Let’s Recognize the Potential of Unused Land for Agriculture!
Soil is a crucial component in agriculture. It acts as a medium to provide the plant with support, nutrients, and a network of water and air to the plant roots. Though some non-soil planting techniques exist and are possible, planting in the soil is preferable and more traditional. So, as soil provides plants with nutrients, it is always recommended to do what’s called land management before planting.
Land management is a step in agricultural practice where farmers prepare the soil for planting. This can include practices like plowing, removing or mixing previous plant residues, leveling the fields and adding manure or compost, all in the process of giving the plant the best possible environment to grow. Especially for non-perennial plants, like potato and rice, where they complete their life cycle after one growing season and require replanting. This step is also important for home growers. Whether planting in a pot or backyard, preparing the land or soil gives the plant the best possible home to grow.
It is also important to get to know what type of soil is available when doing first land management. For example, questions that need answering when getting to know soil are what kind of minerals are incorporated in the soil, its pH level, does it have good drainage or able to retain moisture, and most important of all is how fertile it is. These questions are important because there are all kinds of soil available and require a different approach for planting.
Soil for planting
When talking about the type of soil for planting, we can talk about it from grain sizes or particles and its properties, or we can talk about it from a morphogenetic approach where the soil is classified based on its structural properties.
If we’re talking from grain sizes, this means that we’re talking about sandy, clay, and silt soil particles.
● Sandy is the largest particle and tends to hold little water but allow good aeration,
● Clay particles are very small in size and tend to pack down so that water does not drain well and little to no air can penetrate,
● Silt particles are medium-sized and have properties between those of sandy and clay.
A mix of the three or loamy soil is ideal for most plants because it holds plenty of moisture but also drains well so that sufficient air can reach the roots. A different variation of proportion can also be used depending on the plant’s need. For example, silt loam or heavy clay loam soil retain water very well, making them perfect for planting rice but probably not well suited for other plants.
For soil classification based on their structural properties, according to the Soil Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, there are ten types of soil available in Indonesia, podzolic, histosol, vertisol, andosol, entisols, inceptisols, oxisol, spodosol, alfisol, and mollisol soil. Here is a breakdown of the five.
● Podzolic soil is acidic soil in coastal areas with low productivity. It consists of quartz sand with high elements of aluminum and iron. Typically it has a red to dark brown color.
● Histosol soil, also known as organosol or peat soil. This kind of soil is the accumulation of organic matter, like the remains of plant tissue, and is generally constantly submerged in water.
● Vertisol soil has a blackish-gray coloring and contains high nutrient sources. It is available and spread over Central Java, East Java, Lombok, and Sumbawa.
● Andosol soil is the soil from volcanoes and is located mostly on mountain slopes.
● Entisols soil is soil that comes from weathering of volcanic materials, such as dust, sand, and lava. It is very fertile for agriculture and is located around volcano areas.
Adaptation of agricultural techniques in various soil and land
Each kind of soil available has its properties, adding a need for adaptation of planting for each soil type. For example, sandy soil has the largest particles and can hold water. For soil that contains a lot of these particles, it is recommended to minimize ground pressure from machinery to reduce compaction.
Treatment adaptation, along with some additional technological advancement, can be applied to marginal agricultural lands such as swamp land, ex-mining land, tidal land, and land with high salinity to turn them into productive agricultural land. These kinds of land have their own added properties that might need treatments, like planting superior varieties that can adapt and mixing organic fertilizers like the Biotara fertilizer for swamp lands.
Adapting to soil properties in otherwise unused land means that there are more land possibilities to plant food. Indonesia’s state-owned fertilizer producer PT Pupuk Indonesia sees that opportunity with its mining land.
Utilizing mining land as agricultural land
Mining land is typically void of plants and consists of minerals, which means that it requires some land management before planting. This process of reclamation of the land can also be called revegetation. It involves replacing and rebuilding the soil of the disturbed land like from mining activity. Marketing Director of Pupuk Indonesia Gusrizal said that the company strongly supports the mine land reclamation program. Especially the tin ore mine, which will be used for reforestation and the cultivation of crops in the future.
“This program has the benefit of not only making ex-mining land sustainable but also productive for agriculture so that it can support national food security,” said Gusrizal as reported by Republika.
The revegetation is set to start in the six sub-districts in West Bangka Regency, including the Muntok district, where it is planned to be planted with around 600 trees. Pupuk Indonesia also held a demonstration plot of chili plants on ex-mining land in Pemali District, Bangka Regency. The activities include outreach, sharing, and discussion as educational media for farmers. By planting chili in the otherwise unused land, Pupuk Indonesia along with its subsidiaries supported the President’s advice for more people to plant their food.
“It is a shared responsibility, especially Pupuk Indonesia and its subsidiaries, to maintain national food security through increasing agricultural productivity,” said Gusrizal.