Malaysia soil is the world’s oldest soil, known as tropical soil. Malaysia, situated at the equator, enjoys tropical weather in the hot and humid climate all year round. The condition of the soil is influenced by the hot climate and total rainfall yearly. Malaysia’s soils have their own natural characteristics. There is 5 type of marginal soil that prevent plants’ growth, with the need for unique management technique/practices to make sure they are sustainable in plants productivity. The marginal soil is highly weathered, lateritic soils, acid sulfate soils, saline soil, and organic soil peat soil, which is considered unsuitable for agriculture unless it is well managed to overcome significant problem soil and their prospect for agricultural development.
The problem of Malaysian soil and ways to overcome
The one problem of Malaysian soil is deep peat soil (<2M) which is 8.2% coverage in West Malaysia and 8.2% coverage in East Malaysia. Only 32 % and 1% of peat soil in West and East Malaysia have been developed for agriculture, and the rest are under forest cover.
The slow rate of development in agriculture at peat soil areas shows that there are many problems for agricultural success. Drainage is an essential factor for the agricultural development of the dry crop. Implementation of drainage is complex because peat areas are low-lying and flooded quickly.
Construction and maintenance of drain are pretty expensive. Peat soil undergoes shrinkage and subsidence due to consolidation and oxidation. Peat areas are also susceptible to burning, which could seriously damage crops. Malaysian peat is naturally woody and fibrous with high pore volume.
Its woody nature and softness restricted the use of machine mobility. The content of minerals in peat soil is also variable. West coast of Malaysia, about 70% of the earth contains less than 10% ash, whereas on the east coast, only 40%.
Peat soil is also acidic with a pHw value between 3.0 to 4.5 and is also known as micronutrients. Studies show high microelement adsorption in peat soil.
To overcome the problem in peat areas, selecting suitable crops is the primary criteria to ensure the successful development of agricultural crops.
The yield of crops grown on peat soil is pineapple Sarawak, tapioca, sweet potato, cucumber, cabbage, tomato, brinjal, rubber tree, palm oil. Agronomic practices using updated technology are used to future prospects in developing the dryland crops, including compacting the soil by running heavy machines several times over the planting row before tree crops are planted.
Water table control in a drain is essential to store soil water, especially in the short dry season. Crop grown under this condition have access to more soil water. Drainage may be expensive to construct; however, it is essential in peat areas when it is designed to discharge floodwater within the required period; it takes seven days for palm oil. A control gate is also needed to ensure soil is not over drained.
The development of the new practice by planting oil palm seedlings in a planting hole dug within a giant hole overcomes the effect of soil subsidence.
Each soil group required specific soil management practice/technique and crop species. With the present lack of labor, cost of management, and product price, the proper selection of crops for the correct type of soil will ensure the success of the agricultural crop development. The new invention of Hitech equipment in plantations will enable time savings and reduce human resource consumption in providing high-quality and competitive plantation produce.