Sustainable Oil Palm is able to Preserve Peatlands
In the last decade, anti-palm oil NGOs at national and international levels have used environmental topic in various black campaigns to banish palm oil in global trade. One black campaign that seized the attention of the global community is the cultivation of oil palm on peatlands that are considered damaging to the environment.
Oil palm cultivation on peatlands is considered to be the cause of the increase in carbon emissions as the main emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. Head of the Greenpeace Indonesia for Forest Campaign Team also mentioned that the forest fires that occurred were caused by oil palm plantations due to drained peatlands. The NGO also illustrates that the oil and pulp sector as a cause of forest and land fires produces carbon emissions equivalent to emission from 110 coal-fired power plants or from 91 million cars.
The RSPO (Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil) as a global organization of certification for palm oil sustainability has also begun to banned the use of peatlands for oil palm cultivation since November 2018. With the approval of the new RSPO standard, it is as if the RSPO considers that the use of peatlands for oil palm cultivation is a mistake.
The massive accusations spread in various media by anti-palm oil parties are also feared to further damage the image of palm oil in the eyes of consumers. However, the fact is that the use of peatlands in Indonesia with its oil palm plantations is more sustainable compared to Europe which actually burns peatlands for energy or exploitation peatlands as a raw materials for industrial products. But always, Indonesia and oil palm plantations are considered sinners, who must be responsible for global environmental damage.
The development of oil palm plantations on peatlands in Indonesia is also not necessarily allowed to be illegal or out of control which has the potential to damage the environment. The Government of Indonesia issued regulations related to peatland ecosystem management in PP No. 57 of 2016 concerning Protection and Management of Peat Ecosystems. In the regulation, the management of peat ecosystem is divided into two functions, namely the protection function and the cultivation function.
One of the cultivation that carried out on peatland is the development of oil palm plantations. Policies and guidelines for the management of sustainable oil palm plantations on peatland have also been owned by Indonesia through Permentan No. 14/2009 concerning Guidelines for the Utilization of Peatland for Coconut Cultivation.
The Indonesian Oil Palm Research Institute (IOPRI) also has standard of techniques for cultivating oil palm on peatland in the form of processing peatland to the amount and type of fertilizer that needed by oil palm plantations in peatland. Recently, IOPRI also held a Expert Talk Webinar that discussed the cultivation of oil palm on peatlands.
Dr. Winarna, one of the researchers at the PPKS, Department of Soil Science and Agronomy, explained that not all types of peatlands are suitable for oil palm cultivation and it is recommended to utilize peatlands with maturity groups between sapric to hemic. In addition, before utilizing peatlands for oil palm cultivation, it is important to pay attention to the identification factors and characteristics of the peatlands so that oil palm cultivation can be adapted to the characteristics of the peatlands.
Dr. Edwin Syahputra Lubis as the director of PPKS who is also a researcher in soil fertility and soil biology also revealed that proper management of peat in supporting efforts to utilize peatlands for sustainable palm oil is by carefulness and accuracy in planning and using appropriate management technology, managing management of peat, and research and economic balance of the community in the environment around peatlands.
Basically, the principle of peatlands management for oil palm cultivation is to achieve optimum productivity and at the same time to preserve or protect the peatlands themselves. In this case there are several important factors that must be considered in peat management so that the sustainability of peatlands is maintained, one of which is the management factor of water management.
Water management system is important to consider in its management. If the management is poor, it will have a significant effect on reducing palm oil production and if the water level is too low it will increase the rate of subsidence and the risk of peatland fires. Water management is an important factor because it aims to drain excess water, maintain effective water depth (40-60 cm plezometer), increase oil palm growth and production, minimize subsidence and carbon emissions, prevent peat drought, and prevent the risk of peat fires so that besides oil palm production will increase, on the other hand peat will also be maintained.
Peatland fires that have been an issue to drive the palm oil industry can now be prevented by early detection with the application of an automatic water level detection tool developed by the PPKS research team, EDS-Peat.
Beside water management, fertilizing (macro and micro) is also really needed as peatland are poor in nutrient. The composition of the fertilizer will depend on the age of the crop. For crops that are not yet producing fruits, nitrogen fertilizer needs to be given in a higher dose. Micro fertilizers such as boron also need to be given considering that peat soil are especially poor in micro nutrient. During the seedling period and when the plant is still very young, the addition of humid materials that is sprayed on the ground around the plant becomes important to accelerate growth.
The technique of choosing the right variety of crop, with a shorter trunk to enable the peat soil to support the tree and not result in a stanting growth. At present, many nursery companies are offering new variety of oil palm seedlings. High productivity and short trunk are criteria that are important in determining the choice of the variety. Remember that a short trunk will reduce the possibility of a slanting growth.
Thus it can be concluded that with proper and good management is able to make peatlands can be utilized for sustainable oil palm cultivation. Good governance and management accompanied by responsibilities of oil palm planters on peatlands, both companies and farmers, can actually help prevent peatlands from burning. Once again proven, that the utilizing peatlands in Indonesia for oil palm cultivation with sustainable management, able to contributes the sustainability of the peatlands themselves.
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