FARMING ON SAND, IS IT POSSIBLE?
September 2, 2015 - Article
Impossible! That may be the first thing we think of when we hear of farming on coastal sand. However, nothing is impossible when there is a strong will and lots of efforts. It happened to Indmira, an agricultural and environmental company, when it started to farming on coastal sand in Pandansimo beach, Bantul, Yogyakarta, in 1999. Indmira was considered insane to farm on sandy soil, an impossible activity at that time. But curiosity, along with perseverance, led Indmira to research the technology and come up with organic products to farm on sand.
Indmira’s beach farming facility is only about 50 meters from the Indian ocean. This 2,8 ha plot has the charateristics of marginal land, ie. low organic content (less than 1%), high salinity, and high porosity. But these challenges only emboldened Indmira. All kinds of efforts were undertaken and resulted in organic fertilizers to improve the ecosystem of the beach area. Improvements on the chemical and physical aspects of the soil can be achieved in two weeks of application of our formulation.
Currently, many kinds of crops have been successfully produced on our sand lot, from horticultures, perennial fruit trees, to plantation crops, and also natural wind barriers. These plants grow well and produce bountiful harvest, just like their counterparts on the traditional farming lands. The horticultural products include rice, corn, wheat, peanut, soy, chili peppers, tomato, melon, shallots, as well as vegetables, like chinese cabbage and long bean. This farm can produce 6-8 tons/ha of Rojolele rice, 46 tons/ha of melons, 2,16 tons/ha of soy, and 10-15 tons/ha of shallots. The perennial fruit trees include longan, sapote, lemon, and orange. Banana grows well here too. The plantation crops consist of teak, oil palm, date, and cashew. We also planted longterm natural wind barriers that include Accacia mangium, Gliricidia sepium, Casuarina equisetifolia, and vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides).
Indmira produces up to 5 tons/ha of peanuts on this land. “This amount is more than the harvest on conventional land, which is about 1,2 ton/ha.” Bintari Rochim, R & D Director proudly claims “Even the peanuts produced on this soil tend to be cleaner because there is not much soil sticking on them. Moreover, because of its nature, the remaining sand is easier to wash off the peanuts.” adds this friendly lady.
Unlike the more common method of adding topsoil containing loam and compost, Indmira uses its own formulation containing organic fertilizers developed by Indmira. Two weeks after application of these fertilizers (F4, SNN, SAN tanaman and Pembenah Tanaman), the plot can be farmed. This technology is one of its kind in the world and uses significantly less material than the common method.
Extreme conditions, such as high temperature, high winds, and high porosity, were initially challenges, but they have become advantageous for plant growth by speeding up the lifecycles, And thus the harvest time on Pandansimo beach is shorter. The high yields indicate that Indmira’s technology works well on this land that was, and in many areas still is, considered marginal.
Because of this success, many government agencies and private companies have started to duplicate and adapt this method in other areas. Pandansimo facility has successfully produced many crops and continues to become a trial field for Indmira’s line of organic fertilizers and environmental restoration products.
Our ability to make a marginal land into a productive one is a breath of fresh air for agriculture in Indonesia. We can now farm on the beach, right next to the salt water, which has a large implication on our country’s food supply.
Indonesia with its many islands has 106.000 km of coastline and over one million hectares of potential areas. This marginal land is widely distributed throughout the country and can be used to produce food for the local populations. Furthermore, the soil type in Pandansimo is similar to that of former mines, and thus this technology can also be used for restoring former mines.
With this technology, food independence is not merely a dream anymore. Are we ready to start?(Le)