Sustainability of Current Agricultural Practices in The Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Cameron Highlands is a mountainous region with steep slopes. Gradients exceeding 20◦ are common. The climate is favourable to the cultivation of tea, sub-tropical vegetables and flowers (under rain-shelter). Crop production is sustained by high fertiliser and manure applications. However, agriculture in this environment is characterised by high levels of soil erosion and environmental pollution.Astudy on the sustainability of these agro-ecosystemswas conducted. Results indicated that soil loss was in the range of 24–42 ton/ha/yr under vegetables and 1.3 ton under rain-shelter. Sediment load in the vegetable sub-catchment reached 3.5 g/L, 50 times higher than that associated with flowers under rain-shelter and tea. The sediments contained high nutrient loads of up to 470 kg N/ha/yr. The N, P and K lost in runoff from cabbage farms was 154 kg/season/ha, whereas in chrysanthemum farms it was 5 kg. In cabbage farms, the N, P, and K lost through leaching was 193 kg/season/ha. The NO3–N concentration in the runoff from the cabbage farms reached 25 ppm but less than 10 ppm in runoff from rain-shelters. Inorganic pollution in the rivers was within the acceptable limit of 10 ppm. The sustainability of the agro-ecosystems is in the order of tea>rain–shelter >> vegetables.

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