Saturday, April 30, 2011

Soil pH

Soil pH is the measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of garden soil. The pH in soil is typically measured on a scale of 1-14, with seven (7) considered neutral. Anything below this is considered acidic, or sour, soil while anything above neutral is considered alkaline, or sweet, soil. Soil kits can be used to test pH levels in the soil and are available at most home garden centers. Oftentimes, local district extension agents will also provide pH testing when needed. The soil pH especially on food crop are critical to be determine as basic activity before farmers able to do land preparation or site location selection of new area. This article I will discuss about pH or soil acidity. The Malaysian Soil range from high acidity to alkaline depending on location and farm practices. Most sandy loam soil ranged between pH 5.5 - pH 6.5 for food crops.

On average, plants can only retrieve specific nutrients when the soil pH falls into the neutral range. The acceptable pH level for most plants falls somewhere between 6.2 and 7.0 on the pH scale. However, proper pH levels usually depend on the variety of plant, as preferences vary among plant types. For example, some plants, such as pineapple in Johore and Sarawak actually prefer a more acidic soil. Still others, like lilacs, seem to appreciate a more alkaline soil. The peat soil also became a highly acidic during long drought. During ACDA pineapple project implementation project on peat soil at Kg Bt 14, Air Hitam, Muar last year , I indicate the soil pH about pH4.0-5.0 and liming are the basic practiced to increase soil fertility.

The pH in soil is very important, as soil contains nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, which are required for healthy, vigorous growth. The pH levels in soil determine how much of these nutrients are present and can be readily absorbed by plants. Knowing whether the soil pH is acidic or alkaline can also play a factor when treating common problems in the garden. Many farmers does not follow the advice from extension agent to apply lime as important as the application of fertilizer in their farm. Demonstration Plot organised by Department of Agriculture able to improve the farmers confident.

For instance, the use of chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides) applied to plants and soil can be harmful to the environment. Many of chemical fertilizers apply directly to the soil as common practiced. From my observation at Commercial Vegetable Group Farming Project at Bt 18 Sengkang, Muar , Johor also as the Group Farming National Champion in 2009, the huge amount of chemical fertilizer used annually. This level of harmful effects increases even more based on the pH in soil. As an example, soil that is too acidic will not effectively absorb these products, making them much more likely to become runoff in rainwater. This leads to contamination of water resources

Organic matter, such as compost, can help amend soil. Compost improves the soil’s overall health by encouraging beneficial creatures, such as earthworms, which improves the absorption, drainage, and aeration quality of soil. It also adds vital nutrients, which are needed by plants. Improving the quality of soil can also help neutralize soil pH, which allows plants to easily access these nutrients. Many times, soil pH can be corrected by simply using organic matter to amend the soil.

However, there are other ways to improve the soil pH. For instance, applying lime to the soil is a good way to raise the pH in soil. Lime can be purchased at most home garden centers. Alternatively, soil pH can be raised in the garden by adding wood ashes. In order to lower the pH level of soil, sulfur or aluminum sulfate can be added. Not many farmers in Malaysia has the pH tester due to the lack of knowledge and the service provided by extension agent of Agriculture Department by request free of charge may be. Cost of lime ranged between RM 20.00 - RM 30.00 every bag 20 kg depend on packaging and quality. For paddy farmers the application of lime every season are practices especially those 10 mt /ha producers at Sekinchan, Selangor area.


M Anem


1 comment:

  1. You provide a good overview of soil acidity.
    Acid sulphate soils are a problem that we are seeing a treating more often in Australia now.