and associated host plants containing the first version of a design proposal for multi-functional vegetation zones for natural enemies and pollinators ("insect food courts").
A hazard and risk categorization of pesticides in use and a recommendation of low-risk pesticides for effectively controlling main oil palm pests and diseases.
An identification of biodiversity-friendly practice gaps and suggestions about how to mitigate these with more sustainable practices.