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Universiti Teknologi MARA

SITE-SPECIFIC MANAGEMENT OF
IMMATURE OIL PALM ON PEAT:
GPS, GIS AND GEOSTATISTlCAL
APPROACH
James Lopaz Luhum
Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements
for the degree of
Master of Science
Faculty of Applied Science
May 2004
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to my beloved principal
supervisor, Prof Dr. Wan Mohamad Wan Abdul Kadir of Universiti Teknologi
MARA (UiTM) for his keen interest, special guidance and positive criticisms.
I am greatly indebted to my co-supervisor Assoc. Prof Dr. Anuar Abdul
Rahim, lecturer and pioneer in Precision Agriculture from Universiti Putra Malaysia
(UPM) for his assistance (field sampling), comments, consultation, encouragement
and suggestions in the scope ofthe study.
Not forgetting, I am also grateful to the Applied Agriculture Research (AAR)
Sdn. Bhd. for sharing their knowledge and making my past training such a wonderful
experience on Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographical Information
System (GIS) technology. Here, I would like to express my sincere thanks and
appreciation to plantation agronomist, Mr. Tey Seng Heng of the AAR for his
kindness and various stages of training with Trimble II Geo-Explorer (GPS) and to
all the AAR staffs especially the staffs. Sincere thanks should also be given to my
agronomist friends Mr. Arif Sugandi and Mr. Curtis Tan Kiat Siang of the AAR
station for giving me some ideas and comments especially in oil palm planting.
Special appreciation is accorded to Dr. Haji Zin Zawawi Haji Zakaria, Head
of Smallholders Development and Technology Transfer Unit of Malaysian Palm Oil
Board, for his positive criticisms, remarks and also providing me with sufficient
writing materials. Here I also would like to acknowledge my appreciation to Mr
Azhar Ishak, Head Department of Malaysian Meteorological Service (MMS) for
supplying climatological data ofKLIA, Sepang.
I am thankful to the management of KLIA Plantation Sdn. Bhd. especially the
Estate Manager for his generosity and encouragement to allow us to access their
private land.
Recognition and thanks are accorded to Bureau of Research and Consultancy
(BRC), Institute of Gratuate Studies and Faculty of Applied Science of Universiti
Teknologi MARA for their supports in canying out this research project.
I would like to dedicate my thanks to my father, Mr. Albert Luhum, my
mother Madam Roslin, my eldest brother Mr. Mohamad Nasir Abdullah, my eldest
sisters Mrs. Molina Luhum, Mrs. Elvinna Palon, Miss. Malisa Luhum, my brother in
law Mr. Locor Garik, Mr. Westmoreland Palon, my dear nephews and nieces
Marcus, Joshua, Lea and Andrea.
Special appreciations are due to the postgraduate students of UiTM and UPM
namely, Mohamad Hashim Bin Haji Muda, Haslinda Binti Musa, Osumanu Haruna
Ahmed (Dr.), Tamaluddin Syam (Dr.), Edi Yatno, Muhammad Prama Yufdy (Dr.),
Adrinal (Dr.), Yassin Mohamed Ahmed, Jalloh M.B (Dr.), apd Abayneh E. (Dr.).
Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge the services of laboratory
assistance Mr. Samsir Tarmo of UiTM, staffs of tha Department of Land
Management UPM for giving me an extra hand and to everyone else who have
directly or indirectly contributed in one way or another in pre})flring this thesis.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
LISTS OF TABLES
LISTS OF FIGURES
LISTS OF PLATES
LISTS OF DIAGRAMS
ABSTRACT
Pages
ii
VI
vii
IX
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CHAPTER
1
INTRODUCTION
1
1.1 An Overview
1
1.2  
4
1.3 Objective ofthe Study
4
2
LITERATURE REVIEW
5
2.1 An Overview of Peat Formation
5
2.2 Classification ofPeat
6
2.2.1 Topographical Factor
7
2.2.2 Vegetation Factor
8
2.2.3 Chemical Factor
9
2.3 Characteristics ofPeat
10
2.3.1 Physical Properties 12
a. Soil Moisture
12
b. Bulk Density 14
c. Porosity
15
d. Texture and Loss on Ignition
15
e. Irreversible Drying 15
2.3.2 Chemical Properties 16
a. Acidity and Soil Salinity 16
b. Cation Exchange Capacity 17
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c. Organic Carbon 17
d. Nitrogen 18
e. Phosphorus 19
f Potassium 19
g. Trace Elements 20
2.3.3 Biological Properties 22
2.3.4 Significant ofPeat to Human Activity 22
2.4 Site Specific Management 24
2.5 Global Positioning System 25
2.5.1 Global Positioning System Segments 26
a. Space Segment 26
b. Control Segment 27
c. User Segments 27
2.5.2 Details on Global Positioning System Satellite Signals 28
2.6 Geographical Information System 28
2.6.1 Significance of Geographical Infonnation System 29
2.7 Geostatistical Analyses for Windows 30
3 MATERIALS AND METHODS 31
3.1 Site Characteristics and Experimental Setup 31
3.2 Field Observation 35
3.3 Systematic Field Sampling. 35
3.4 Soil and Leaf Samplings 38
3.5 Sample Handling and Preparation 39
3.6 Laboratory Analysis 40
3.6.1 Determination ofTota! Nitrogen 40
3.6.2 Determination of Total Organic Carbon 41
3.6.3 Determination ofSoi! pH 42
3.6.4 Determination of Exchangeable Bases - K+, Ca+ and Mg
2
+ 43
3.6.5 Determination ofCation Exchange Capacity (CEC) 45
3.6.6 Digestion Method for Soil and Plant Tissue 46
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3.7 Data Analysis
3.7.1 Classical Statistical Analysis
3.7.2 Geostatistical Analysis
3.7.3 Geographical Infonnation System Analysis
3.7.4 Establishing Area Estimation by Digitizing
4 RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
4.1 Descriptive Statistical Analysis
4.2 Linear Correlation Analysis
4.3 Semivariogram Models and Graphs
4.4 Patterns of Spatial Variability
4.5 Area Estimation
4.5.1 Total Nitrogen in Soil and Plant Tissues
4.5.2 Total Phosphorus in Soil and Plant Tissues
4.5.3 Total Potassium in Plant Tissue
4.5.4 Total Organic Carbon in Soil
4.5.5 Soil pH
4.5.6 Cation Exchange Capacity in Soil
4.5.7 Exchangeable Potassium in Soil
4.5.8 Exchangeable Magnesiumin Soil
4.5.9 Exc.hangeable Calcium in Soil
5 CONCLUSIONS
6 RECOMMENDATIONS
REFERENCES
APPENDICES
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51
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53
55
65
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LIST OF TABLES
Table Page
2.1 Nature and major characteristics ofthe three suborders ofpeat 11
2.2 Summary ofrange and average percentage of elemellts in peat 21
4.1 Descriptive statistics for nutrient contents in peat (n;::::310) 52
4.2 Descriptive statistics for nutrient contents in plant tissue (n=153) 52
4.3 Pearson correlations for selected soil characteristics (n=310) 54
4.4 Semivariogram model for soil variables (n=310) 57
4.5 Semivariogrammodel for plant tissue variables (n=153) 57
4.6 Degree of spatial dependence (Q) for soil and plant tissue 58
4.7 Total nitrogen rating and area estimation 67
4.8 Total phosphorus rating and area estimation 68
4.9 Total organic carbon rating and area estimation 69
4.10 Soil pH rating and area estimation 70
4.11 Cation exchange capacity rating and area estimation 71
4.12 Exchangeable potassimn rating and area estimation 72
4.13 Exchangeable magnesium rating and area estimation 73
4.14 Exchangeable calcium rating and area estimation 74
4.15 Total nitrogen rating and area estimation. 75
4.16 Total phosphorus rating and area estimation. 76
4.17 Total potassium rating and area estimation 77
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LIST OF FIGURES
Figure Page
3.1 Distribution ofpeat in Peninsular Malaysia 32
3.2 Study area at plot 12 in KLIA Plantation, Sepang 32
3.3 Teluk Datok topography map, Sepang division
scale 1:50,000 33
3.4 Bar chart showing mean temperature at KLIA, Sepang 34
3.5 Bar chart showing number ofrain days at KLIA, Sepang 34
3.6 Bar chart showing monthly rainfall at KLIA, Sepang 34
3.7 Sampling layout for soil and plant tissue 37
3.8 Phyllotaxy shape ofoil palm development stage 39
4.1 Exponential model for total nitrogen in peat 59
4.2 Exponential model for total phosphorus in peat 59
4.3 Spherical model for total organic carbon in peat 60
4.4 Exponential model for soil pH in peat 60
4.5 Exponential model for cation exchange capacity in peat 61
4.6 Spherical model for exchangeable potassium in peat 61
4.7 Spherical model for exchangeable magnesium in peat 62
4.8 Exponential model for exchangeable calcium in peat 62
4.9 Exponential model for total nitrogen in plant tissue 63
4.10 Spherical model for total phosphorus in plant tissue 63
4.11 Exponential model for total potassium in plant tissue 64
4.12 Spatial variability oftotal nitrogen in peat 67
4.13 Spatial variability oftotal phosphorus in peat 68
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4.14 Spatial variability oftotal organic carbon in peat 69
4.15 Spatial variability of soil pH in peat 70
4.16 Spatial variability of cation exchange capacity in peat 71
4.17 Spatial variability of exchangeable potassium in   ~ ~ 72
4.18 Spatial variability ofexchangeable magnesium in peat 73
4.19 Spatial variability of exchangeable calcium in peat 74
4.20 Spatial variability oftotal nitrogen in plant tissue 75
4.21 Spatial variability oftotal phosphorus in plant tissue 76
4.22 Spatial variability oftotal potassium in plant tissue 77
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LIST OF PLATES
Plate Page
2.1 Plant remains found abundantly on peat surface 6
2.2 Verticallayout of peat layer at the depth of 0-15 cm 8
2.3 Accumulation offibrous materials from the decomposition
oftree logs 9
2.4 Slow decomposition process ofplant remains 11
2.5 Site-specific management via GPS
(Space, control and user segments) 27
3.1 Locating the sampling points by using GPS   38
3.2 Dry combustion method for soil and plant tissue
analyses (LECO FP528) 41
3.3 Organic carbon autoanalyzer (LECO CR412) 42
3.4 Leaching columns for extracting exchangeable bases 44
3.5 Ion autoanalyzer and flamephotometer 44
3.6 Atomic absorption spectrophotometer 44
3.7 Cation exchange capacity leachate collection 45
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LIST OF DIAGRAMS
Diagram
3.1 Flowchart ofresearch procedure
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ABSTRACT
Peat is considered as a problem soil in tropical countries due to the very
acidic nature, low bulk density, low bearing capacity, high loss of ignition and poor
structure. Comprehensive and sustainable peat management could increase
productivity and economic return. Over the past 2-4 years, recent achievements by
site-specific management approach significantly foster, spur and sustain price" of
commodity crops in global market. As a matter of fact, modern technology and good
agronomic practices if worked in parallel, can benefit the agriculture industry. In line
with current demand for food and environmental constraints, this is the right time to
treat crops with precise nutrients and specific treatments. In this study, approximately
310 soil samples were taken at the depth of 0-15 em and 153 plant tissues were
collected from the oil palm trees. A geostatistical sampling was conducted along the
palms rows (within and in between the palm nucleus). Based on the data analysis, it
showed that the coefficient of variations (CV's) for certain parameters indicated an
extreme variability within the field i.e. exchangeable potassium, exchangeable
magnesium and exchangeable calcium compared to other parameters. Positive
correlation coefficients were obtained from the analysis particularly in total nitrogen
with organic carbon content, phosphorus with exchangeable potassium, soil pH with
exchangeable potassium, soil pH with exchangeable magnesium, soil pH with
exchangeable calcium, exchangeable potassium with exchangeable magnesium,
exchangeable potassium with exchangeable calcium and exchangeable magnesium
with exchangeable calcium. Obviously, the spatial variability for each parameter
under study was classified according to the n u t r   ~ t level in soils and plant tissues. In
addition, the best fit model was developed to predict the spatial variability of data. It
is understood that, a high variability would result in a considerable amount of
nutrients required for oil palm growth whereas low variability would results in lesser
amount of nutrient available for the palms. In order to get a precise estimation on
field management zone, the spatial maps were digitized from raster to vector image.
At the end of the study, this intelligent system (GPS, GIS and Geostatistical) would
help modern planters and oil palm growers to apply the input at right amount, time,
place and way in the field. Hence, it could help to prevent input wastage particularly
fertilizers and minimize the environmental risk.
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CHAPTERl
INTRODUCTION
1.1. An Overview
As we move to the new millennium, there are many things people have to
learn about new technology. Obviously, hwnans have to enhance their knowledge in
science and information technology. The manipulation of technology helps people to
solve critical problems and maximizing productivity. Scientists and researchers
believe that technology is like a wizard, which can improve-the quality of human life
and bring forward new ideas. Over the past centuIy, great civilizations like Egypt,
Mesopotamia, Minoans, Babylon, Aztec, Ganges, Ming Dynasty etc were well
populated and flourished on fertile soils, which gradually helped these civilizations
rise to greater heights. Historically, assimilation between east and west civilizations
brought new ideas, wealth, new technology and approaches especially in agricultural
practices. In 18th centmy, the industrial revolution had brpught forward new ideas
and innovations to the fanners and benefited the local   As a result, more
attentions were given in soil and plant relationship study.
As we know, Malaysia is a top producer of palm oil and has had most
advanced technologies and prestigious human resources in oil palm industry. Further
more, our agricultural industry has moved towards agro-technology system. The
global trends of supply and demand for palm oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower
oil, other oils and fats show a potential growth. In the Asian regions, evety year the
demand for foods i.e products of palm oil has shown a positive incremental figure
towards the growth of human population. Thus limited land resources have resulted
some in agricultural activities to be extended into marginal areas like peat land. At
present, several private sectors in Malaysia have investeq heavily on agricultural
projects involving peat land.
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In Malaysia, the peat swamp forest is estimated at approximately one million
hectares and aged more than eight thousand years [81]. In West Malaysia, it is
commonly known that peat land is fairly extensive covering an area of about two
million hectares [80]. The overall peat swamp forest in South East Asian region is
approximately twenty million hectares making up sixty oftropical peat in the
world. Therefore it would be a possible reason for plantation company to
manipulate the agricultural land like peat as a medium for crop growth. Aminuddin et
at [6] mentioned that the development of oil palm     on peat in Sarawak
shows a great potential. In Sibu and Samarahan divisions of Sarawak, peat swamp
forest has been developed for plantation and agricultural activities through the
participation of private and government sectors. According to Wong [54], with the
greater demand of land for agriculture particularly plantation crops, large areas of
peat swamplands have to be reclaimed and developed. Nowadays, more and more
peat land is being converted into agricultural developments such as oil palm, sago,
rubber and pineapple plantations, paddy planting, tapioca and vegetables plots [54].
Based on the past experience, several variations in peat due to the nutrient deficiency,
acidic pH level, subsidence and low yield have been observed. In these areas, it has
been found that proper drainage is essential to bring the land' under cultivation [47].
Over the past decade, almost ninety percent of large scale extensive
agriculture activity mainly on oil palm plantations, was fully utilized with
conventional practices and manual operations. For an example, routine field
operations such as manuring, liming, upkeep, weeding and, harvesting require a large
number of man power. With the remarkable existing technology, good agronomic
practices and new technology for agriculture, it could be advantageous for Malaysia
to synergize the yield production to a maximum level due'to the recent tendency to
increase the average agriculture land size as well as to decrease the problem of labor
shortage.
The site specific management or precision fa.rtlling is one of the most
promising and effective approaches to managing oil palm growth [16]. Over the past
2-4 years, site specific management has been giving a S,ignificant impact to our
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plantation industry to foster and spur their yield production at the maximum level.
Recent achievements by certain plantation enterprises using this approach have
significantly sustained our oil palm price in global market with promising crude palm
oil (CPO) price reaching to the level ofRM 1,450 - RM 1,650 per tonne. Obviously,
site specific management helps to improve field efficiency, increase productivity and
profits, reduce input wastage and avoid environmental impact [30]. The spatial
variability, supported by statistical results, shows that high quality crops require
precise nutrient applications [13, 14, 15, 16, 40, 41]. In spite of various spots of
nutrient deficiency, nutrient excess and soil amendment, this infonnation can be
properly imposed and manipulated precisely using computer system (mobile
notebook or desktop) supported by geostatistical analysis (nutrient map) and
geographical information system (soil map).
The growth of computer (hardware and software) in local market does give
several impacts to the plantation activities especially managing a whole field area
into the smallest management units. In addition, most ofthe approaches of computer
system such as database management system (DBMS), geographical infonnation
system (GIS) and geostatistical analysis help modem planters to increase their
plantation productivity, revenue and efficiency.
Every planter shares the same view that planting of oil palm in peat land is
not an easy task. Indeed, it is through proper of agronomic practices and soil science
study that the oil palms planted on peat give remarkable returns [17]. Nevertheless,
with the above knowledge, it is hoped that the oil palm production can improve the
precision, quality and reliability of agronomic for soil and resource
management.
The study focused on the coastal plain of peat in Teluk Datok division,
Sepang which was planted with 3-year old oil palms. The study involved the spatial
variation of peat properties (total nitrogen, total phosphorus, total organic carbon
contents, exchangeable potassium, exchangeable calcium,   magnesium,
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cation exchange capacity, and pH) and the leaf tiss\le contents of nitrogen,
phosphorus and potassium of oil palms.
1.2. Hypothesis
The hypothesis ofthis study is as follows:
Ho: There is no spatial nutrients variability on peat.
HA: There is spatial nutrients variability on peat.
1.3. Objectives of the study
The objectives ofthis study include the followings:
(i) Evaluating selected chemical properties of peat such as soil pH,
nutrient contents (nitrogen, phosphorus,   magnesium and
calcium), organic carbon and cation   capacity.
(ii) Quantifying spatial variation of soil nitrogen, phosphorus, organic
carbon content, pH, cation exchange capacity, exchangeable
potassium, exchangeable magnesium and     calcium and
plant tissue content of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium using
geostatistical analyses.
(iii) Providing nutrient variation maps through iltterpolation techniques.
(iv) Identifying management zone of the area for oil palm.
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CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 An Overview of Peat Formation
Peat deposits are found allover the world covering 436.2 million hectares of
which 35.8 million hectares (8.2 percent) are in the tropics and subtropics [5]. At
least one percent of the total land surface of the earth is occupied with peat [29].
Peat is also found in waterlogged areas in tropical zones, covering one-fifth of
Sumatra Island and extending along the coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo
Island, and the south coast ofNew Guinea [1]. In West Malaysia, it is commonly
known that peat land is fairly extensive covering an area of about two million
acres [80]. The peat swamps fonn an almost continuous strip along much of its
coast, usually situated 2 to 4 kminward [47]. The basic study on the properties of
peat and its agricultural potential in Malaysia started in the 1950's. During that
time, the Department of Agriculture agreed to establish two peat research stations
at Jalan Kebun, Klang, Selangor and at Jalan Stapok, Kuching, Sarawak.
Presently, all the results of some 20 years of agronomic research on peat
conducted in these stations are now available to serve the country [25, 42,44, 45,
81]. The understanding of the specific properties and behavior of peat is very
important to prevent excessive and rapid exhaustion ofits natural fertility [47].
Peat is made up of an irregular sequence of plant remains which reflect past
environmental changes [38]. According to Pitty [1], peat refers to the
decomposition of organic matter in the oxidation process, where the circulation
of air becomes greatly restricted with the depletion of oxygen under a
waterlogged condition. In soil taxonomy, a soil is defined as an organic soil if its
parent material contains 80 percent or more organic   An organic soil can
be defined as peat if the organic materials are situated in tm upper boundary
within 50 em ofthe soil surface and have 50 cm or more or organic soil
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2.2.1. Topographical Factor
Usually, topographical factor is related to the landscape. The hydrological
conditions, commonly found in the peat swamp, are related to topography. Hence
a topographical classification is useful to indicate possible limitations on
reclamation and recommendation for management procedures. Anderson [28] and
Andriesse [37] attempted to classify tropical peat in       by using
topography. LA\nderson scheme takes into account the nature of vegetation as the
tenn Mixed Freshwater Swamp Forest. .tA\ndriesse [38], ho\vever, advocates a
classification of peat swamps purely on their geo-morphological setting (the
physical environment). The deep peat can be classified as deep peat or Anderson
series ifthe depth ofpeat is more than 1.5 ill below the soil surface [48]. In some
areas, large piles of parent material decompose below the surface to fonn a deep
layer of peat that can be more than 20 m [22]. However in Sara\vak, Tie [82]
reported that some organic materials have been transported by rivers and
redeposited to form organic soils in a new location. According to Paramananthan
[71], there are two terms -being to differentiate the mode of origin of the
organic soil materials. These are the formation of gradual build-up of successive
generations ofplants (autochthonous) and accumulation of alluvium derived from
plant residues or eroded organic materials (allochtonous)
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2.3 Characteristics of Peat
Peat swamps are usually situated 2 to 4 km from the coast of western and
southern parts of Peninsular Malaysia such as Perak, Selangor, Malacca and
Johore. Generally, the topography of peat land in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah
tends to be flat whereas in Sarawak, the basin peat swamps are dome-shaped. In
the natural state, the lowland virgin peat consists of dark reddish brown to black,
loose, partly decomposed leaves, branches, twigs and tree trunks with a low
mineral content. In drained areas, the peat is transfonned to a compact mass
consisting of partially and well-decomposed plant remains with large wood
fragments and tree trunks embedded in it, the result of decomposition, shrinkage
and consolidation of the virgin peat. Peat is made up of an irregular sequence of
plant remains which reflect past environmental changes [8]. The main expression
of the damp conditions in which peat accumulates is that instead of oxygen ions
being added to the substance, hydrogen ions are attached with soil particles and
humic substance is modified accordingly. Considerably, more than 2 percent of
the total organic matter may be in the fonn of fats, waxes and resins and about
half ofpeat may consisting of insoluble humic acids [1]. A thin layer of peat is a
surface feature of some hydromorphic soils, while thicker occurrences constitute
organic soils [19]. Currently, organic soil in Malaysia can be tentatively classified
in tenns of depth phases. The morphology of peat depth phases consists of seven
distinct layers i.e. an upper layer of 0-50 em (very shallow non-organic soil), a
middle layer of 50-100 em (somewhat shallow), 100-150 em (shallow), 150-200
cm (moderately deep), 200-250 em (deep), 250-300 em (somewhat very deep)
and more than 300 em (very deep) [71].
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  ~ 3 ~ Physical Properties
Usually the physical 'properties refer to the characteristics of organic
materials. The orgartic materials consist of four components such as mintilal
material, organic material" ·,vater and air. ·The ·characterizations of the phy'sicai
properties oforganic materials are made difficult by the change in the proportions
of tIle five cOlnponents as a result of reclamation. Tile Inain pllysical
characteristics are explained below [1].
a. Soil Moisture
Based on the study by tvfelling et at [47], the natural state of peat itl Sarawak is
pemlanently saturated with water. Infomlation on the water content of organic
soils is extremely important in soil reclamation. In particular, it is needed for the
design of 'efficient drainage layouts. Field J110isture content of peat is about 100
peiCent on a dry weight basis. The "high water content· results in high buoyancy
and higllpore vol\lme leading to low b\Uk density and low bearing capacity,
TIlereare vaIious ffi,ethods of detennining the water content of organic soils. The
maximum moisture or water holding capacity is the amount of water retained in
the soil against the pull of gravity, based on the oven-dry weight at lOSoC. It can
also be defined as the quantity of water held by a soil. These are few different
methods in measuring soil wllter-holding capacity. One of the methods referred
by soil ;scielltistsistlle measurelnel1tof water retel1tioll values usillgpressure
plate' and pressure membrane apparatus [11].
Water retention valuesareparticlliarly important in the tnanagement ·of
organic soils. tvfineral soil materials usually contain considerably less water than
organic materials. TIle large variation in water retention between tIle Inaterials is
a function of the porosity and hydr-aulic conducti'\'ity-. Coarse fibric materials
have large pores whereas the most-decomposedsapric materials have relatively
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small pores. The quantity of water in organic soils available to the plant appears
to be much less. For management purposes and in tenns of water available to
plants, two properties differentiate mineral and organic soils. Firstly, the volume
of solid particles is much less in organic soils than in mineral soils and secondly
the amount of water retained at very low tensions is much greater for organic
soils than for mineral soils. Peat behaves more like the very light-textured soils
than like heavy-textured ones [12].
The rate of movement of water through the soil is highly relevant to drainage
problems. It is controlled by several factors such as the type of peat, degree of
decomposition and bulk density. Fibric materials in tropical peat commonly
exhibit high hydraulic conductivity, which gradually diminishes as the peat
decomposes. Decreasing pore space and higher water retention in developing
sapric materials affect the hydraulic conductivity   The fact that
gradual changes in hydraulic conductivity can be expected in decomposing peat
following reclamation must be borne in mind.
The amount ofwater held by a soil is partly a function ofthe height above the
water table. There are several methods to measure this quantity. The American
Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) uses a procedure that m.easures the
moisture held by a 22 em high column; Finnish scientists use a 10 cm
2
tube
holding a column of peat. Tube and soil are immersed in water until they reach
constant weight. For dry peat, this may require several days. The tube is then
placed· in a vertical position for two hours to allow excess water to The
difference in weight. between the wet. and the oven-dry soil (105 0 C) is the
moisture held, so the values are expressed on a dry-weight basis. Water holding
capacity values show marked differences. The weight of water held in fibric
horizons may be 20 times more than the weight of the particles, whereas
that held in cultivated sapric horizons contains less than twice the weight.
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