Malaysian Has A Competitive Advantage Biology Essay


Malaysian has a competitive advantage in producing oil palm with long time experience and strong market leadership in terms of productivity and RD Performance Management and Delivery Unit PEMANDU, 2010. More recently, oil palm has been an integral part of the world's food security strategy by contributing 80% of world food supply and 28% of global oil and fats supply (see Figure 1). Oil palms have potential to produce six to ten times more oil per unit area than other vegetable oil such as soybean or sunflower. Even Malaysia is the world leader in palm oil production, but it was still poorly in boosting yield due to improper fertilizer management. Thus, it is imperative to find methods to boost yield the oil palm crop in order to keep oil palm production viable in the Asian region. In 2020, government was set up to achieve the GNI contribution target of RM 178 billion in 2020. To achieve this long term target, governments identified oil palm as a potential commodity with highest income crop by identifying eight Entry Point Projects (EPPs) as guidelines during the implementations of National Key Economic Area (NKEA) to become a high income country in 2020. One of the activities of EPPs is increasing the yield and productivity which significantly impact the GNI growth. These figures clearly demonstrate the importance of oil palm, as well as the potential economic benefits possibly realized from productivity increases.

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Currently, oil palm planted area is about 4.7 million hectares and needed about 1.3 million hectare more for further national expansion which located in Sarawak. Due to this limited expansion and soil fertility problems, resulted Malaysia has lost its global production market to Indonesia. Since Indonesia has the largest potential area compare than Malaysia, so we need to focus to increase productivity by having good agronomy and management.

As to cater the increasing demand, large amounts of nutrients needed for oil palm growth and yield, and soil fertility issues in Malaysia, these factors were created the phenomenon on using high quality planting materials and aggressive fertilization activity(Zakaria and Tarmizi, 2007). Other factors such as high grade usage of fertilizer which containing less impurity micronutrient and less use of organic fertilizers also will accentuate the need for micronutrients to be applied(Rajaratnam, 1973a).Some report also has claimed that availability of micronutrients in the plants as well as soil depended on the macronutrients fertilizer application.

Nitrogen (N) is a major nutrient and its uptake rise from the second year of planting until to five years of growth of oil palm. Therefore, it is important to provide adequate nutrition through appropriate management of fertilizer. For Boron (B) in in oil palm, B deficiency easily to recognized during immature and mature yielding palms with the present of symptoms malformation of younger leaves that are common particularly during dry season and has been with sharply decreased yields about 84% for severe deficiency (Rajaratnam, 1972). The occurrence of these disorders relates to B mobility in plants(Brown & Shelp, 1997). The mobility of B in plants is a consequence of the use of sugar-polyols (sorbitol, mannitol and dilcitol) as a primary translocated photosysthetate(Brown and Hu, 1996) that present in certain crops. These polyols are not well documented in oil palm as well even Goh, Gan, Kee, Chew, and Teoh (2007) were claimed that oil palm is a non-polyols producing plants. Therefore, there is need a better understanding of B distribution and re- translocation within plants is needed to develop a fertilizer program and effective mitigation of B deficiency in the field(Liu et al., 2012).

According to Majid and Gholami (2011), these two elements have positive interactions as the elements play an important role in affecting plant vegetative and generative development. Other studies(Moniruzzaman et al., 2007; Mandal and Chettri, 2008; Hellal, Taalab, and Safaa, 2009; Bellaloui, Reddy, Gillen, and Abel, 2010; Nowak and Szempliński, 2011; Rashidi and Gholami, 2011) were also attracted and paid much attention on this two important elements. Previous work has focused only on the effects of interaction between these two elements in plants growth and yield instead of their interaction mechanism.

The main purpose of this research is to acquire additional data on the role (s) of B in the growth and development of oil palm by integrate the interaction effects of N and B on B mechanisms in plants. Therefore this study is focusing to investigate the possible interaction effects from different N level applied to soil in the presence and absence of different doses of B on B concentrations in leaves and roots of young oil palm seedling as a tested plant. The aim of this experiment is to confirm the theory that N will affect the B uptake in plants. Secondly, we will investigate the impact of N fertilization on B distribution and translocation in oil palm part as has been claimed that N fertilization related to B mobility in plants. Then, we will establish the sugar-alcohols identification as a transporter of B within plants that presence in oil palm which not documented yet. And last but not least, we will test the N and B fertilization under field condition on growth, yield and nutrient distributions for mature oil palm.

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Comparison oil palm with other oil seeds in term of oil yield (metric tonne per hectare)

Sources: Oil world Database (June 2008)

1.1 The problems statement

Boron (B) deficiency is the most common problems in oil palm plantation and has been debated about it's potentially effects under field condition which can reduce the yield about 83%. Many studies have shown that certain B concentrations are necessary for developments of plants (Ozturk, Sakcali, Gucel, & Tombuloglu, 2010). Inadequate level of B concentration within plant tissue can cause yield reduction. One of factors that has been identified can effect B concentrations within plant tissue is interaction of B with other nutrients(Gupta, 1993). In addition, N is utmost important elements that affecting B uptake. Different crops response differently when applied different level of N and B which cause different trends of B concentrations within plant tissue(Saarsalmi & Tamminen, 2005). However, there is limited research that applied B concentration information study for oil palm in linking with B deficiency mitigation treatment by focusing the effect from N fertilization. Thus, this study tries to fill this gap and investigate the interaction effects of B and N in oil palm, as a major crop in Malaysia which that data is not available yet.

The occurrence of B deficiency is still can be observed even when B is in sufficienct in the soil. it was suggested that B deficiency in plants is naturally occur or exceed amount of N fertilization and influenced B mobility in plant (Brown & Shelp, 1997). It is now clear that species differ dramatically in the extent of B mobility. Species can thus be classified into those having immobile B and those in which highly B mobility. Understanding the B mobility in certain crops is important as influences B diagnosis and correction. For oil palm, it was suggested as restricted B mobility(Goh et al., 2007) and as non-polyols producing plants due to B toxicity symptoms of oil palm are exhibited at the tips of older leaflets. But, there is inconclusive and scientifically proven that oil palm is restricted B mobility and non-polyols producing plants.

There are lots of studies that have been conducted in evaluating the effects of N and B (Scott & Jenkins, 2006; Hellal, Taalab, & Safaa, 2009; Rashidi & Gholami, 2011; Giansoldati et al., 2012). However, it was not been investigated for oil palm under Malaysian condition. Although these elements have been studied separately in other regions, data is unavailable for the Asian region. Due to inconsistencies between these results of the field observations and chemical analysis of plant tissue arise from varying effects of each element on plant species and differences in experimental conditions(Tanaka, 1967a). Thus, the proposed research tries to fill this gap.

1.2 Objectives

The objective of this study develop approaches for a better understanding of underlying mechanisms in N and B fertilization, affecting B availability in the oil palm. The results of the study will enhance the understanding in mitigate B deficiency in oil palm.

1.2.1 Specific objectives

In order to achieve this main objective, the researcher intends to do the following:

To investigate the effect different level of B and N as well as their interactions on B concentrations level in leaves and their relationship to dry matter yield of young oil palm under greenhouse condition.

To investigate the impact of applied B and N on B absorption and translocation within young oil palm.

To evaluate the effect of B on the concentrations of some sugars in Tenera, A107 and A112 of oil palm both as well as to evaluate possible differences between these genetic materials.

To investigate the effects of B on the growth, yield and leaf nutrient level in matured oil palm under field conditions.

1.3 Preliminary hypothesis

Hypothesis one: The uptake of B by plants are affected by the concentrations of other plant nutrient present within the plant and soil(Gupta & Cutcliffe, 1980).The B uptake by plants is expected to decrease as an N content in soil is increased. Under high B level in plants, N can reduce the B toxicity symptoms. This hypothesis is based on the observation that B concentrations decreased with increasing rates of N and the increasing of N can reduce B toxicity symptoms.

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Hypothesis two: N fertilization to the plants will influence B uptake which impact the plant B status(Domaga, 2010). And plant B status may affect the absorption and translocation of B(Will et al., 2011a).

Hypothesis three: Hypothesis three: Sorbitol is known to be the product of primary photosynthesis transport in many common fruit trees. Concentrations of sugar alcohols (sorbitol) in the plant tissue have a significant effect on the B uptake in plants and cultivar/species significantly differ in B uptake(Meire & Leite, 2008).

Hypothesis four : Optimum dose of boron and nitrogen can increase macronutrient and micronutrient concentrations such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc in oil palm that is useful (Yoldas, Ceylan, Yagmur, and Mordogan, 2008). These nutrient balances created by boron and the other nutrient in the shoots led to a plant growth and indirectly will affect the plant yield(Mahmoud M. Shaaban, Abdalla, Fouad El Sayed, Abou El-Nour, El-Zanaty Abdel Mottaleb Aly and El Saady, 2006).

1.4 Research question

Objective 1: To investigate the effect different level of N and B as well as their interactions on B concentrations level in leaves and their relationship to dry matter yield of young oil palm under greenhouse condition.

What are the range of B concentrations in leaf tissue between control and treated plots which cause B toxicity and B deficiency to the oil palm?

What are the levels of applied N had significant effect on B concentrations of oil palm leaf tissue?

What are the relationship between leaf tissue of B concentrations and dry matter yield of oil palm when different level of N applied?

Objective 2: To investigate the impact of applied B and N on B absorption and translocation within young oil palm.

What is plant B status of oil palm after the application?

What is visual symptoms can be observed

How B is absorbed and translocated within oil palm after the application of N and B?

Objective 3: To evaluate the effect of B on the concentrations of some sugars in Tenera, A107 and A112 of oil palm both as well as to evaluate possible differences between these cultivars.

What are types of sugar-alcohols presence in the oil palm that used as B complex transporter?

What are the effects of concentrations of sugars-alcohols with these three types of cultivar?

Objective 4: To investigate the effects of N and B on the growth, yield and leaf nutrient level in matured oil palm under field conditions.

What are the effects of applied N and B on the growth of oil palm?

What are the effects of applied N and B on the yield of oil palm?

What are the effects of applied N and B on the leaf nutrient level of oil palm?

What are the relationships of leaf nutrient level of oil palm with dry matter yield of oil palm?

1.5 Significant of the study

The findings from this research is hoped to be very useful to further improve in good fertilizer management and practices in oil palm plantation. The findings could be used by the agronomist as well as agriculture researchers as a guideline to help them in giving the recommended rates of fertilizers specifically in application of nitrogen (N) and boron (B). In addition, this study will also contribute to the Malaysian oil palm industry in the following way: First, there have many studies conducted for other crops such as citrus, sugar beet, wheat, cereals, and broccoli but in this study is one of the first studies to investigate the interaction effects of N and B on B uptake and mobility within oil palm crops.

For agronomist, the findings of this study will help them to have a good understanding on fertilizer management in oil palm crops which they can provide the accurate information for optimum fertilizer recommendations and practices. Therefore, they also can provide the reliable advice on the amounts of fertilizer to use and techniques to reduce losses. Farmers and farm managers now have a guideline to assist them during making decision on fertilizer application and their management. This approach will ensure sustainability and the best outcome in terms crop yield and profitability. Finally, this study will likely some useful findings and would seem to be a value and enhance the understanding of private research companies and organizations in helping them to develop their own appropriate fertilizer recommendation management for oil palm, which are varied from one company to the other.

1.6 Limitations of the study

The weaknesses of this study that the researcher is aware before the study begins are:

The sand culture experiment: Lack of suitable equipment and uncertainty of being able to interpret results of water cultures in terms of field conditions made it seem more desirable to limit plant experiment to sand cultures. It is realized that such cultures involves more chances for contamination than solution culture.

Amounts of B fertilizers applied per pot: It is difficult to determine the proper concentrations of B to use in this experiment since the recommended rate of B for oil palm especially for pre nursery stage not well established.

Interpretations: Difficulties in interpreting the factorial trials and also the introduction of replications will result the numbers of plots are unacceptably large and wasteful of space.

"Poaching": In oil palm field trials, it poses special problems because of the "poaching" of nutrients between plots. The solution is to surround every plot of experimental palms by a guard-row that is similarly manured.

1.7 Theory and concepts

Several theories have been gathered and will be analyzed in this research study to help to determine the effects of Boron (B) mobility due to the interaction of Nitrogen (N) and Boron (B) within plants.

1.7.1 N affecting B uptake

N is utmost important elements in affecting B uptake due to the factors that B uptake depends on the other concentrations of other plant nutrients in the soils. Liberal application of N can alleviate B toxicity which firstly has been found by Chapman & Vanselow (1955) in citrus. But, high N can reduce B concentrations in plant tissue which encourage to B deficiency presence and can cause yield reductions(Gupta, 1993). This is suggested that B is immobilized in the stem tissue as influenced by higher concentration of N which cause B the transportation is minimal. Thus, the severe B deficiency symptoms often exhibited in field crops.

Other than that, repeated N fertilization results similar symptoms of B deficiency in plants under low B soils(Saarsalmi & Tamminen, 2005). This clearly indicates that N application affects the B concentrations and there are differences of B concentrations in plant tissue, among N levels. B concentrations in plant leaf tissue also indicated that there is a positive relationship with yield.

Due to inconsistency effects of N on B concentrations among the crop species and incomplete understanding of N- B interaction, there is a need an investigation to elucidate the relationship between N and B. Different crop has different mechanism in utilizing the B nutrient efficiency. This hypothesis can be utilized for oil palm as tested plants. In oil palm plantation, high fertilization of N is essential to support good oil palm growth and production; so it can be one of determinant factor to the occurrences of B deficiency symptoms in oil palm plantation.

1.7.2 B deficiency related to B mobility in plants

Brown and Shelp (1997) were reported that occurrence of B deficiency could happen due to high level of N and it relates to B mobility within the plants. B uptake, B deficiency, B toxicity, and breeding of plant species tolerance to B are given the impact on B mobility activity in plants.

1.7.3 B mobility as a consequence of sugar alcohols in presence in higher plants

Mobility of Boron (B) within plants is related to the sugar alcohols (polyols) which present differently among the plant species. It has been demonstrated that the mobility of Boron (B) is increased by the presence of these polyols. Due to N applications indirectly affects B mobility in plants, it also affects the B distribution and absorption in plants organs. From the results that have been reported, the effects of N and B in crops differently among species which created different effects. This then leads to the point where the interaction of both nutrients also important to the oil palms crops.

There are lots of studies have been conducted to investigate the effects of Boron (B) and Nitrogen (N) on growth and yield of the plants(Nezami (2012); (Singh, Kumar, Mishra, & Singh, (2012); Roshan, Azarpour, & Moradi (2011); Swiatkiewicz & Wlodzimierz Sady (2010); Hellal et al., (2009); Uddin, Khalequzzaman, Rahman, Nur-e-Alam, & Ali, (2003)). Majid and Gholami (2011) contends that N and B are the most important elements that can affect the crops either physiologically or agronomically contrast with Hellal et al., (2009) that only physiological interference will appear in the plants.


Theoretical diagram of the study

1.7.4Conceptual frameworks

Based on the ideas of the theories that were combined, we came up with the conceptualized framework. In line with the above concepts, this study attempts to emphasize B mechanism as reaction within oil palm responses to N. The conceptual framework is presented in Figure 3.

The B uptake variables which include the B contents and B concentrations in plant parts under different level of N, followed by the second variables- B absorb and distribute within plant part. Then, they can assess their response pattern on growth, yield and leaf nutrient level. Sorbitol contents in each plant parts relationship with B uptake becomes the fourth variables. The variables in this framework are considered specified effects following the points and ideas from the theories mentioned. In addition, the framework's flow is also based on the things that the theories printed out.


Conceptual framework of the study


Measurement for interaction effects of N&B





B uptake

B concentrations

B deficiency

B Mobility

Sugar alchohols(polyols)


Different levels of N




Consequence of

1.8 Conclusions

To summarize, this chapter has discussed the background of the study, the problem statement, the purposes of the study, and objectives of the study, possible research questions, preliminary hypothesis, delimitations and limitations during the study and theoretical and conceptual framework of the study. The remainder of this research proposal is structured as follows: the conceptual and framework related to the study will be explained in Chapter 2, while Chapter 3 will concentrate on research methodology and research method, which is the backbone of the study.



2.1 General information about Boron (B)

2.1.1 Boron and its characteristics

Boron is an essential element for plant growth and productivity but the roles of B in plant physiology are still limited even demand for higher plants is high compared to others micronutrients. In soil solution, B is in borate or boric acid (BA) and bonded to oxygen. In periodic table, B is belongs to the group 111 and due to its location between metallic and non metal group, B cannot occur naturally in the soil. It was well known B play important role in cell wall formation but B also play roles in enhance the structure of membrane. Boron deficiency can reduce the numbers of nutrient uptake by plants e.g. K-efflux, put of the cell(Cakmak & Römheld, 1997).

2.1.3 B deficiency in plants

Boron (B) deficiency found to crops growth and yields(Mahmoud M. Shaaban, Abdalla, Fouad El Sayed, Abou El-Nour, El-Zanaty Abdel Mottaleb Aly and El Saady, 2006). The factors that influencing B deficiency depends on the availability of soluble B in the soil, such as weather condition (drought, high, precipitation), soil conditions (low PH soils, B leaching, calcareous soil, B fixation) and the crop species(Shorrocks & Bureau, 1997).

B deficiency symptoms for young oil palm can be identified with presence malformation of leave which generally smaller and tended to maintain the bifurcate form(Rajaratnam, 1972).

Typically Boron (B) deficiency symptoms are well known under "crinkle leaf", "fishbone leaf", "hook leaf" and "little leaf". B deficiency affects leaf area and yield (in severe cases no fruits produced) and accentuated by high N, K, and Ca applications (Liming induced B deficiency). The natural sequence of boron deficiency in oil palm crops is well documented. There is often misconception regarding boron deficiency recovery. Once the symptoms already present, it cannot be alleviate due to structural changes during. Therefore, there is necessary an early action to apply boron during unopened leaves because the disappearance of symptoms is gradual.


Hook leaf- Mild and transient Boron (B) deficiency and the only symptom observed on a palm


Crinkle leaf on oil palm pinnae

B toxicity in plants

Natural B toxicity occurs in soils associated with recent volcanism, in arid and semi-arid environments or may derive from mining deposits, fertilizers or irrigation water. B toxicity can considerably limit plant production(Miwa, Takano, & Fujiwara, 2006), but information on physiological consequences of B toxicity is fragmentary.

Brown and Hu (1996) described symptoms of toxicity as the death of cambial tissues and stem die back, fruit disorder (gummy nuts, internal necrosis) and bark necrosis. A loss in membrane integrity in association with B toxicity (Alpaslan & Gunes, 2001). In case of limited B re-translocation, B toxicity symptoms are visible in older leaves especially in the leaf tips where the transpirations stream ends(Brown & Shelp, 1997). Visual symptoms of B intoxication in oil palm plants included abnormal leaf extension and veinal browing.

B mobility in plants

In most plant species, B is phloem immobile and distribution of B within a plant mainly follows the transpiration stream. Within the cell wall and cytoplasm, B quickly forms stable compounds (mainly mono-and diesters) and contributes to the water insoluble fraction. Thus, re-translocation from source to sink organs is not easily accomplished. In a wide range of plants, sugar alcohols (also called polyhydric alcohols or polyols) are present in the phloem sap. Most common are the straight-chained hexiols such as mannitol and sorbitol(Bieleski & Briggs, 2005). They contain cis-diol group which can form stable compounds with B.

These compounds facilitate the re-translocation from old leaves to "sink" organs such as young developing leaves, roots, fruits and meristematic tissues(Bieleski & Briggs, 2005; Brown & Shelp, 1997). Boron mobility was evidenced in plants mainly belonging to the Rosaeae family( apple, cherry peach) having large quantities of the sugar- alcohols rbitol in the phloem sap, and also in thoe those rich in mannitol largely corresponding to the families of Apiaceae (carrots and celery), Brassicaceae (broccoli,cauliflower), Fabaceae (pea, common bean) and Oleaceae(olive)(Brown & Shelp, 1997).

Goh et al. (2007) suggested that oil palm is a non-polyols producing plants based on the results from Rajaratnam (1972) was founded B toxicity symptoms of oil palm are exhibited first in the tips and margins of leaflets of older leaves. However, a detailed analysis of the sugar-alcohols present in oil palm has not been studied yet.

2.2 Nitrogen (N) on Boron (B) studies evolution

Others findings are found that these elements also can affect the yield components, crop diseases, nutrient distributions within the plants and soil(Shamsuddoha, Rahman, R.Mondal, & Lipu (2009); A.BA Mandal & Chettri, (2008); Scott & Jenkins, (2006); Khayyat, Tafazoli, Eshghi, & Rajaee, (2007)). But, there is no clear cut on how N and B positively interact to each other to give better results. While other investigator found that the there is no interaction among these elements on the yield and yield components of cotton(Majid and Gholami, (2011).They are not found any relationship with the role of N and B treatment.

The effect of Nitrogen (N) on the Boron (B) nutrition has a great significant in plants. There is suggested that N fertilization has a potential effect to prevent B toxicity therefore the appropriate management of N fertilizers in soils with excess B is very important(Petridis, Gasparatos, Haidouti, Paschalidis, & Zamanidis, 2012). The pioneers who establishing the interactions of N on B uptake in plants were by Vanselow and Chapman (Gupta, Jame, Campbell, Leyshon, & Nicholaichuk, 1985) who reported that liberal N application were useful to reduce B toxicity level in citrus.

Then, realizing that effectiveness of N in overcoming B toxicity most of researchers started to study on effects of N and B by deepen their study on yield, growth, and nutrient distributions within plants (see Table 1). In Malaysia, Rajaratnam, (1973b) was studied on the influence of N on B and he was reports that there is no significant effect of N on B uptake due the rates of N based on current recommended rates in order to observe the impact on matured oil palm.

So, we can see the flow of studies on nitrogen and boron for the crops which will expect to change the study area with focused on the effects of N and B on B mobility in oil palms because the relationship on B mobility is more significant to modify the fertilizer management programs.

From the previous study on the effects of N and B for certain crops, they have their own measurements and indicators of the effects on crops. For example, broccoli's yield, growth and nutrient distributions, Rakhsh and Golchin (2012)were measured the yield, dry matter and macro-micro distributions within the broccoli. Therefore, for oil palm we can measure the yield, vegetative dry matter (growth) and leaf nutrient level(NPK, Mg and B) as comparison with other crops.


Overview evolution of studies on effects of B and N in some crops

Author name

Effects of N and B



Statistical analysis

(Siddiqui, Oad, Abbasi, & Gandahi, 2009)



Plant height, stem girth, head diameter, seed head, seed weight heads,

Seed index

Seed yield



Significant means were separated by using Fisher's Protected LSD test

(Shamsuddoha et al., 2009)


Protein content


Protein in seeds


ANOVA: test significant of all parameters

DMRT with LSD: appropriate level of significance and mean tabulated.

(Hellal et al., 2009)

Nutrient balance


Shoot and root yield

N, P, Fe, Boron (B)

Nutrient ratio

Sugar beet

Correlation analysis

(Swiatkiewicz & Wlodzimierz Sady, 2010)

Micronutrient availability: Cu, Mn, Zn, Fe, B and Mo

Total micronutrients content (mg kg 1-dry weight)

White head cabbage

Two-way factor analysis of MANOVA. The mean was separated by Fisher's LSD test (p = 0.05).

(Zhou et al., 2011)


Chemical property of acidic soil

Seedlings height and root collar diameter

Biomass production and partitioning

Root growth

Response surface analysis

Soil pH changes

Soil exchangeable Ca and Al concentration changes

Teak seedlings

General linear models procedure

Contrast statements Duncan's multiple range test

Multifactor correlation (growth and soil properties)

(Nowak & Szempliński, 2011)

Morphometric Features


Stem length, number of I line side branchings, inflorescences and fruit number per plant and negative effect on I side branching height


Analysis of variance for two-factorial experiment

Tukey test at 5%

(Roshan et al., 2011)


Yield components

Grain yield. Straw yield, no of grain per panicle, no of bearer tille, % of unfilled grain, harvest index


Duncan's multiple range test at the 5% level

(Félix et al., 2011)

Yield and quality

Yield: Diameter, length of the fruit, amount of seeds and content of soluble solids


ANOVA at 1 and 5%

Polynomial regression to evaluate effects of Boron (B) and N on variables

(Tepe & Aydemir, 2011)

Antioxidant response under B toxicity

Quality: Vitamin C

Relative growth rate (%)

Chlorophyll content



SOD, GPX and LOX activities

CAT and APX activities



One- way ANOVA using Student's t-test to test the different significance.

(Majid Rashidi, Seilsepour, & Gholami, 2011)


Yield components

Fiber properties

Boll number/ Boll weight

Seed cotton weight of the boll

Seed cotton yield

Lint yield

Leaf blade B conc.

Leaf blade N conc.

Fiber properties



DRMT at 5%

(Zhou et al., 2011)


Chemical property of acidic soil

Seedlings height and root collar diameter

Biomass production and partitioning

Root growth

Response surface analysis

Soil pH changes

Soil exchangeable Ca and Al concentration changes

Teak seedlings

General linear models procedure

Contrast statements Duncan's multiple range test

Multifactor correlation (growth and soil properties)

(Şahın, 2012)


NPK content

Boron (B) content

Dry matter and productivity.

Leaf nutrient concentration



(Singh et al., 2012)

Percentage of translocation NKS

Translocation: % nutrient uptake by grain/total uptake X100


The critical difference (CD) at the 5% level of significance was worked out to determine the difference between treatment means

(Nezami, 2012)

Fruit Setting


% Fruit setting

The weight of a single shelled almond, % shell, length of the fruit, with fruit, %oil, weight of single kernel, % hard shell, % protein.


Duncan's multiple range test at 5% level

(Rakhsh & Golchin, 2012)



Nutrient concentrations

Head yield, wet weight of the biomass and roots

Macro- and micronutrient concentrations in broccoli head


Duncan's multiple range test at the 5% level

2.3 Effects of Nitrogen (N) on Boron (B) nutrition

Boron (B) is essential for plant growth and production for certain green plants. There is also has conclusive evidence that soils are deficient with this element can cause yield reduction if there is unsatisfactory amount of B in the soil until additional amounts of B is added for optimal growth. B availability in the soils depends on types of soils, plant species, environmental factors, and the interaction of B with other nutrients(Gupta, 1993). Generally B applied in combination of macronutrient fertilizer including N, it seemed of interest that there is some interactions occurs by inducing some direct or indirect effects in changes the dynamics of B availability in soils.

To date, the empirical research on the effects of N on B nutrition of plants fail to convince the fact that for N may promote or reduce B absorption. One of reason given is that recommended rate of N could not bring any tangible impact on translocation of B and even amount present in plants has not changed(Singh et al., 2012). Therefore, it is suggested that we should tested the higher level and lower level of N in order to understand which rates of applied N can cause B deficiency or toxicity problem in an attempt to improve B nutrition.

The leaf tissue B concentrations among crops responses to applied N were shown different trends due to physiological crops in utilizing the B under N sufficiency or deficiency. There was increased leaf tissue B concentrations of cauliflower, the similar trends with Brussels sprouts and lack of effect on peas(Gupta, Sterling, & Nass, 1973).

In oil palm plantation, high fertilization of N is essential to support plant growth and production but the drawbacks is N fertilization leading to low or deficient B concentrations through dilution effect(Goh et al., 2007). According to Brown and Shelp (1997), high N fertilizer levels resulting B deficiency occurrence and its related to B mobility in plants. He also stated that species differ in the extent of mobility with the presence of sugar-alcohols as B transporter photosynthate.

The young oil palm seedlings being rich in nutrients, including N and B play an important role in the growth and production of oil palm. Therefore, by studying N and B interaction in oil palm crops, we can find its indirect effects that need improvement of the fertilizer management, qualitatively and quantitatively.

Although studies effects N fertilization on B nutrition have helped farmers to understand the interactions between nutrients can affects their yield and presence of deficiency, there are critiques concerning the practicality of fertilizer application and the results leading to unstrengthen conclusions. According to Rajaratnam (1973a) was reported that ammonium sulphate did not influence leaf B concentration significantly. The results are contrasted fromA.BA Mandal & Chettri (2008) reported that by N application, the plant's B concentration decreased. Some authors attribute the synergism of B and N uptake to having common uptake sites to root surface of organs and some found the synergism among these elements. Dixon, Smith, Elmsly, & Fields (2004) reported that N application did not increase flower nitrogen content or flower boron concentration.

2.4 Effects of N and B in crops

Nutrient interactions in crop plants are one of the most important factors affecting yields of annual crops. They can be measured in term of growth and nutrient concentrations in plant tissue. Interactions on the root surface are usually due to the formation of chemical bonds of ions and precipitation or complexes(Domaga, 2010).

2.2.1 Growth, yield responses and nutrient distribution

There are lots of studies has been conducted on supplemental applications of N and B have occasionally been shown can increase crop yields and quality (Agbenin, Lombin, & Owonubi, 1990; Nezami, 2012; Shattuck & Shelp, 1987; Xuan, Jie, Tang, & Zhen, 2008). These studies were proven the importance of N and B are elements which to a large degree condition the proper course of plant ontogenesis, favourably affecting both the vegetative and generative development.

With regard to this, plants positively react to fertilization with these elements(Shamsuddoha et al., 2009). In addition, there are some issues concerning the inconsistencies results on effects of N and B among the crops response. For example, maximum rate of 200 kg/ha of N increased yield yields by 19.6% comparable to maximum rate of B but the combination of 200 kg/ha of N and 1000 g/ha resulted in the highest yield and yield components and enhance fibre properties of cotton in arid lands in Iran(Majid Rashidi et al., 2011). There were no effects of B fertilization on shoot weight, number of leaves, length and width of leaf broccoli (Moniruzzaman et al., 2007). Plant population per unit area and number of secondary branches of chillies were unaffected by 1.5 kg/ha and 2.5 kg/ha of B fertilization treatments(Uddin et al., 2003). No significant effects of B lint yield, individual boll weight or N blade concentrations and no significant N and B were found in a regional study conducted to evaluate the interaction of N and B rates on cotton yields(Majid & Gholami, 2011). B fertilization did not influence total curd mass or total yield in either soil of study for cauliflower(Sartori de Camargo & Da Costa Mello, 2009). These inconsistencies between the results as argued by Tanaka (1967b) due to varying effects of each elements on plant species and differences in experimental conditions.

2.2.3 Important of B mobility in higher plants

Most studies of B mobility concluded that B is transported via xylem, but a question has remained unanswered how do B translocate within plants with the presence of high concentration of N. Brown & Shelp (1997) stated that B deficiency can be resulted from high level of N fertilizers which indirectly related to B mobility within plants. The theory is proven that B mobility was influenced with the plant nutritional status; that is the longer the period was that the plants were grown under deficient supply, the smaller was the mobility(Boaretto, Quaggio, De Assis Alves Mourão Filho, Giné, & Boaretto, 2008). In an early study, Rajaratnam (1972) found that B is considered to be phloem immobile. He concluded that there is differences B content in the leaves and B could lost through guttation. But, the study failed to convince the fact the N fertilization influence B mobility within oil palm.

Studies on B mobility in oil palm are scarce. The knowledge on the B mobility is important for nutritional management to areas where the occurrence of B deficiency problem is common. Understanding the process governing B uptake, remobilization and distribution in the plant helping the farmers in identified and correct an imbalance of B deficiency(Brown & Hu, 1998). Thus, understanding of B mobility is a key step increase crops yields as a way to overcome B deficiency.

It has been reported that applied N has a great influence on the absorption and translocation of other nutrients by the plants. Translocation of nutrients absorbs by the plants also influence by physiological interference. Absorptions of cations such as boric acid, potassium, calcium and magnesium is decreased and anions such as phosphate, chloride is increased with the applied N(Taylor & Yoshida, 1969). Although the responsible mechanism is probably related to antagonisms in absorption among the ions, physiological injury caused by the absorption of ammonium-nitrogen, but the study on applied N on the translocation of B specifically on oil palm still under investigation. One of the reasons identified is the mechanism of B uptake and the factors governing B distribution in plants are poorly understood(Bellaloui & Brown, 1998).



3.1 General materials and methods

3.1.1 Plant species

The oil palm crop is the species relevance of Boron (B) deficiency during its growth and developments which has fulfilled the requirement and therefore selected. In this study, the oil palm seedlings are chosen because of high requirement of Nitrogen in the oil palm nursery and B deficiency symptoms are commonly present

3.1.2 Germination of the seeds

The oil palm seedlings are planted in sand bed due to because it can germinate until moderately high germination percentage (up to 50%). A sand bed consists of washed sand in a raised bed retained with boards, bricks or other supporting structures. Should fully exposed position of the heating effect. Seeds are placed about 3 inches apart and 1 inch depth in the sand. Watering is carried out two to three times daily to keep sand moist. After four months (1-2 leaf stage), the plants are transplanted- not exceed the time because the root system will be too large to lift without disturbance to surrounding seeds and damage the young roots.

3.1.3 Preparations of sand culture media

Before use the sand is washed with tap water, rinsed in deionised water and then soaked in in 3% HCl + 1% oxalic acid mixture for one week. After that period the sand is leached several times with deionised water until the pH of the leachate was the same as water. The sand was air dried in plastic trays under growth chamber conditions (Hewitt, 1966). The plastic pots and saucers are also washed thoroughly in 3% HCl and then with deionised water and dried in an oven at 40° C. The soil pots are wetted to field capacity with deionized water and incubated for 48h before seeding. One seed is sown in each pot. The pots are watered daily to field capacity.

3.1.4 Nutrient solution

Every palms of each treatment received all essential nutrients except B and N while for the control plot received 2 liters of the same solution that also contained B and N. The composition of the nutrient solution used in the sun (see Table 2). All palms received 2 liters of deionized of water per pot every 4 days to prevent a salt build up in the pot. At first the solutions were changed every 4 weeks, then 7 weeks by changed it every 10 days. To make sure the growth medium is aerated, the nutrient solution is applied every 2 days. As to prevent accumulation of salt, the plants are irrigated with de-ionized water for once a week. To maintain B concentrations and other nutrients, the nutrient solutions are need to replace weekly.


Composition of Nutrient Solution Used in Oil Palm Seedlings



Concentration (ppm)

Nitrate- nitrogen

Calcium nitrate



Ammonium sulfate



Potassium phosphate dibasic



Potassium phosphate dibasic

Potassium chloride



Magnesium sulfate



Ammonium sulfate

Magnesium sulfate



Ferric EDDHA



Manganese sulfate



Cupric sulfate



Zinc sulfate



Molybdic acid



Potassium chloride


Boron (*)

Boric acid


*Control (+B) solution only

* Control (+N) solution only

Sources: (Broschat, 2005)

3.2 Experiment one

To investigate the effect different level of B and N as well as their interactions on B concentrations level in leaves and their relationship to dry matter yield of young oil palm under greenhouse condition.

Materials and methods

Oil palm seedlings are sowing on acid-treated sand and watered the sand with deionised water. After four months of plantings, the seedlings are removed from sand and irrigated it under water. The plants will transplant to culture solutions when ready. The concentrations of the elements under investigation are varied with each experiment.

The experiment is conducted as a 4x4 factorial format based on a randomized complete block design (RCBD) with four replications. The four rates of N are; 0, 80, 160, 240 ppm added in the form of NH₄NO₃ solution. For B rates are; 0, 5, 10, 15 ppm added in the form of boric acid. The oil palm seedlings used in this study obtained from Applied Agricultural Resources Sdn Bhd (AAR) and use Tenera as planting materials for this experiment. Nitrogen and Boron (B) are applied in a RCBD with four replications at various rates accordingly.

All the transplanted plants in each treatment are harvested monthly interval until 12 months which it is the ending of the experiment (see Table 2). At harvest, the soil and sand carefully wash off the roots under running. All root systems are thoroughly rinsed in deionized water and blotted dry.

Leaf samples are collected for each treatment and fully leaves expanded are selected. The plant samples are separated which are then over dried at 70ËšC until constant weight are achieved. Dry weights of the samples are measured using an analytical balance. The samples were then ground to pass through 1mm sieve and analysis of B as described by (Gupta, 1967).

Data for each treatment are evaluated by analysis of variance. Orthogonal and non-orthogonal are used to compare non-treated with treated differences of the treatment on the concentrations of B in oil palm seedling leaf tissue. To show the relationship between leaf B concentrations and dry yield of oil palm, regression analysis is conducted.

The treatment combinations are:


Treatments combinations to experiment one


















Method transplant and harvest the plants for each treatment



When palms is 3 months


When palms is 12 months


APRIL 2013



MAY 2013

JAN 2014


JUN 2013



JULY 2013

MAC 2014

3.3 Experiment two

To investigate the impact of applied B and N on B absorption and translocation within young oil palm.

Materials and methods

For application isotope 10B labelled boric acid (BA), is applied with de-ionised water with 50 mm 10B labelled boric acid (BA).Foliar treatment solution is on the leaflet of the last fully-expanded leaves. After one week, the leaves are harvested and separated into segments. Data are collected from all treatments. The main plot factor pre-treatment has four levels of N (same as experiment 1) and subplot has four levels of B. Harvested leaves are dried in the oven at 65°C for 2 days. Ground dry leaf samples (0.05-0.1 g) were weighed in quartz crucibles. The samples are used in the oven with increasing temperatures (200°C, 300°C, 400°C and 500°C for 1, 1, 1 and 2 hours, respectively) then samples are cooled down overnight.

Then, samples are applied with 3% H2O2- solution, and dried, ashed again for 3 hours in the oven at 500°C. The ash dilutes and mixes with acid solution [3.3% v/v HNO3+10 ppb Beryllium (Be) and immediately, centrifuged at 4000Ã-g for 2 minutes. Boron isotopes are determined using inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy.


The analysis involved


General least squares means

Standard error in the treatment

Univariate analysis

10B concentration of each segment, the sum of segments 2 and 3, the proportion of 10B in segment 2 or 3 compared to all segments, for the water potential and the 11B concentration

Multivariate analysis

Used for a combined analysis of 10B over all segments. In addition, the water potential and the 11B concentration were used as covariates for 10B

Logarithmically transformed for the traits 10B and 11B

To reach homogenous residual variations for univariate and multivariate analysis

Statistical analysis summary for experiment two

3.4 Experiment three

To evaluate the effect of B on the concentrations of some sugars in Tenera, A107 and A112 of oil palm both as well as to evaluate possible differences between these genetic materials.

Materials and methods

We are using destructive sampling analysis adopted from Goh et al. (2007) during the sampling process to determine the B concentrations for each oil palm components: developing leaves, meristem tissue, stem and roots. The samples are taken from treatment experiment four.

All sub-samples of the vegetative and reproductive parts are sent to the laboratory for fresh and dry weight determination and B analysis. The latter followed the Azomethine-H method (John et al., 1975). Briefly, 1 g of plant sample was dry ashed at 530 ° C and digested with 10 ml of 1.4 M H2 SO4. The solution is then filtered through Whatman No. 1 paper. 0.5 ml of 0.05 M EDTA, 1 ml of 0.5 M ammonium acetate and 1 ml of Azomethine-H solution is then added to 1 ml of the filtrate to prevent interferences and developed the color. The B concentration in the filtrate was then read using a UV/VIS spectrophotometer.

One gram of fresh tissue is homogenized with an ice-cold mortar and pestle in 10 ml of 80% ethanol. The extract is centrifuged and the supernatant dried by a stream of air. An internal standard, 250 ml of 50 mg of inositol, is added to the samples.

The samples were dried again by a stream of air. Four-hundred microliters of acetic anhydride and 60 ml of 1-methyl imidazol were added to acetylate the sorbitol. After 10 min, the reaction is stopped by adding 2 ml of water. The acetylated sugars are partitioned in 2 ml of dichloromethane and dried. Acetylated samples were then dissolved in 100 ml of acetone and analyzed using a Perkin-Elmer gas chromatograph (model 8320). MS was carried out using a mass selective detector (model 5970, Hewlett-Packard) to confirm the retention time (Greve and Labavitch, 1991; Tao et al., 1995).

The analyses are performed at the Applied Science University of Technology Mara (UiTM) Shah Alam. To determine the relationship between sorbitol and B contents in plants, we are used correlation. Sorbitol measurement in plants: Total sorbitol, sorbitol concentration and sorbitol weight in each plant parts.


Overview of measurements for experiment three


Treatment level

Types of planting materials



Statistical analysis

Presentation form

Nitrogen (N)







Sorbitol content

Sorbitol concentrations (mmol/g)

fresh weight)

Sorbitol contents (mmol/organ)

Sorbitol weight (mmol/plant)







B uptake

B concentrations

Correlation between B concentrations with sorbitol


3.5 Experiment four

To investigate the effects of B on the growth, yield and leaf nutrient level in matured oil palm under field conditions.

Materials and methods

A field experiment is conducted at the Tawau Research Station of Applied Agricultural Resources Sdn Bhd on three different planting materials of oil palm (DXP, A107 and A112) planted since 1999. Soil sampling is taken from the soil (0-30 cm depths) need to make in order to determine the available nutrient in the soil. Experimental plot is separated by 1ft x 3 ft trenches. The natural vegetation of ferns and grasses is slashing regularly. As the experiments are on mature palm, it is expected that the residual effects of different cover regimes of planting would be minimal. The quantities of fertilizers per year are as presented (see Table 5). Nondestructive measurement as described by Corley & Tinker (2003) are made for this experiment. Oil palm yield harvested from each treatment, fresh and dry weights for each component are determined. Samples are oven dried at the 70°C ground and for analysis of N, Kjeldahl technique is used while K, P, Mg, and B elements used spark emission spectroscopy.


Quantities of fertilizer applied






Ammonium sulfate (21% N)


1 kg/palm

2 kg/palm

3 kg/palm

Borax pentahydrate (15% B)


100 g/palm

200 g/palm

300 g/palm


Overview of measurements for experiment four


Treatment level

Types of planting materials



Statistical analysis


Presentation form

Nitrogen (N)







Bunch yield

Tonne ffb/ha/year


Main effects of fertilizer treatment and which other measurements show the most similar pattern.


Multiple regression analysis

Coefficient denoted by R²*


r = to estimate degree of stability can be estimate by correlating data from one period of measurement with another (i.e years)

b= regression coefficient to measure the changes in the mean treatment value such that if the treatment constant over 2 years, 'b' closely to unity.

Variations of response (caused by seasonal)






Leaf nutrient level (%) dry matter of frond 17







Yield with nutrient level

Yield with VDM

Plot variability


Vegetative dry matter (VDM)


R²*= the closer this coefficient is to unity the greater is the variation for by fertilizer differences alone, and hence the better fit.

VDM= vegetative dry matter production (kg/palm/year) including leaf production rate, leaf area and weight, trunk growth and root growth and turnover.

3.6 Proposed research summary







Understanding the theory and the relationship

Stimulate the theory


N & B in oil palm

Effective N and B fertilizer management

3.7 Flow chart of research activities

Submit the review paper to local proceedings: Malaysian Soil Science Society(MSSS)


Experiment 1 & 2- greenhouse of faculty Plantation and Agrotechnology


Experiment 3 and 4- oil palm field in Tawau.

Preparing the materials and equipment

Seedlings from AAR Sdn Bhd

10B and 11B isotopes from Malaysian Nuclear Agency

Data collection

Harvesting when the young palms is one years old.

Analysis and result

Report the results

Preparation to submit the article

Plant soil journal/ sciendirect/scopus

Sampling and submit to lab for analysis.

Analysis and result

Report the results

Preparation to submit the article

Plant soil journal/ sciendirect/scopus