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8.1 Introduction
8.2 Crop Choice
8.3 Water Management at Farm Level
8.4 Tillage and Cultivation Methods
8.5 Correcting Acidity by Liming
8.6 Fertilizer Use
8.7 Crop Protection

8.1 Introduction
Before cropping commences the farmer has to make important decisions which profoundly
affect the subsequent operational management. First he has to choose the crop; the
operational requirements generally follow from this. Such operational requirements at farm
level include:
i. Water management in relation to crop moisture requirements.
ii. Tillage and land preparation.
iii. Liming or acidity control.
iv. Fertilizer use.
v. Crop protection.
This chapter covers many topics because of the intrinsic variability in organic soils, climatic
conditions, crop choice and land utilization policies. Socio-economic factors such as quality
of farm management, capital investment, land tenure and the organization of water
management in drainage, contribute to the complexity of the issues concerned. It is only
possible to highlight information which is generally applicable and useful for practical field
operations, and details relating to conditions that are found only locally in tropical peat soils
are left out. There is therefore no comprehensive discussion on specific crop requirements.
Many standard management practices used on mineral soils are also applicable to organic
soils so they are not discussed in detail. Emphasis is placed on all aspects of agricultural
management specific to conditions prevailing in organic soils.

8.2 Crop Choice
8.2.1 Choice of crop under natural drainage conditions
8.2.2 Choice of crops under improved drainage with water-table at less than 40 cm depth
8.2.3 Choice of crops assuming deep drainage

Crop choice is dependent upon many factors of which suitability of soil is but one. For most
farmers profitability is the overruling factor, but in the case of reclaimed peatswamps there
are a number of factors which influence or limit the freedom of choice and which are beyond
the control of the farmer.

In the case of large peatswamps reclaimed by a Government, or government agency, the
potential land use has been decided early in the scheme. Large-scale reclamation schemes
need careful overall planning and the control of drainage cannot be left to the individual
farmer. However, within the limits set by the controlling body it is possible to have some
influence on water control at the farm level by such means as stop boards, but generally the
margins are small. It is, therefore, the depth to which the groundwater is maintained in the
reclaimed area that largely controls and limits the choice of crop.
In cases where an individual farmer endeavours to reclaim small stretches of swamp, he has
more room for taking his own decisions. However, if his land is part of a much larger swamp
he has the moral, if not legal, obligation not to disrupt farming activities on fields lying
downstream. Such conditions are frequently found in long narrow interior valleys especially
when under private ownership. In such cases it would be sensible to look for more
participants in a concerted reclamation effort which would ensure a balanced development of
the complete swamp. It would be unwise to develop one part of the same swamp for deep
rooting crops demanding a drainage depth of say 90 cm, if on a neighbouring farm attempts
are made to keep the water level at 40 cm for pasture development. Crop choice is also
influenced by independent climatic factors and socio-economic considerations such as
marketability, which are liable to fluctuations.
Peat soils are remarkably versatile in their suitability for crop growth. They have few inherent
qualities which limit growth, although they require intensive and often costly improvement to
natural conditions to make cropping profitable. Profitability is again largely dictated by the
local economy.
Peat is a good stoneless rooting medium, it has large moisture retention capacity and hence
transplanted crops establish themselves much faster than on mineral soils. Cultivations are
easier than on mineral soil, even under exceptionally wet conditions. There are, however,
also serious limitations to cropping:
i. Waterlogged conditions, requiring drainage.
ii. Very low chemical fertility, requiring large applications of fertilizers.
iii. High acidity, requiring liming.
iv. Low trafficability, preventing intensive mechanized farming.
Most of these limitations can be remedied but sometimes only with capital investment. In
some localities improvements are economic but in others the necessary improvements are
prohibitively costly.
Most countries have already developed or should develop their own peat suitability ratings,
adapted to local conditions, taking into account the limitations mentioned and based on local
economic considerations (Chapter 6). A very general guideline, based on experience in
South East Asia, and which can be adopted elsewhere with similar conditions, is to limit
farming to peats which are less than 2 m thick. Greater thicknesses, particularly those with a
low level of management, usually have insurmountable problems. This depth requirement
can be adjusted to fit local situations and where the input levels of water control, fertilization
and crop protection are high deeper peats can be contemplated.
Although factors mentioned play an important role in crop choice, they are specific to a
locality and should be studied and evaluated for each site.
Despite this complexity of factors, it is possible to discuss crop selection by looking at the
various land use options possible under three systems of water-table management; natural
conditions, somewhat improved drainage but with shallow water-tables (less than 40 cm
depth), and with deep drainage (water-tables generally greater than 60 cm depth).

As a result of better vegetative dry matter production per day and a longer period of closed canopy. aquatilis) has many wetland cultivars.) and papyrus (Cyperus papyrus). of which a number of varieties are commercially grown in North America. It is discussed under the section dealing with conditions of shallow drainage.0 which excludes most tropical peats unless they occur near a brackish water source in the fringe areas between mangroves and freshwater swamp forest. appears to offer good possibilities under the right climatic conditions in natural peatswamps. the thorny variety) is grown in the natural peatswamps of Sarawak and elsewhere in the Malay-Indonesian archipelago under wild and semi-wild conditions. There is evidence that the crop could give reasonable returns. particularly in their centres. Wild rice (Zizania aquatica and Zizania palustris). puddling by ploughing. wetland taro (Colocasia esculenta. disking. Wetland taro Another starch foodcrop. a smooth variety. riboflavin and nicotinic acid (Morton et al. and Metroxylon rumphii.8. The main crops suited to such conditions are: Sago Sago (Metroxylon sagus. For a number of reasons the domesticated rice (Oryza sativa) requires very good water-table control and is therefore not suitable for peatswamps.1 Choice of crop under natural drainage conditions There is an increasing interest in developing an adapted form of agriculture which leaves the peatswamps largely in their natural state. It is also necessary to have constant water circulation to avoid footrot. famed as a gourmet accompaniment for wild duck and game.2. have deoxygenized water. The optimum pH is between 7. even as far south as Florida. Wild rice needs some regulation of water-tables for optimum growing conditions although it thrives in waterlogged conditions.5 and 8. This rice. 1980). Miscellaneous crops . also has a ready market as a dietary food because it is a good source of thiamine. 1982). harrowing and grading. as the amino acid content is as high as in potatoes and the crop should be grown more widely in wetlands. Nutritionally taro is a better choice of crop than rice. This type of farming would to a large extent solve the problem of subsidence (Shih et al. indigenous species in African peatswamps. The produced starch can be used. by industry and as a raw material for the production of methanol. Aeration of the water is however essential and regular flooding with oxygenated water is beneficial. Rice Rice is probably the most swamp-adapted foodcrop. Since many tropical peatswamps. It is grown in and around the Pacific as well as in India and Africa in similar locations to wetland rice. Crop selection is directed to finding suitable swamp-adapted plant species of economic value. and organized production on a large scale could be lucrative. can be grown commercially provided that local markets are available and the range of its industrial use can be widened. Larger plantings require field levelling. favourable conditions only occur near their edges where peat merges into mineral deposits. as a food. var. Raffia The raffia palm (Raphia spp. the sago palm is superior in potential to cassava and rice (Ahmed and Sim 1976).

grassland use does not necessitate intensive mechanization which is characteristic of large scale vegetable growing. causing empty panicles. and the crop’s dependence on good water control. Rice fields in peatswamps where water levels are not adequately controlled may be frequently inundated by undrained rainwater and floodwaters become too high.2. 8. Water chestnuts. The largest area of peat in the Florida Everglades is used for pasture. Japanese work by the Central Agricultural Experimental Station and reported upon by Miyake (1982) indicates that the disorder is caused by harmful substances produced by delayed and incomplete decomposition of organic materials. by stimulating the decomposition rate by drainage. Conditions will most likely only be favourable in a few selected localities. the juice has antibiotic uses and the sedge can be made into matting although it is not very durable. in that it is possible that retarded decomposition causes the formation of copper-fixing organic compounds. like rice.2 Choice of crops under improved drainage with water-table at less than 40 cm depth Pasture By far the greatest area of reclaimed peatswamps in temperate regions is used for pasture and these only require the water-table to be lowered to about 40 cm depth.Water celery (Oenanthe javanica). before large scale pasture development is contemplated. Although the latter is only essential for obtaining high yields. Rice Rice (Oryza sativa) has received much attention as being the crop most adapted to swamp conditions. In the Netherlands a water-table depth of about 40 cm has been maintained for centuries which has minimized the rate of subsidence. such periods . are grown in fields covered with 5-10 cm depth of water. In both cases good management is required. Both findings may be complementary. the same effect would be obtained as a copper dressing. including those mentioned above. Apart from requiring shallow drainage. Pastures can be used for direct grazing but the high water-tables lead to low surface bearing strength and pastures are unsuited to frequent and heavy traffic. Most crops. In the tropics pastures on deep oligotrophic peats require high levels of fertilizer application and therefore the nature of the peat should be carefully examined and likely improvements considered in the light of local economic perspectives. The true tropical lowland peats of an oligotrophic nature are often not suitable and the best conditions are found in shallow peat and in those with an appreciable amount of mineral matter. Driessen and Suhardjo (1976) suggest that copper deficiency retards the inactivation of the toxic phenols and causes male sterility. St Augustinegrass is used effectively in this capacity. the former is often the cause of complete failure. However. require a plentiful supply of oxygen in the water. and relatively eutrophic conditions for good growth. The cultivation of rice on true tropical peats of oligotrophic nature has a number of drawbacks of which the most important are sterility. and thus. water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica). particularly St Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum). Tubers can be eaten in salads and soups. He postulates that disorder can be cured by drainage improvement. and the Chinese water chestnut (Eleocharis tuberosus) when grown commercially. The cause of sterility is not exactly known although copper deficiency probably plays a major role and dressings of copper can alleviate the problem. require some expertise and the vegetable crops are limited by location and marketability. The growing of fodder crops such as Napier grass is probably locally more attractive than grazing. The careful selection of grass species also counteracts the effects of poaching and in Florida.

Vegetables In many countries organic soils are highly regarded for vegetable growing because of their excellent physical properties as a medium for plant growth. therefore requires good water management involving both drainage and irrigation. drained to 50 cm depth. In Japan mineral soil dressing is also practised for wet rice cultivation (Miyake 1982). The ultimate choice however often depends on the demand and price. Rice growing on peat. Some tropical and sub-tropical crops such as chili. The generally low or very low fertility of the majority of tropical peats. Here the expansion of the horticultural industry was largely based on the excellent qualities of the local peat soils. added to the problems of water control and sterility makes rice growing unprofitable in most countries. Table 24 and Appendix 3 give indications of vegetable crops which can be grown with shallow drainage (water-table at less than 60 cm depth). particularly in the Netherlands. though having some potential. unless good management can be given and well-tried adapted cultivars are used. Transplanting horticultural crops is easy and successful in peat because of the good root balls formed by the plants. The minimum depth of water-table required for maximum yield and quality also limits the crop choice.may be followed by periods of water shortage causing drought stresses in the crop. and consequently level fields. Horticulture can be profitable in the tropics on oligotrophic peats. The choice of which vegetables to grow is dictated by many factors some of which (climate and locality) cannot be influenced by management. Depth of water-table is often standard over large areas. from nearby riverbanks or dunes. assuming a good local market and an adequate level of management. Horticultural crops In temperate regions. vegetable growing is not a commercial proposition particularly for rapidly perishable leafy vegetables. horticultural cropping is favoured on peat soils. Table 24 MINIMUM WATER-TABLE DEPTH FOR MAXIMUM YIELD AND QUALITY OF CROPS GROWN ON ORGANIC SOILS (source Lucas 1982) Crop Florida Indiana (Depth in cm) Minnesota Beans 45-60 - 45 Beets (red) - 71 - Cabbage 45-60 66 60 . is often mixed with the surface soil further improving the inherently good physical characteristics of the peat (Hidding 1982). Nonperishable crops which can be stored and/or dried can often be grown profitably some distance from a market. soya bean and tobacco should also be mentioned here because their method of cultivation is comparable with that of vegetables. Sandy mineral soil. They can also be grown successfully on peat soils with shallow drainage. Where peatswamps are in areas remote from large population centres.

Tie and Kueh 1979).3 Choice of crops assuming deep drainage Deep drainage is defined as greater than 60 cm depth but some crops require a depth greater than 90 cm (Table 24 and Appendix 3). has been under study in Malaysia for some time (Kanapathy 1978. One of the most difficult problems to counteract is the poor root anchorage provided by the soft peat. particularly plantation crops on tropical peats. Perennial crops The growing of perennial crops. especially for crops such as coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Peat . oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) (Plates 10 and 11) which become top-heavy when mature.Carrots - 66 - Celery 45 60 45 Corn 45-75 75 60 Lettuce 75-90 - 75 Mint - 75 - Onions 45-60 75 90 Potatoes 45-60 66 60 Parsley 35-40 - - Radish 35-40 - 45 Pasture-sod 30-50 45 - Sugar cane 60-75 - - 8.2.

the latter for methanol production. initial investments are higher than on other soils and banana cultivation on peats is difficult and demands good management (Lassoudière 1976). because it both flourishes in the acid conditions prevalent in peat soils. Fruit trees and horticulture The yield potential of some promising perennials and previously mentioned annuals grown on deep oligotrophic peat in South East Asia is shown in Table 25. Sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) is grown successfully on the Everglade peats in Florida and on deep coastal peats in southern states of Brazil. In general this is true for most horticultural crops grown on tropical peats. Attempts are currently underway to breed a dwarf oil palm for this purpose (Dolmat et al. Sarawak sources (Tie and Kueh 1979) indicate a high potential for mulberry (Morus alba) which.subsidence. In general many fruit crops. though performing well. The Malaysian pineapple industry is based predominantly on deep oligotrophic peats. Food crops Root crops require well drained conditions to prevent tuber rot and large inputs of fertilizer. Of these pineapple (Ananas comosus) has a very good potential. would require the initiation of a local silk industry. indicate that yields in the first years are in the range of 25-30 t/ha but could eventually reach a level of 35-40 t/ha. and it is relatively low growing and not susceptible to being uprooted at maturity. Large-scale banana (Musa spp. Therefore. This problem can be partly alleviated by using dwarf varieties. Thus deep oligotrophic peats are unsuited because of low fertility and poor anchorage though small subsistence farmers may have marginal success when world prices are favourable. however. is an important food crop on well drained deep oligotrophic peat in the tropics. these crops also need a high level of crop protection for success. Miscellaneous field crops A number of perennial or semi-perennial crops are difficult to place in the categories mentioned above. insect pests. However. a consequence of intensive drainage. 1982). Good management and assured markets are prerequisites to the economic feasibility of sugar cane growing. Under subsistence farming peat burning is traditionally practised to ensure adequate potassium levels but because this exacerbates wastage it should not be encouraged. uproots the shallow-rooting trees causing them to lean progressively and eventually topple. yielding up to 50 t/ha with good management. comparable with the lowland peats of South East Asia.) growing in the Ivory Coast with drainage at 80-100 cm depth on acid oligotrophic coastal peat. It is only where the peat is shallow (less than 2 m thick) and contains an appreciable amount of mineral matter that such crops are feasible. This potential is only realized under very good management and with high inputs of fertilizers. The economic feasibility is therefore low. Summary . are plagued by bird damage. Cassava (Manihot esculenta) or tapioca. nematode and disease problems.

In many countries the capital investment necessary for improvement is too high and management levels too low to justify reclamation.7 dry leaf 1.0 fresh rhizome 15.5 dry seed - Cowpea Vigna unguiculata 2.0 fresh rhizome Okra Hibiscus esculentus 6.0 fresh fruit bunch - .0 fresh fruit 40.0 fresh fruit Tapioca (cassava) Manihot esculenta 50.5 dry seed 2.0 fresh fruit Oil palm Elaeis guineensis 19.0 fresh tuber 24.0 fruit fruit 15.5 dry seed - Sorghum Sorghum bicolor 1. MALAYSIA (source Tie and Kueh 1979) Common name Botanical name Sarawak West Selangor Yield (t/ha) Pineapple Ananas comosus 40.While drained peats form an excellent growing medium for many crops it is only through the development and employment of specific technology for each crop that the inherent potential can be realized.5 fresh nuts Soya bean Glycine max 1.0 dry seed 3.0 dry leaf Groundnut Arachis hypogaea 1.5 dry seed Sweet potato Ipomoea batatas 14. Table 25 YIELD OF SOME PROMISING CROPS ON PEAT IN SARAWAK AND WEST SELANGOR.0 fresh tuber Castor oil Ricinus communis 2.0 fresh fruit 49.5 dry seed - Ginger Zingiber officinale 15.1 dry seed - Bambara groundnut Vigna subterranea 1.0 fresh tuber Tobacco Nicotiana tabacum 0.

0 dry starch - 1.3. The reclamation of small swamps within a farm or group of farms is usually carried out by the farmer or farmers concerned.0 dry seed - 13. the peat should never be allowed to dry out to such an extent that irreversible drying will set in. where the climate is characterized by a pronounced dry season.3. and the .5 dry leaf 8. The aim of water control systems is both to provide adequate drainage for optimum crop yield and to maintain the water-table at an optimum depth to prolong the life of the organic soil. This Bulletin describes the reclamation management required at farm level and does not describe at length the engineering requirements for large reclamation schemes. Large swamps are usually reclaimed by public bodies. The latter is responsible for major constructions such as dams.3 Irrigation The provision and maintenance of adequate water control systems in peatswamp reclamation require two distinct types of management. dike’s.3.2 Subsurface drains 8. one at the individual farm level and another for the peatswamp as a whole. with regard to swamp drainage on an individual basis. Further. Climate. Initially stagnant surplus water must be drained away. levees.1 Systems of open drains The size of open drains is related to the amount of rainfall which must be removed and the height of the groundwater-table to be maintained. drainage facilities should be supplemented by irrigation. whereas the farmers are usually responsible for the construction and maintenance of farm ditches and/or field drains. canals and main ditches.1 Systems of open drains 8.3. In tropical areas. in particular rainfall. so that in periods of drought water levels can be maintained at the desired height by infiltration. should be borne in mind.Sago Metroxylon sagus Coffee Coffea liberica Annatto Bixa orellana Mulberry Moms alba 6. the effects on groundwater levels and risk of flooding on neighbouring farms. The problems of coordinating and integrating drainage requirements of many individual farms must not be underestimated. thereafter the water-table should be lowered to and maintained at a depth where crop growth becomes possible.0 fresh leaf 7. 8.3 Water Management at Farm Level 8. An adequate source of irrigation water must therefore be available.7 fresh berries - 2. However.

3. 1. Generally. not all of the drainage water is discharged to the river.lateral and vertical hydraulic conductivity of the peat are the most important criteria in drainage design. the better the yield.9 m wide) and field (0. the rainfall and the cropping system.2 m deep. Drain pipes should be 10-30 m apart depending on the permeability of the peat. The system works as follows: during high tides water enters the canal system backing up and raising the fresh water in the system so that parts of the land can be irrigated by submersion. Drainage system for relatively shallow (<1. In Indonesia a system is used which allows both drainage and irrigation by utilizing the tidal differences in water levels of the main canals (Fig. including the main tertiary and field drains. serious siltation occurs in the tanks.5 m thick (Fig. The height of the water-table can then be easily adjusted within limits to suit the need of the individual crop and growing period. During low tides the water levels in the system fall. In practice.2 m wide) into rectangular blocks of 200 x 600 m. secondary (1. 27). Within each block. 26). As a means of water control at field level stop-boards are widely used in tertiary drains. Tay (1969) describes a similar system used by the Drainage and Irrigation Department of Malaysia for peat less than 1. 0. although it may be more expensive. but where the silt load in rivers is low the system is feasible. Such systems do not allow irrigation in periods of drought. 28). Owing to the relatively long length of the system.5 m) peat (source Tay 1969) The land is divided by main drains (1. However.9 m deep. the nearer the water-table is held to the optimum depth for the individual crop. placed at right angles to the main drains at 15-30 m spacing. 0. 8. water tanks are constructed at strategic points to be filled during the next tide. This is easier to install than clay tiles. For thicker peats a system of ring and feeder drains is recommended (Fig.6 m wide) drains are constructed. To catch this. Tie and Kueh (1979) quote recommendations for drains at 90-150 cm depth at 100-200 m intervals together with field drains at 50-80 cm depth. This water is conveyed to the system when the next fall in water level reaches its minimum at the bottom of the tertiary drains. it is only through the provision of structures such as tidal gates. Observations of water levels at about 2 m intervals between the pipes give .5 m deep. Figure 26. sluices and pumps that good use can be made of a combined irrigation and drainage system in coastal lowlands.2 Subsurface drains In Florida an increasing use is made of corrugated plastic tubing to replace field drains.

the cost and their possible disruption by tree roots. An advantage of underdrainage is that the tiles can be used to irrigate in times of drought by reversing the direction of water flow in the main open ditches or canals. The disadvantages of tile drainage are their vulnerability to silting up with either organic or iron oxide compounds.5 m long by 10 cm diameter downspouts with a stabilizing collar placed 30 cm from the top (Lucas 1982). but its success depends on soil permeability and the smoothness of the field surfaces.information on the efficiency of the subsurface drains. Mole drainage is an alternative method but its effectiveness depends on the nature of the peat. Figure 28. In finelydivided materials mole channels soon close up and become ineffective. Combined drainage and irrigation system using tidal differences (source ESCAP 1978) . Drainage system for deep peat (> 1. Figure 27.5 m) (source Tay 1969) A large circular drain is constructed round the land with feeder drains proceeding inwards to the centre. These dipwells can be made out of 1.

although variations occur because of the relative proportions of mineral particles and wood. Water used for irrigation should preferably have a conductivity of less than or 750 mmho/cm (650 ppm of salt).4 Tillage and Cultivation Methods Good tillage on peat avoids breaking down the peat particles to dust. This is particularly so for high-quality vegetable crops that demand large investment of capital and labour for optimum production. is generally favoured because of low costs and there are no problems with the quality of water sources (low alkalinity or salinity hazards). Overhead irrigation is necessary wherever fields are not level. For optimum growing conditions it is therefore necessary to monitor moisture conditions in the peat soil. The peat surface should never be allowed to dry out and frequent watering may be necessary in dry periods. damage to crops. frequently sand.8. This mixing of . catering for many varied local conditions. to mix the peat with underlying mineral soil. 8. water distribution patterns and field puddling. Subsurface irrigation. Neither excess nor insufficient water should be present in the rooting zone. as explained above. Too many wood fragments prevents good ploughing and large fragments have often to be removed by hand. Too much tillage leads to wind erosion of the fine particles and rapid dessication in dry spells.3 Irrigation The amount of water available to plants at critical periods in their growth is crucial to obtaining good yields. Organic soils are inherently loose structured and require little power to cultivate. are in use. overhead sprinkler devices. A great many systems. each with merits and handicaps. Where this cannot be maintained manually. The factors to be considered when choosing equipment are labour costs. particularly in the Netherlands.3. drip irrigation or surface flooding is necessary. ease of handling. Deep ploughing is often carried out in temperate countries.

The danger of desiccation is however enhanced and in certain climates the soil surface has to be irrigated frequently (Plate 1). the crops in Malaysia are planted by the double hole. high wood content and hummocky peat surfaces are often the main obstacles in preparing a good seedbed.5.sand and peat creates an excellent medium for plant growth and also increases the bearing capacity. but clay admixtures have greater adsorption power for fertilizers. As the surface of the peat subsides because of shrinkage and compaction. In the tropics.5. In temperate regions. farming on peat soils is highly mechanized. It is common practice to plant on ridges or raised beds. Peat can be too loose for ploughing so that it is pushed by the plough rather than inverted. By this method the impact of the first rapid and intensive subsidence of about 40 cm in two years can be cushioned. Perennial crops or those requiring root stock propagation are therefore favoured by the tropical subsistence farmer rather than crops produced from seed. such as pineapple and sago. Large-scale mechanized farming is often not cost-effective on the majority of tropical peats and much of the mechanized equipment is not discussed here. Liming is therefore a prerequisite for most agricultural enterprises. while in developing countries conditions are generally unsuited to mechanized farming. Many crops require a pH of over 4.5 Correcting Acidity by Liming 8. Damage from waterlogging after heavy rains coupled with inefficient drainage can be avoided in this way. In Japan the system of topsoil dressing of deep peat soils with mineral materials is well established for padi cultivation. probably because most peats appear to be economically unsuited for large-scale cultivation. There has been very little research on cultivation techniques on tropical peats. particularly in the case of vegetables. The exception is for pineapples but apart from this there has been little stimulation to research. 8. The physical characteristics of peat often require adjustments to conventional ploughing equipment. A hole of 1 m2 and 30 cm deep is dug in the freshly reclaimed and drained peat. Mechanization is difficult because of the lack of levelling equipment and manual tillage is therefore often practiced. A few. Subsequent subsidence is rather slow and of less significance. Within this large hole an oil palm seedling is planted in a normal size planting hole of 45 cm diameter and 35 cm deep.2. The amount of lime required depends on the natural acidity of the peat and the specific requirement of the crop.1 Lime requirements 8. It is impossible to indicate here specific . To overcome the problem of uprooting with top-heavy perennial tree crops or palms. The relationship between acidity and base exchange characteristics in peats has been described in Section 4. like the low pH of peat soils. the base of the young palm becomes level with the peat surface.2 Materials used The acid or very acid condition of many tropical peat soils does not suit most commercial crops. If the mineral subsoil is clayey it is more difficult to obtain a good mixture.5 for optimum growth. or hole-in-hole method.

Comparison with data in Table 26 illustrates that the best results are obtained when 2.lime requirements for the great variety of crops which can be grown on peat soils.5 (Lucas 1982). O’Toole (1968) showed that where an adequate supply of nitrogen fertilizer is applied to pasture the pH can be maintained at lower levels than where no applications are given. Tropical oligotrophic peats where the pH is between 3. the depth to which the pH increase is effective is also important as indicated in Table 26. In Sarawak.6 buffer containing triethanolamine. The proportion of mineral matter and the amount of exchangeable Al are both important. Lassoudière (1976) reports that an application of 5 t/ha of lime raised the pH one unit in coastal peat of the Ivory Coast. Some of these solutions are not suitable for organic soils as they were developed for mineral soil with different exchange characteristics.7 t/ha of limestone to a depth of 15 cm.5. Liming to neutral state is expensive and unnecessary. P and K as ppm in wet peat O’Toole (1968) showed that generally very large amounts of limestone are required to substantially increase the pH throughout the rooting depth.2. The influence of liming on the dry matter output of a mixed grass-clover sward is shown in Figure 29. producing toxic levels of nitratenitrogen. Liming was recommended if soil in the buffer was less than pH 5.1 can be achieved by thoroughly mixing 0. some general points can be made.7 to 6. 8. It should be added that lime recommendation also depends on the crop grown.3. whereas peat soils containing appreciable amounts of Fe and Al have an optimum pH value approaching 5. Several factors modify the critical pH for good plant growth.5 and 4. Table 26 EFFECT OF LIME AND FERTILIZER ON THE NUTRIENT STATUS OF THE SOIL (source O’Toole 1968) 1 Ca.6.6-5. It may affect the availability of trace elements and over-liming may influence denitrification. grown on peat limed to a pH of 4. Effect of calcium carbonate on dry matter output from a surface seeded grass-clover sward (source O’Toole 1968) .1 Lime requirements Many soil testing laboratories use buffer solutions to help estimate lime requirements.8. Similarly in Sarawak an application of 5 t/ha raised the pH from 5. Tie and Kueh (1979) indicate that maize.6.5 t/ha of calcium carbonate is applied which raises the pH to 4. The amount of lime required per unit change of pH varies for different soils depending on exchange characteristics. Natural pH values and optimum CaCO3 content of peat for agriculture is confusing because the type of peat is rarely given when results are discussed. ammonium chloride and sodium glycerophosphate. acetic acid. yielded significantly better than crops grown on unlimed peat of pH 3. However. However.0 and onions require a pH of at least 4. organic soils with low Fe and Al contents can have an optimum pH value as low as 4.0 for the same crops. Figure 29.5 for certain crops.0 require at least enough lime to raise the pH one unit for most field crops including vegetables. In general. Corn and alfalfa need a pH of 4. groundnut and tapioca (cassava). based on liming studies with blanket bogs in Ireland which are chemically similar to oligotrophic peats in the tropics. Mehlich (1942) developed a suitable test using a pH 6. including the crop sensitivity to active calcium content. Generally a pH rise of 0.

It is sometimes alleged that liming increases the rate of decomposition of peat but the results of research give variable results and are inconclusive. and dolomite.8 Micro-nutrients or trace element requirements 8. limestone. like sweet potato. particularly as to maintain the pH at the required level necessitates an annual application of about 1. one half ploughed under. and coral lime are used locally. Most other crops.5 t/ha of ground dolomite is recommended.2 Materials used There are two main materials used for liming. The pure materials act faster to raise the pH than the dolomitic ones though the latter supply magnesium which is deficient in many peats. a CaCO3 and MgCO3 mixture containing over 15 percent MgO. 5. soya bean. They indicate that pineapple and sago need no liming. which usually has admixtures of mineral material. may interfere with the absorption of potassium by the plants.6 Potassium requirements 8.9 Conclusions .2 Burning 8. the limestone and related materials need to be finely ground to pass through a 100 mesh sieve. groundnut.4 Nitrogen requirements 8.Liming an acid peat to a pH of over 5. Where deep mixing is necessary. Split applications also allow the use of both pure and dolomitic limestone. the other top dressed after ploughing. 8. In all cases to be effective.6. Proximity to source and transport costs of these bulky materials often determine the local choice of materials.5 Phosphorus requirements 8. liming is a prerequisite for profitable farming. the low level of mechanization leads to inefficient liming at the field scale.2 appreciably depresses the phosphate recovery and large quantities of calcium. The type of peat probably plays an important role (section 7. maize. When assessing adequate levels of liming local experimentation is important as optimum pH levels are partly dependent on local economic factors. sorghum. This order of application is very costly.6 Fertilizer Use 8. The optimum pH values and rates of application to achieve this vary considerably from crop to crop and between different types of peat.5 and below. which is relatively pure CaCO 3 with less than 1 percent MgO.5. and in the case of dolomite application also magnesium.25 t/ha. Lime when applied to peat soils is relatively immobile and a thorough mixing to the required depth is therefore important. coffee and napier grass require between 5 and 10 t/ha of ground dolomite.7 Calcium and magnesium requirements 8. subsidence). This is laborious to achieve manually and even with mechanized means several diskings will be necessary.6. as does tapioca (cassava) if the initial pH is above 4. Occasionally marl.3.3 Basic principles 8.0 but at pH 3.6. therefore.6. 8.6. In the tropics.6.1 Introduction 8. In many cases. split applications can be given. Tie and Kueh (1979) give general recommendations for liming deep oligotrophic lowland peats of South East Asia based on the work of several researchers in Malaysia.

Eutrophic or mesotrophic peats.2 Burning Reclaimers and settlers of peatswamps realized the importance of fertilization of peat soils from the beginning.1 Introduction One of the most important factors that has prevented large scale use of peat soils in the tropics is the very low chemical fertility. are inherently poor in all plant nutrients. burning releases copper compounds. Where there is no local research work available. stored in the organic compounds of the peat. 8. Polak and Supraptohardjo (1951) demonstrated that heating peat to between 105 and 128°C produced a flux of ammonia. Florida (eutrophic and mesotrophic peats). 8.8. short-lived and after only two years another burn is needed to support cropping. the peat type needs to be identified and the specific requirements of the crop reviewed. into available forms.6. Most information on fertilizer-use on tropical peats has either been carried out in the Everglades. particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia. Rates of fertilizer-use depend on both the cropping and type of peat present.6. to which maize showed a marked response. The interest in the nutrient requirements of peats probably reflects the parallel interest in the case of mineral soils where it is often the most important constraint to improvement.3 Basic principles Each crop has individual nutrient requirements and it is therefore difficult to discuss specific details. Nutrient deficiencies are easier to remedy than some of the detrimental physical changes caused by reclamation. Other added benefits of burning include the increase in rate of decomposition caused by the rise in pH. burning should be stopped. Instead an attempt is made to provide general fertilizer guidelines and principles for peat soils.6. causing these soils to be frequently deficient in copper for most crops. and this practice survives among traditional farmers employed in shifting cultivation. Then it is possible to apply the results of research work done elsewhere to the local circumstances. Finally. though at present it is often the only means available for the poor traditional farmer to maintain his subsistence agriculture. Regular burning leads to a rapid lowering of the peat surface. Kanapathy (1976 and 1977) has shown that burning is beneficial in increasing the pH value from 3. Oligotrophic peats. and the water management of drained peats. usually fixed in peat. which are locally important. The beneficial effects of peat burning are. This section concentrates on oligotrophic peats since their nutrient requirements have been studied in the tropics. The regular use of fertilizer is the only way to sustain agriculture on these soils but ultimately however the peat will disappear (Chapter 7). or on the oligotrophic coastal peats . Burning also adds potassium to the soil and changes unavailable phosphorus.5 to occasionally over 5 which is desirable for food crops such as maize. Where sustained agriculture is the aim. however. producing an increase in nitrogen stored in the peat. contain more nutrients than oligotrophic peats but they also need manuring or artificial fertilizers for commercial farming. They initially fertilized by burning the peat. which areally are the most important in the tropics. Studies of the chemical fertility and nutrient deficiencies of peats have received more attention than either the more important physical changes of peat soils upon drainage. causing problems of waterlogging and often ultimately to abandoning agricultural activities.

Chew et al. In temperate or colder regions available N varies with the season because of changing microbial activity. However. particularly on fertility status. dependent on crop type. Extrapolation of research findings. The effect on soil N of liming Irish blanket bog soils decreased after a short time (O’Toole 1968). (1976a and b). The latter three affect the activity of soil organisms responsible for the breakdown of the organic compounds. The availability of N is also affected in time by liming. This is because the easily decomposed nitrogenous components of the peats are mineralized first and relatively quickly after liming. moisture. Available N content is also considerably influenced by drainage depth. It should be noted that nitrification proceeds rapidly under high temperatures and nitrite poisoning may affect forage crops. should never be attempted if the research results are not accompanied by an accurate analysis of the soils in question. which can be up to 50 percent of organic soils (Histosols) can have profound effects on the behaviour of peat soils. Basic research on oligotrophic peats in temperate climates.of Malaysia and Indonesia.4 Nitrogen requirements The nitrogen status of peat soils is discussed in section 4. where it is shown that the total nitrogen content ranges widely because of differences in both the nature of peats and their decomposition rate. experienced when shallow drainage is practised (Table 27). particularly that on nitrogen. temperature also plays a role. While available N is indirectly determined by factors influencing the total N content other factors such as temperature. total N contents are high when compared with mineral soil. can also be applied to tropical peats. Table 27 AVERAGE YIELD RESPONSE TO NITROGEN DRESSINGS ACCORDING TO DEPTH OF WATER-TABLE (source Lucas 1982) Crop Corn Years in test Water-table at 40 cm % Yield increase Water-table at 60 cm Water-table at 80 cm 7 43 6 2 . Liming has the primary effect of raising the pH and any other effect on nitrogen liberation may be shortlived. aeration and acidity play a role. leaving the less easily decomposed forms of organic N (Hardon and Polak 1941). In the Netherlands a drainage depth of 50 cm requires N-fertilization for good pasture growth whereas this is not necessary with deeper drainage. These. Likewise trials in the USA also indicated that no response to N fertilizer was found with deep drainage as opposed to a 10-67 percent yield increase. when consumed by ruminants. Generally. may in turn be responsible for nitrite poisoning and death of the animals. The carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratio of peat is important in assessing the available N content. in a study of the effect on nitrogen of liming oligotrophic peats under napier grass in Malaya. Admixtures of mineral material. discovered an almost identical decrease in response to liming in the uptake of soil N. However. In tropical organic materials C/N values lower than 16 are commonly regarded as indicative of soils where nitrogen stress will form a constraint to crop growth.2.6. the amount of N available to the plant is important. 8.

A range of rates are specified but Tie and Kueh (1979) give the following rates of nitrogen application for oligotrophic lowland peats of South East Asia: Vegetables including long beans. Generally more emphasis is given to phosphorus and potassium fertilization. it is important to note that. Cattle manure or slurry is traditionally used as a fertilizer on pastures in the Netherlands.45 to 78 kg/ha. Oil palm appears to be negatively affected if ammonium sulphate is applied in dressings greater than 5 kg per tree. Soya bean. However.560 kg/ha. the application of nitrogen fertilizers to crops grown on peat is dependent on a great many variable factors.5 Phosphorus requirements . Maize . Rates in the USA vary from 0-200 kg/ha. In conclusion. 8.Potatoes 4 67 9 4 Onions 5 23 3 2 Peppermint 5 10 6 3 General recommendations for the application of the nitrogen on peat soils to fit all conditions are difficult to give.280 to 420 kg/ha (depending on variety). This quantity would also stimulate a high uptake of phosphate which is detrimental to the plant (Kanapathy 1978). This is particularly the case with oligotrophic peats. groundnut and cowpea . French beans. Tobacco . it is agreed that nitrogen is required in quantity by all crops except legumes.140 kg/ha. green pepper and chilli . In general. without adequate nitrogen the response to other supplied elements will be small.280 to 560 kg/ha.180 kg/ha (on shallow peat with 20 percent mineral matter). In Japan the application of farmyard manure or compost appears beneficial (Miyake 1982).6. For each situation and type of peat rates should be carefully assessed by trial. Pineapple . rice on peat soils receives rates of 40 kg/ha of nitrogen as it is assumed that the fertilizer acts as a starter in the initial growth stage and that large amounts of ammonium nitrogen will be released from the peat under submerged conditions (Miyake 1982). From experimental work in Malaysia and Indonesia on many crops.200 kg/ha. Tapioca . cucumber .

because of a relative accumulation of Al and Fe compounds in the mineral admixture. There can be considerable difference between deep and shallow peats. General recommendations are again difficult to make because of the large variability in conditions and crop demand. Peats which have been drained and farmed for some time may increasingly develop phosphate-fixing powers upon decomposition. whereas vegetables require more than half the nitrogen requirement. we are more concerned with its availability.The total phosphorus (P) content of tropical peat is generally low. This is mainly caused by the low phosphate fixation experienced in these peats due to very low levels of Al and Fe. It is important to realize that each type of peat may require its own specific interpretation dependent on the extraction method used. Table 28 gives the general phosphorus recommendations used for organic soils in the USA. For this reason added phosphate may become partly fixed. Most phosphorus is present in the organic form and upon mineralization this becomes readily available. Tapioca one quarter of the demand for nitrogen. pineapple requires less than one tenth of the amount of phosphorus than it requires of nitrogen that is 14-28 kg/ha. The experience with oligotrophic peats in South East Asia indicates that phosphate requirements for most crops are not high. thus 50 kg/ha. available phosphorus content is generally larger than in upland soils. for example. but as is the case with nitrogen. This is an analytical problem inherent to the characteristics of organic soils. Table 28 PHOSPHORUS FERTILIZER RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A RANGE OF CROPS BASED ON AVAILABLE SOIL PHOSPHORUS (source Lucas 1968) ppm of available soil phosphorus 1 Phosphorus recommended (kg/ha) 5 112 5 10 90 10 20 67 5 20 30 45 5 10 30 40 34 10 20 40 50 22 20 30 50+ 60+ 17 . Perennials planted on peats less than 1 m thick may find their phosphorus source in the mineral subsoil. Available phosphorus values in peat soils are difficult to determine. In oligotrophic peats in the tropics. Type and depth of peat are therefore important variables.

Traditional subsistence farmers try to supply the required potassium for food cropping by burning. As is the case with nitrogen. While much of the K found in peat soils is readily available. insufficient drainage affects . once it is used up. particularly the oligotrophic types.30+ 40+ - - Blueberry Alfalfa Cabbage Broccoli Buckwheat Asparagus Carrot Cauliflower Clover Barley Cucumber Celery Grass Bean Endive Onion Oat Corn Lettuce Tomato Rye Mint Parsnip Soya bean Pea Potato Pasture Radish Pumpkin Sudan grass Spinach Turnip Sugar beet Wheat Table beet 11 Extracted with 0.6.6 Potassium requirements Most peat soils. using one part air dried soil (by weight) with 10 parts of extracting solution 1 8. K deficiency becomes severe. are deficient in potassium (K).018-N-acetic acid.

potassium will be strongly leached. with high rainfall. K fixation. Peat soils. heavy rainfall or flood conditions. is absent. since potassium mobility appears to be much greater when high rates of K are applied to soils that test high in potassium. Table 29 POTASSIUM FERTILIZER RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A RANGE OF CROPS BASED ON AVAILABLE SOIL POTASSIUM (source Lucas 1968) ppm of available soil potassium 1 Potassium recommended (kg/ha) 80 560 200 448 80 320 359 80 160 440 269 80 200 300 580 179 50 200 300 410 690 112 150 285 390 490 780 67 . Experience in temperate climates with most crops grown on peat soils indicates that potassium is the most important nutrient for crop production. iii. and responses to K fertilizer are good. There are a number of important properties of potassium in relation to organic soils: i. In tropical peats. which is noticeable in many mineral soils. A large proportion of the total available K is always present in the soil solution and is therefore strongly mobile and prone to leaching. do not readily adsorb exchangeable K. ii.potassium uptake. although having a high cation exchange capacity. Shallow drainage aggravates the deficiency. Some recommendations for vegetables on USA peat soils are given in Table 29. can be substantial particularly under waterlogged conditions. It appears unwise to try to build up the K content of a soil by saturating the exchange complex as is often practised in mineral soils. Losses therefore. Fertilizer recommendations based upon soil tests must be modified to correct leaching. Tests for potassium requirement are therefore difficult.

if possible. and frequently in excess of nitrogen requirements. This is also the case in tropical crops. of which. it is good practice to return these materials to the land as a source of potassium fertilizer.6. Because of the high potassium content in both the ash from fruit bunches of oil palm and from plant debris of crops such as sugar cane. be used for liming. Such materials also raise the pH. pineapple and legumes are highly demanding.7 Calcium and magnesium requirements . particularly.250 345 450 550 840 34 300 400 500 600 900 0 Barley Bean Alfalfa Broccoli Blueberry Clover Asparagus Cauliflower Grass Corn Cabbage Onion Oat Mint Carrot Potato Rye Pea Cucumber Sugar beet Pasture Soya bean Lettuce Table beet Wheat Sudan grass Parsnip Tomato Sweet corn Radish Turnip Spinach 1 Celery Extracted with 1-N-neutral ammonium acetate (1 part soil to 20 parts extract) It should be noted that potassium requirements in temperate regions vary considerably with the crop. 8. The liberal use of dolomitic limestone for correcting acidity increases the need for potassium to counteract the effect of high levels of magnesium. tobacco. In such cases purer forms of limestone should.

other crops as well as cereals. whereas in forage crops the relationship between Cu and molybdenum content is important for livestock feeding.5 percent is surpassed. Driessen and Sudewo (1977) tentatively attribute it to the presence of certain organic compounds. although it is often used as such for mineral soils. has been reported to occur on peat soils throughout the world and tropical peats are no exception. Under deficient conditions the content of the plant is usually less than 6 ppm (Lucas 1982). calcium and magnesium are not deficient in tropical peats. The relative growth of maize is therefore not a good indicator of the nutrient status of organic soils. may indicate that wet conditions somehow appear to be related to the release of such toxic organic compounds. are prone to copper deficiencies. only wet rice appeared to be affected and not dry rice. coupled with findings from Japan where drainage tends to cure the sterility (Miyake 1982). to an extent. manganese. boron. (1973) advocate the use of grasses as indicators of nutrient status in organic soils though grasses can be insensitive to deficiencies in micro-nutrients. iron. Cereals respond to Cu because of the ascorbic acid oxydase which requires Cu in order to function in photosynthesis. where the magnesium contents are relatively high. Molybdenum is taken up in toxic amounts when the Cu content is low and the molybdenum is higher than 3. which hinder directly or indirectly (through copper fixation) one or more essential enzyme-catalyzed carbohydrate transformations. The need for copper can be predicted. Remarkably. Na and/or NH4 can induce Ca and Mg deficiencies.5 found in tropical oligotrophic peats. Ennis and Brogan (1968). molybdenum and zinc have been shown to be deficient in organic soils for many crops. sugar cane. have shown that humic acids are likely toxic compounds. A similar failure to produce grains was found to occur in Indonesia and Malaysia (Polak 1941.0 ppm. The Ca/Mg ratio can also influence deficiency. The different response of plants to Cu is associated with the type of enzyme in the plant. 8. notably polyphenolic lignin degradation products. especially in cereals. and even when the lower threshold value of 0. The cause of sterility is still not fully understood. This is certainly the case with maize which requires a much higher pH than the usual value of 3. Coulter 1957. The fact that dry rice seems to be unaffected even when growing on the same peat on which wet rice shows severe deficiency. calcium deficiency can still develop. It is difficult to assess the need for copper by soil analysis. by the Cu content of the foliage. tapioca and coconut (Kanapathy and Keat 1970). Driessen and Sudewo 1977). high levels of K. Lim et al. In coastal peats of South East Asia.5 percent. Experimental evidence indicates that the benefits from liming are more a result of the increase in pH and the de-acidifying effects of this than to rectification of any calcium or magnesium deficiencies. However. Copper Copper (Cu) deficiency.Usually. this aspect is particularly important. The reclamation disease found in oats and rye grown on freshly reclaimed peat soils in Germany and the Netherlands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is well known.6.8 Micro-nutrients or trace element requirements Copper. Much depends on the method of extraction and total copper values are poor indicators. . notably oil palm. “Green die-back” commonly encountered in pineapple appears to be caused by Cu deficiency. Calcium deficiency is unlikely wherever the total Ca exceeds 0. In Malaysia.

If this happens. coffee. but in the tropics boron deficiency is not so common. particularly the centres of the peat domes. Another option is to acidify the soil with a sulphur compound. Iron Iron (Fe) deficiencies arise in peats with a notably low Fe content. Manganese Manganese (Mn) deficiency in tropical peats is rare. Spraying of Bordeaux mixture (CuSO4-solution) in the generative phase of the wet rice is however promising. that iron deficiency is common in a range of crops including pepper. Drilled iron sulphate at the rate of 50-100 kg/ha prevents chlorosis in cereal crops (Lucas 1982). This may reflect the facts that tropical peats are commonly low in Fe and crops usually grown on peat soils are not Molybdenum-sensitive. It is usually found only in eutrophic peats with a pH of over 5. Its occurrence appears to depend partly on the crop.5 or on peat soils which have been heavily limed.4 kg/ha of boron.5. Generally. tapioca. manganese deficiency will therefore only occur after heavy liming. because it very much depends on soil reaction. Severe chlorosis is the common symptom.5. It is commonly found in highly sensitive temperate vegetables such as cauliflower. Soil application of tetraborate effectively controls boron deficiency in oil palm. The best method of application for wet rice is uncertain. Iron deficiency can be overcome easily by foliar sprays of ferrous sulphate solution (0. Deficiencies can easily be corrected by foliar sprays (sodium borate) of not more than 0. Molybdenum Molybdenum (Mo) deficiency is associated with soils of low pH (less than 5. Oligotrophic peats in the tropics require larger quantities up to 35 kg/ha but this dosage will last for at least 5 years as the residual effect is good. with a pH of less than 4. grasses and legumes. Zinc Zinc deficiency is normally only apparent in soils with a pH greater than 6. Soils rich in free oxides are often deficient in available molybdenum. it is easily corrected by applying manganese bearing materials as a foliar spray or mixed with other nutrients and broadcast at rates not exceeding 5 kg/ha of manganese. .5). Most tropical peats are oligotrophic. beet and celery. Boron Boron (B) deficiency occurs in both alkaline and acid peats. Lucas (1982) recommends the use of about 10 kg/ha for low.Copper deficiency can be corrected by several copper compounds but copper oxide and copper sulphate are mainly used in agriculture. In many wet mineral soils Fe-content can become excessive due to reducing conditions but generally the oligotrophic peats in the tropics are so low in iron.5 percent w/w).5-1.and medium-response crops and 20 kg/ha for highly responsive crops.1-0. Large applications of phosphorus fertilizer and poor drainage can also induce zinc deficiency.5. and frequently 3. As is the case with molybdenum there is no evidence that zinc deficiency is a problem in tropical peats. There are no reports on molybdenum deficiency on tropical peats in the literature studied. Alfalfa appears to be affected as also does oil palm and boron deficiency has been noticed in coffee (Tie and Kueh 1979).

8. Some of the most effective weedkillers are highly toxic which influences not only the crops grown but also the broader environment. The choice of the herbicide is important because many are short-lived. a pH of 4. Weed control therefore needs attention. when more tropical peat is brought under cultivation and the crop range is extended. 8. Weeds compete for space. In temperate regions weeds are removed either mechanically or by herbicides. 8.5-5. In most tropical countries. Peat absorbs chemicals readily and undesirable toxicity can accumulate. insects and nematodes. Over-liming should be avoided. even in Malaysia where labour costs are relatively high. particularly in freshly reclaimed peats.9 Conclusions Trace element requirements are most pronounced for copper (nearly always) and iron (frequently). For non-vegetable crops many weedkillers are effective but their use is often limited by economics.2 Pest and disease control The control of soil-borne pests and diseases is particularly desirable on peat soils.1 Weed control 8. Wee. Although levels of other trace elements present few problems there is little detailed information and it is possible that. They reduce the quality and yield of crops and interfere with harvesting. because the economics of each particular technique depends on local conditions and crop.7. Nitrogen and phosphorus applications should not be excessive. light. This is particularly the case with vegetable growing where yields of leafy vegetables may be affected by broadleaf weedkillers.7.0 is adequate for most crops. limed and fertilized an excellent medium is created for the rapid spread of new soil fauna and flora. In the tropics heavy weed infestation is also common. it is still cheaper to carry out weed control by hand than by other means. Once the soils are drained. quoted by Tie and Kueh (1979).6. Pre-emergence types are more effective than incorporative ones. Tie and Kueh .7.1 Weed control Weeds enjoy the excellent growing conditions in peat soils and their abundance is a nuisance. moisture and nutrients and also act as hosts for pathogens. Crops on organic soils require larger applications of chemicals than those on mineral soils (2 to 3 times the amount given on mineral soils is not uncommon). reports that weed infestation of pineapples on peat soils in Malaya decrease yields by 20-40 percent.7 Crop Protection 8. Manual removal is costly. The choice of effective weed controls is thus very much for the individual farm manger to decide.7.2 Pest and disease control 8. deficiencies not observed at present may develop. but in some cases it is necessary because either the crop is too dense to allow machinery or herbicides affect the quality of the crop. In their natural state organic soils usually have low populations of anaerobic micro-organisms tolerant of the inherent acid conditions. The likelihood of such development will depend largely on liming practices and fertilizer use.

Gbs. tomato and ginger. Formicidae and Chilopoda. = Dermaptera Pred. 24 hrs flooded 7. also eradicates some weeds. methyl isothiocyanate and chloropicrin destroy a large proportion of the soil micro-organisms responsible for supplying available nitrogen to the plant. can be effectively used against soil-borne pests such as nematodes.5%. Both prolonged clean fallow and flooding caused evident reductions of populations of all the organisms including such predatory forms as Carabidae. = Tenebrionidae Cent. 96 hrs flooded 95% 1 . It is relatively cheap. Crop rotation. which retards some crops. white root and serious nematode attack. and unlike fallow systems no land has to be taken out of production. There are several methods of controlling soil-borne diseases and pests. 48 hrs flooded 25%. High costs are a disadvantage and steaming and some fumigants such as dichloropropene. highly effective. Fumigation and sterilization by gasses or steaming are used in the Netherlands in intensive systems of horticultural cropping (vegetables. = Cydniade Dmpa. = Centipedes Olig. methyl bromide. Dermaptera. The use of flooding to combat soil pests was studied in Florida (Genung 1976) with remarkably good results. Table 30 INFLUENCE OF FLOODING AND CLEAN FALLOW ON ERADICATION OF MAJOR SOIL-BORNE PESTS (source Genung 1976) CWW = Corn wireworm CW = Cutworms Cbd. = Carabidae Swbg.(1979) indicate that many crops in the South East Asian peats are affected by fungal collar rot. The key factor in controlling pests by flooding appears to be the length of inundation. = White grubs Ten. Soilborne pests and diseases in tropical peats can probably be effectively controlled by flooding. Bacterial wilt is common in crops such as chilli. Dip. = Oligochaetes White grub (Bothynus subtropicus Blatchley) mortality percentages under simulated flooding in a replicated and randomized laboratory trial was as follows: 0 hrs flooded (check) 5%. Flooding under the 4-2-4 weeks alternation shows a much larger reduction of both soil pests and predators as well as oligochaetes than did either of two clean fallow treatments. potplants and flowers). = Sowbugs SPWW = Sou. potato wireworm Cyd. particularly vegetables. More nitrifying bacteria are killed than the ammonifiers and therefore a build up of ammonia can occur after fumigation. 72 hrs flooded 65%. including a clean fallow. Water control is one of the most important aspects of the agricultural management of peat soils and it is therefore often possible to artificially create floods to control pests. root rot. Table 30 illustrates the effect flooding had on important arthropods and oligochaetes. = Predatory Diptera W.