SUSTAINABILITY OF CURRENT AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES IN THE CAMERON HIGHLANDS, MALAYSIA


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Abstract

Cameron Highlands is a mountainous region with steep slopes. Gradients exceeding 20 are common. The climate is favourable to the cultivation of tea, sub-tropical vegetables and flowers (under rain-shelter). Crop production is sustained by high fertiliser and manure applications. However, agriculture in this environment is characterised by high levels of soil erosion and environmental pollution. A study on the sustainability of these agro-ecosystems was conducted. Results indicated that soil loss was in the range of 24–42 ton/ha/yr under vegetables and 1.3 ton under rain-shelter. Sediment load in the vegetable sub-catchment reached 3.5 g/L, 50 times higher than that associated with flowers under rain-shelter and tea. The sediments contained high nutrient loads of up to 470 kg N/ha/yr. The N, P and K lost in runoff from cabbage farms was 154 kg/season/ha, whereas in chrysanthemum farms it was 5 kg. In cabbage farms, the N, P, and K lost through leaching was 193 kg/season/ha. The NO3–N concentration in the runoff from the cabbage farms reached 25 ppm but less than 10 ppm in runoff from rain-shelters. Inorganic pollution in the rivers was within the acceptable limit of 10 ppm. The sustainability of the agro-ecosystems is in the order of tea > rain–shelter ≫ vegetables.

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