12 May, 2004 - MALAYSIA’S oil palm companies, already raking in hugeearnings, are looking to further increase returns by using satellitetechnology and remote sensing on their plantations.
These latest technologies, lumped under the term precision agriculture,are being used by Golden Hope Plantation and United Plantations to detectland nutrient contents and save costs on agricultural inputs likefertilisers.
The Malaysian Centre for Remote Sensing (Macres) said it received callsfrom Felda and around 20 oil palm companies recently enquiring aboutprecision agriculture and how they can use assorted high-technologyhardware such as the Geographic Information System, Global PositioningSystem and sensor technology to bump up their yields.
Dr Laili Nordin, head of Macres’ image processing and applicationdivision, said yesterday that the companies were very enthusiastic aboutthe technologies and made many enquiries about their applications.They wanted to use remote sensing to map out their plantations andidentify which areas were affected by disease.
They also wanted to differentiate areas with low and high yields, andrelate them to soil sampling, he said on the sidelines of the two-dayAsian Conference on Precision Agriculture in Kuala Lumpur.
He added that the companies said they would like to save cost on thesampling and analysis work done by using precision agricultureapplications like spectro-metre technology.
With this technology, we can basically determine the nutrient level ontheir plots, monitor land use and make recommendations on precisely howmuch fertiliser is needed.
With the data obtained, the companies will also be able to do pestcontrol.
Macres is already encouraged by the successful implementation of precisionagriculture pilot projects involving padi. Rice cultivation projects inTanjung Karang, Selangor, have shown significant increases in crop yieldsusing these methods.
At a press briefing after the opening ceremony for the conference, DeputyScience, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Kong Cho Ha said thatmore plantation companies could come forward to take advantage ofprecision agriculture technology.“We need more from the private sector to come and contribute to the fieldof precision agriculture, which has been practised for a long time indeveloped countries like the US. It will obviously be useful to companies,and it enhances production and improves farming methods, he said.