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Land Fertility

The challenge in many areas of Thailand is to turn land whose soil conditions render it unproductive into fertile land. A stellar example of Royal problem-solving was undertaken in Narathiwat Province in southern Thailand. There, 41,897 hectares of water-sodden peat soil lay atop a pyrite-laden marine clay which became very acidic when exposed to the air, rendering cultivation impossible. Research undertaken by the Phikun Thong Royal Development Study Centre revealed that mixing limestone dust into the soil would counter the acidity. However, it required applying prohibitively large amounts and at an expense far beyond farmers's budgets. More tenable was to excavate canals to channel fresh water into the soil which would flush out most of the acidity. Then, new crops that could tolerate the more acid soil had to be found. Experiments revealed that para rubber, intercropped with sweet zalacca ("salak" or "snake palm") that produces large, lychee-like fruits, would thrive in these conditions. Thus, the limestone dust was reserved to render fish ponds habitable for fish without affecting their flavour. In addition, a portion of the land was devoted to animal husbandry, introducing hardy species like poultry, goats, sheep, and cattle, that could make optimum use of its conditions.

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