Full house at ‘sexy’ Tropical Peatland and Oil Palm 2013 workshop

KUCHING: Though a scientific forum, the one-day Tropical Peatland and Oil Palm 2013 workshop in Sibu will also be celebrating the 56th anniversary of the nation’s independence as well as the 5th anniversary of Tropical Peat Research Laboratory Unit (TPRL).

The workshop today will see more than 500 participants gathering at a hotel in Sibu for the latest scientific updates on how to maximise the wise usage of peat as well as participating in a simple yet meaningful celebration of the National Day.

“The workshop is also held in conjunction with our National Day. The timing is just right because oil palm guarantees a better future for the new generation,” said organising chairperson Dr Lulie Melling. She said despite the international argument, the fact remained that Sarawak people especially the rural community were all for oil palm as it had been the crop that could help change their fate and financial standing.

“A lot of those attending may be working for big players. However, during weekends, these headmen or plantation workers turn into smallholders as they all have their acreage of oil palm back home, whether big or small. It is also a fact that some NCR land owners are now rich oil palm farmers who are able to send their children to cities and towns to receive tertiary education, be it public or private universities.

“Oil palm has over the years proved to be the crop for our rural folks who own land and now as more are reaping profits from oil palm cultivation, even more are taking interest to plant oil palm on their land.

“The needs of our rural people and the oil palm industry players have been the reason for me to keep going in researching on peat soil which though taking up about 13 per cent of the state land area and the last frontier of arable land for large scale oil palm cultivation, is the least researched and understood soil type,” Lulie told The Borneo Post.

Lulie said the big crowd drawn within a short span of two months of organising was a surprise yet not a surprise as she knew that the needs were great from the oil palm sector but did not expect such a good response from the government sector.

“The workshop can only take in 550 participants and until two days ago, we have reached the maximum capacity.

“I am thankful for the support from many government agencies, plantation companies and suppliers. With more government agencies having a better understanding on peatland and oil palm, they will be ready and more efficient in helping our farmers in the state,” said Lulie, who is also the director of TPRL.

Apart from civil servants, there is also participation from various universities in Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan, which will be sending their students in related discipline due to the lack of reference book in the particular area of discussion.

“These university students come for scientific updates and findings which no textbook can offer. The scientific updates and findings are original and first hand. We have collected them from scratch and genuine ground work,” said Lulie.

Apart from local participation, foreign delegates have also registered for this workshop organised by the Malaysia Peat Society in collaboration with Tropical Peat Research Laboratory Unit and Ta Ann Holdings Berhad.

Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister, will open the workshop.

At least six experts from different areas of expertise will be presenting papers at the workshop. Lulie, a soil expert will be speaking on ‘Tropical Peat: What is so sexy about it?’ and ‘Water Management: Why is it Important to keep the Hole Moist’ while plantation advisor Ramesh Veloo will focus on ‘Harvesting Operations and Management: How to Ensure a Good Quickie’.

Chua Kian Hong, an experienced planter, will talk on ‘Land Preparation: How to handle the Big Hole’ while Goh Kah Joo, an experienced agronomist, will expound on ‘Fertiliser Properties and Management: How to Maximise your Investment’.

Wong Choo Kien, an expert plant breeder, will take on the subject of ‘Selection of Planting Material: How to Choose’ and Dr Ho Cheng Tuck, an agriculture consultant, will tackle pests and diseases in his session ‘Integrated Pest and Disease Management: Why is ‘Speedy Gonzales’ Needed’.

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