Most oil palm-planted land owned by independent smallholders is poorly managed in terms of fertilisation and ultimately results in lower nutritional status. Lack of knowledge in fertiliser management is one of the major factors affecting low fresh fruit bunch (FFB) production. Study to assess the level of knowledge on fertiliser management among the independent smallholders was conducted involving 1147 respondents in Malaysia. Data was collected using questionnaire-guided surveys by face to face interview and field observation. Results showed that most of the respondents are men, Malay and Chinese, age 45 to 69 years old with a farm located more than 5 km to 10 km away from either house or mills. Based on demographic profiles, respondents with a good level of knowledge were at age 45 to 69 years old, received primary and secondary education, having 1-3 family members, gross farm income income below RM2000. The main information on fertiliser management was obtained from MPOB extension agents. Good level of knowledge was also found from respondents having land less than 10 ha with palm below 8 years old, planted in inland with flat to undulating topography. Palm was planted using a standard triangular planting system of seedlings obtained from a licensed nursery. Respondents mostly purchased compound fertilisers from the fertiliser shops at prices ranging from RM50 to RM100 for a bag of 50 kg. Most respondents applied 3 kg to 6 kg-1 palm-1 yr-1 using less than two workers and the labor cost per bag is estimated to be between RM6 and RM10 each bag. Respondents generally had sufficient knowledge, especially on the types of nutrient contents in fertiliser, the right application rate for immature and mature palm, correct timing, a method of application and placement. However, some respondents still lack of knowledge to identify the symptoms of oil palm nutrient deficiency. Based on states, a high number of respondents having good knowledge on fertiliser management, except for the two states of Kelantan and Perak. Finally, out of 1147 respondents involved in the study, 78.2% or 897 respondents had good knowledge on the importance of fertiliser to improve their oil palm productivity.
Keywords: fertiliser management, knowledge, independent smallholder, oil palm.