Bintulu hosts international conference on soil sustainability


Husaini performs the gimmick to mark the opening ceremony of SOILS 2017.

BINTULU: A total of 168 delegates representing various local and international agencies and institutions of higher learning from 14 countries are converging on Parkcity Everly Hotel here for the ‘International Conference on Sustainable Soil Management – Quality Soil Drive Productivity’ (SOILS 2017), which runs till this Friday.

The participating nations comprise Malaysia, Turkey, South Korea, South Africa, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Nigeria, the Philippines, Iran, China and Brunei.

The four-day conference is jointly hosted by Malaysian Society of Soil Science (MSSS) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Bintulu Campus.

In his opening remarks, UPM deputy vice-chancellor (research and innovation) Prof Datuk Dr Husaini Omar welcomed all delegates to the conference, which opened its participation to international delegates for the first time.

“Soil is a vital part of the natural environment. It influences the distribution of plant species and provides habitat for various organisms, flora and fauna, as well as supports the growth of agricultural crops.

“Soil is the medium for feeding the world’s population, but undoubtedly at the expense of its quality.

“Therefore we need to maintain healthy soil, which demands care and efforts to ensure its fertility and productivity,” he said.

Husaini stressed that soil-related tragedies had repeatedly reminded the people that without sustainable soil usage and practices, devastating impacts would not only implicate them now but also the generations to come.

“Hence, the present theme ‘Soil Quality Drives Productivity’ reflects this current and crucial need.”

Husaini also hoped through this event, it could encourage meaningful knowledge-transfer via scientific conversations, which would address soil issues and problems nationally and internationally.

“I’ve also been told that apart from the scientific meetings as well as the oral and poster presentations, participations are also invited to join the post-conference tour, which will involve hands-on experience on soil sampling and analysis, particularly of Borneo soil that should be unique and interesting.”

Husaini also acknowledged the generous support from the state government, through its agencies and statutory bodies particularly the Agriculture Department and Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), in making this conference a success.

The main topics to be covered during the conference will include soil genesis and classification, soil physics and conservation, soil fertility and nutrient management, soil health and microorganisms, management of plantation soils, management of peat and other wetland soils, as well as biofertiliser and biochar utilisation for land improvement.

The objective of the conference is to share knowledge on responsible soil usage for sustainable crop production without degrading the quality of the environment. The speakers will share recent information on soils and appropriate technologies in relation to sustainable crop production.

Another objective is to provide future direction for organised activities on soils, in addition to promote inter-organisation networking or collaboration towards achieving sustainable soils management and crop production.

The speakers for the conference are Prof Dr Ahmet Mermut of Harran University, Turkey; Dr Joung Du Shin,  principle scientist at the National Academy of Agriculture Science, Rural Development of South Korea; Associate Prof Dr Siva Kumar Balasundram of UPM’s Faculty of Agriculture, and Associate Prof Dr Imran Haider Shamsi of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou in China.

At the opening ceremony of the conference yesterday, four outstanding school students were awarded with bursaries from the MSSS. They are Riena Anleylia Andrew from SK Kidurong, Vanessa Agahta Daud from SK St Anthony, Chrysa Senia Bungan from SMK Kidurong, and Siti Aisah Ambok Sulong from SMK Bintulu.

MSSS president Dr Wan Rasidah Abdul Kadir, UPM Bintulu’s Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences dean Dr Zamri Rosli, SOILS 2017 chairperson Dr Wan Asrina Wan Yahaya, Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture and Rural Economy representative Wan Bujang Wan Lela, state Agriculture Department representative Ngab Dollah and SCB representative Crystal Phang Su Ling were also present.