You and Your CourseOpportunities
Research and Teaching
Our ResearchResearch Degrees
Partners and Community
Partner with JCU
- About JCUPartner with JCU
- Careers and Employability
- College of Arts, Society and Education
- College of Healthcare Sciences
- College of Medicine and Dentistry
- Division of Tropical Environments and Societies
- International Students
- JCU Eduquarium
- Open Day
- Parents and Partners
- Pathways to University
- JCU Connect
- Scholarships @ JCU
- Media & Comms
- Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine
- About JCU
Featured News Oil palm – a modelled crop
Oil palm – a modelled crop
Australian scientists have developed a model for oil palm cultivation, aimed at helping growers of the crop maximise the yields of their plantations, while minimising detrimental environmental impacts.
The model was recently published in the journal Environmental Modelling & Software.
“Oil palm has become a major crop in the tropics, cultivated on more than 16 million hectares of land,” co-author Dr Paul Nelson of James Cook University (JCU) said.
“Demand for the product continues to grow, and the industry is expected to keep expanding in the foreseeable future.
“At the same time, there is significant concern about the industry’s environmental impacts, with many purchasers wanting only certified sustainable palm oil.
“Given that this is one of the most important industries in the tropics, our aim is to contribute to a research-based approach to its management. Growers need information that will help them make decisions that are good for both productivity and the environment.”
The researchers built an oil palm system model, using the internationally recognised APSIM (Agricultural Production Systems Simulator) framework. The model is called APSIM Oil Palm.
“APSIM is the gold standard for simulating crop systems,” Dr Nelson said. “It enables the simulation of systems that cover a range of plant, animal, soil, climate and management interactions. APSIM is undergoing continual development and it’s underpinned by rigorous science and software engineering standards.
“By applying APSIM Oil Palm, producers will be able to evaluate effects of their soil type, climate and management on their water balance, nutrient balance, soil organic matter and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Dr Nelson said agricultural systems modelling was often used in sustainability studies, along with field measurements.
“APSIM Oil Palm can be used in on-farm decision making and in assessing risk, yield forecasts and government policy, as well as providing a guide to research and education.”
“It’s a valuable tool which was not previously available to oil palm growers.
“Like any computer modelling exercise the outcome depends on good quality data, which has previously been a problem for many oil palm growing areas.
“For this study we used large data bases on soil and climate from three sites in Papua New Guinea. We plan to test its applicability in other areas as more localised information becomes available.
“This is a highly detailed model which involved simulating the growth of oil palm fronds, stems, roots and fruit bunches, and accounting for variations in soil, light, rainfall and temperature, ” Dr Nelson said.
“We did the work together with CSIRO and the Papua New Guinea Oil Palm Research Association.”
The research was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
Earlier this month (2-4 December 2014) the model’s developers, including Dr Nelson, ran a workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia, to train 20 scientists from six countries in using the model.
It is hoped that the participants (12 from Indonesia, three from France, two from Colombia and one each from Liberia, Malaysia and Netherlands) will use and further develop the model to help improve sustainable production of this important crop.
The workshop was supported by the International Conference on Oil Palm and the Environment (ICOPE) Series, ACIAR, JCU and CSIRO.
Development of an oil palm cropping systems model: Lessons learned and future directions is available online at:
Dr Paul Nelson is a Senior Lecturer in the College of Science, Technology and Engineering at James Cook University in Cairns.
Issued December 22, 2014
Media enquiries: E. firstname.lastname@example.org T. 07 4232 1007
- James Cook University
- Bachelor of Advanced Science
- Bachelor of Arts
- Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences
- Bachelor of Business
- Bachelor of Business / Laws
- Bachelor of Business & Environmental Science
- Bachelor of Dental Surgery
- Bachelor of Early Childhood Education
- Bachelor of Primary Education
- Bachelor of Secondary Education
- Bachelor of Environmental Practice
- Bachelor of Geology
- Bachelor of Information Technology
- Bachelor of Laws
- Bachelor of Nursing Science (External)
- Bachelor of Midwifery
- Bachelor of Pharmacy
- Bachelor of Physiotherapy
- Bachelor of Planning
- Bachelor of Psychological Science
- Bachelor of Science
- Bachelor of Social Work
- Bachelor of Speech Pathology
- Bachelor of Sport & Exercise Science
- Bachelor of Veterinary Science
- Bachelor of Clinical Sciences (Honours)
- Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
- Bachelor of Engineering / Science (Honours) MBA in Tourism
- Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
- Master of Data Science
- Bachelor of Sports Psychology
- Bachelor of Marine Science
- Bachelor of Medicine / Surgery
- Bachelor of Nursing Science [Pre-Registration]
- Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science (Honours)
- Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours)
- Bachelor of Psychology
- Master of Conflict Management & Resolution
- Graduate Certificate of Conflict Management & Resolution
- Master of Global Development
- Master of International Tourism & Hospitality Management
- Bachelor of Technology and Innovation
- Bachelor of Science & Bachelor of Laws
- Diploma of Higher Education
- Diploma of Higher Education (Business)
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Business Studies
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Engineering and Applied Science
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in General Studies
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Health
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Information Technology
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Science
- Diploma of Higher Education, Majoring in Society and Culture