Log 02-8-13*

August 2, 2013

Weather: Medium rain with lightning at 0445 / lasted 37 min – I do not know what to make of this rain – is it an isolated shower – or does it presage the coming of the rains? Neither I nor all the Durian trees around my region knows it seems – as even they seem to be flowering reluctantly. Skittishly. I don’t see the same vigor and single mindedness the year before.

Yield: The high yield season seems to be dragging its feet – or maybe it came out and like a startled turtle popped back into it’s shell again – it’s hard to say, but when I couple the confused durian season with the unusually low yield figures (which should be highest this time of the year) – it’s topsy turvy.

Small holders are complaining there is no new fruit bunches, no tiered fruit set – only flowers it seems.

* Only K and I seem to be bucking the trend – I suspect, it may have something to do with pot luck.

Mid march this year was scheduled for high intensity manuring. I followed it to the last letter. Did it by the book. Every two years, high intensity manuring is standard practice in the best practices of the oil palm industry especially for alluvial clayish soil in this region.

I was just lucky – as this cocktail of fertilizers, trace elements and specific chemicals must have averted this phenomenon of flowering followed by zero fruit bunches.

BEFORE manuring was conducted in March – excess fronts trimmed, magnesium, (3 week wait) – muriate of potash (2 week wait) – CIRP (3 week wait) – Behn Meyer Kornkali NPK – Sodium Borate.

The general yield is low to average – I seem to be low as well, marginally +/- 25%. But at least I have fruits / in many cases tiered fruit, which makes me very confident of riding out the worst season ever in the oil palm industry in the last ten years.

Theories for low yield:

Today I sat down beneath the shade of the ficus tree to hear the various laments from the villagers – the Malay headman (penghulu) tells me, many harvesters will face a bleak Raya – as since they pay is pegged to tonnage. Due to the delay of the high yield season kicking in – there is not much disposal income these days – I corroborated this with the clandestine services – the village barber who informed me – rancid festive cakes were sold in the pasar. I can only draw the conclusion the seasonal festive traders aren’t selling enough cakes, so they are re-selling them, the day after.

K, a landowner in these parts floated the theory, this had something to do with the haze – it is worse than usual this year – and when the winds blow North Easterly it hits us especially bad right up to the rice belt up North.

I do not agree with this theory – my weather log suggest temp instead may have played a preponderant role. Haze prevents the full effects of the sun from baking the ground as it usually does this time of the year – hence this dry spell feels much cooler than usual – none of the top soil on hilly terrain has cracked – not even the termites seem to be attacking the stacked fronts. Even the weeds are able to gain a foothold and continue to flourish.

This is all very unusual in the dry season. Another theory that I have is the haze has rendered dormant the weevils who would usually do a great job of pollinating this time of the year – hence most small holders seem to only have flowering plants and no fruit.

I don’t understand – if the low yield is due to the lack of weevils – then why is K and me not affected?

I suspect the super high intensity manuring must have prompted my flowering season to come earlier than the others – during that period the weevil population was still unaffected by the haze – as that menace had not come.

I think it’s best for me to reschedule my annual quarterly manuring to take stock of this phenomenon – I was very lucky this time round just to slip through a crack in the door before it closed.

I need to take the weather more seriously instead of just trying to use the raw material of past historical data to make a strategic decision – it is conceivable, the past is no longer a reliable indication of what may transpire in the future.

I need to make it a point to stand and look at the clouds tomorrow with a stop watch and pair of binoculars. I’d better wear my digital watch starting from tomorrow onwards and carry a notebook to jot down weather observations.

Need to spend more time studying satellite photos instead of surfing porn.

Concerns:

- When to start manuring again – timing is everything I reckon on this decision nexus – I need to get it just right. But it’s like trying to steady myself on a rocky boat to take a long shot – nonetheless, it’s a gamble that I HAVE to take. Instead of procastinating with my usual 1,001 excuses.

TOMORROW MAKE THE CALL!

- I will begin manuring the low lying areas with whatever is left from the last fertilization. The water table is currently low – when the rains begin in earnest it will rise in a matter of days to super saturation point – by then for the fertilizer to find it’s way to the root system of peaty soil is zero – I might as well dump all my expensive fertilizer into the river.

I only have a narrow window – and I can’t seem to read her this time round, stood for hours this afternoon on the edge of the hill to scale the altitude and speed of clouds – fast, then slow, puffy cumulus followed by plough clouds – makes no sense to me – two seasons in one hour? Even the birds are behaving strangely – I don’t see them around. Not even before a rain.

I will have to make it a point tomorrow, to go down to the lower section – I will make a decision before twelve whether to start or wait.

Finished harvesting today – the timing is perfect – 5 days before Raya. Next harvest 16-07-13.

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