Various activities
            Papua NG
     Root crops
     Soil fertility 

On-plantation research Papua New Guinea (1995-1998)



Sugar cane cultivation on a commercial plantation in PNG started in the late 1970s. In 1995, I was asked by the plantation management to evaluate the effects of the continuous sugar cane cultivation on soil chemical and physical properties. The research involved the extraction of soil and leaf analytical data from old files (legacy data), an analysis of these data and a detailed sampling plan for the collection of additional data. Soil survey information was combined with yield and plant analytical information in addition to existing and newly collected data. 

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The overall analysis was conducted by soil type (Vertisols and Fluvents) and showed significant changes in soil chemical properties and compaction in many soils. The soils had significantly acidified following a change in fertiliser regime. Prior to trash harvesting (see picture above) urea fertiliser was used and the trash was burned. When trash harvesting became common sulphate of ammonia was applied as much of the N in the urea would be lost if it was applied on trash covered fields. The use of sulphate of ammonia resulted in a significant soil acidification.  

The research was conducted in close cooperation with staff and management of the sugar cane plantation and 4 undergraduate and postgraduate students were involved in the research. The results were presented at the plantation, in seminars and in various peer-reviewed journals. Our research resulted in the development of a soil management plan to sustain continuous sugar cane cropping at the plantation and several measures were taken to avoid and decrease the negative effects of continuous sugar cane cultivation.

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Hartemink, A.E. 2001  Sustainable land management at Ramu sugar – Assessment and requirements. In: Food Security in Papua New Guinea. R.M Bourke, M.G. Allen & J.G. Salisbury (Eds). ACIAR Proceedings no. 99, Canberra pp. 344-364

Hartemink, A.E. 1998  Soil chemical and physical properties as indicators of sustainable land management under sugar cane cultivation in Papua New Guinea. Geoderma 85: 283-306

Hartemink, A.E. & A.W. Wood 1998  Sustainable land management in the tropics: the case of sugar cane plantations. Proceedings of the 16thWorld Congress of Soil Science, ISSS, Montpellier (7 pp on CD ROM)

Hartemink, A.E. 1998  Acidification and pH buffering capacity of alluvial soils under sugarcane. Experimental Agriculture 34: 231-243

Hartemink, A.E. 1998  Changes in soil fertility and leaf nutrient concentration at a sugar cane plantation in Papua New Guinea. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 29: 1045-1060

Hartemink, A.E., J. Nero, O. Ngere & L.S. Kuniata 1998  Changes in soil properties at Ramu Sugar Plantation 1979-1996. Papua New Guinea Journal of Agriculture, Forestry & fisheries 41: 65-78

Hartemink, A.E. & L. Kuniata 1996  Some factors influencing yield trends of sugar cane in Papua New Guinea. Outlook on Agriculture 25: 227-234