Peat lands cannot be generalized into just one category as they have their own uniqueness and details, which can be sustainably harnessed to cultivate oil palm plantations by complying with all best practices, a webinar on peat lands concluded.

“Many international NGOs just generalize about the peat lands. But in fact, the peat lands have many sides with own details and uniqueness that should be looked deeper to find out their true nature in their respective environmental conditions,” the Sarawak Tropical Peat Research Institute Director Lulie Melling told the participants of the webinar, which was organized by the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) and moderated by Mukti Sardjono, the executive director of Gapki, on Tuesday.

She said that when it comes to the tropical peat land, it has become like the story of a big elephant and the six blind men. Each of them sees the elephant from different sides. The blind man on its tail says that it is a rope. The man on the tusks said that it is a spear. And the one on the stomach, it is a wall.

“The understanding requirement of  tropical peat land is as big as an elephant, as compared to temperate peat land, which is just the size of a chicken,” she said during the webinar, which was officially opened by Gapki Chairman Joko Supriyono and closed by Gapki Deputy Chairman Togar Sitanggang.

She said that it is because of the good understanding of the peat lands, oil palm planters in Sarawak can successfully use the peat lands for growing oil palm plantations by implementing appropriately the sustainability principles.

Supiandi Sabiham, the other speaker who is an expert on peat land from Bogor University of Agriculture (IPB), said that there have been many researches about peat lands by foreign and Indonesian scientists. “But apparently, due to less publication, they are less known internationally,” he said, adding that Indonesian scientists should do more researches about the peat lands and publicized them globally to help the international society to truly understand the tropical peat lands.

Lulie said that peat lands in Europe have been used during the last 200 – 300 years for agricultural activities. But in Indonesia and Malaysia, it has been only used for the last 20 years, during which many people have just seen it partially and negatively on only certain sides.

According to Supandi, the peat lands can be actually used to grow oil palm trees with the maximum productivity by implementing the best practices of cultivation in the peat lands. The best practices include good water management and the use of the right technology to support the principles of sustainability.

“Scientifically speaking, the peat lands are categorized as degraded at medium level. But with the right technology, they can be used for agriculture, especially the oil palm plantations. The key factors here are best management, discipline and compliance with sustainability principles,” he told the webinar on how to increase oil palm productivity in the peat lands.

PT Abdi Budi Mulia has proven that peat lands can be used for developing sustainable oil palm plantations. The company has managed to develop 80 percent of its total 12,500 hectares oil palm plantations on peat lands and the other 20 percent on mineral lands.

The company’s Head of Agronomy Syahril Pane, who is one of the three speakers in the webinar, said that their productivity in the peat lands reached around 23 – 26 tons of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) per hectare per year.

“The important things in using the peat lands are that we should comply with the prevailing government regulations, especially regarding the peat lands, care with the oil palm trees and apply the sustainability principles,” he said. (*)