Study on Water Footprint Shows Oil Palm Plantations Not A Threat to Water Sources
A recent study by Instiper Yogyakarta shows that oil palm cultivated on peat soils contains lower water footprint than oil palm cultivated on mineral soils.
JAKARTA – A recent study on water footprint in palm oil plantations shows that oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) doesn’t pose a threat to water sources in Indonesia. The study was carried out by the Research Centre & Community Development (LPPM) of Stiper Institute of Agriculture (Instiper) Yogyakarta in collaboration with the Indonesia Oil Palm Plantation Fund Management Agency (BPDPKS).
The study, led by Lisma Safitri MSi, was conducted at two separated oil palm plantations in provinces of Riau and Central Kalimantan. It shows that oil palm cultivated on peat soils contains lower water footprint than oil palm cultivated on mineral soils.
Oil palm plantations have been linked to widespread destruction of environment, including including water-related problems. The plantations are often accused of consuming relatively high water that threat sustainability of water sources in Indonesia.
Conversely, analysis on water use and root length density indicated that oil palm consumes water mostly from upper root zone. It means oil palm use only rain water and surface water. The study also proves that oil palm doesn’t threat sustainability of water sources in Indonesia.
Water footprint of oil palm is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce one tonnage of fresh fruit bunch (FFB) in m3/yields. Water footprint of oil palm FFB is divided into three fractions, each of which identified by a different color: green (rainwater), blue (surface water resources and groundwater) and gray (water needed to dilute fertilizers and other chemical compounds).
The study also formulated an application model of Water Footprint Calc in irrigation as Early Warning System in oil palm plantations based on status of control system of oil palm water footprint using inputs from data of rainfall, type of soil, plant’s age, and plant production.
Water footprint/water productivity (m3/kg) of FFB, which is identified as green and blue water footprint, can be obtained based on average of water consumed by plants (ETa) and monthly plants production as well as root length density. Study in Central Kalimantan showed that at the level of area the water footprint was 1002.1 m3/ton consisted of 76.7 m3/ton green water, 35.9 blue water m3/ton and 89.5 m3/ton grey water. Study in Riau showed that water footprint was 593.61 m3/ton of FFB consisted of 535.55 m3/ton green, 8.08 m3/ton blue dan 49.98 m3/ton grey.
The water footprint in separate regions in Indonesia shows that oil palm effectively consumes water. Comparatively, other vegetable oil crops have higher water footprint than oil palm. Sunflower seed (3366 m3/Ton), Rapeseed (2271 m3/Ton), and Olives (3015 m3/Ton). At the area level, the water footprint may vary from 0.242 to 0.423 m3/kg of oil palm FFB. ***