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Salinity in Agriculture

Salinity problems reduce productivity on both irrigated and non-irrigated agricultural lands in the United States and throughout the world.

Photograph. As the water evaporates, salts dissolved from the soil deposit and accumulate at the soil surface. Notice the crust of salt deposited on the ground and on the base of the fence post.

 

Photograph. Lettuce in the foreground is sprinkler irrigated. Bare patches in the field in the background show localized effects of salinity.
Salt-affected soils on Colorado range land. High annual evaporation (and/or transpiration), low annual precipitation and restricted soil drainage, combine to create salt affected soils in depressions or lowlands. As the water evaporates, salts dissolved from the soil deposit and accumulate at the soil surface. Notice the crust of salt deposited on the ground and on the base of the fence post.

 

In California's Coachella Valley, irrigation applications and sub-surface drain lines are managed to reduce the effects of soil salinity on crop land.  Lettuce in the foreground is sprinkler irrigated. Bare patches in the field in the background show localized effects of salinity.

Links to Salinity web sites

USDA-NRCS Water Quality & Quantity Team 

Management of Saline/Sodic Soils: Course material from the USDA- NRCS training course, Management of Saline and Sodic Soils (1991), a series of five Training Notes by Dr. James D. Rhoades, USDA-ARS Salinity Laboratory, Riverside, California.
Training Note 1: Determining Soil Salinity in the Field From Measurements of Electrical Conductivity
Training Note 2: Effects of Salts on Soils and Plants
Training Note 3: Assessing the suitability of Saline Water for Irrigation
Training Note 4: Practices to Control Salinity in Irrigated Soils
Training Note 5: Strategies to Facilitate the Use of Saline Waters and to Maximize the Beneficial Use of Multiple Water Supplies for Irrigation

Saline-Seep Diagnosis, Control, and Reclamation: USDA-ARS Conservation Research Report No. 30, Issued May 1983.


USDA-NRCS Soil Quality Institute


Soil Quality Test Kit Guide      (click here for Spanish version)     

Soil Quality Test Kit Factsheet

Soil Quality Test Kit Excel spreadsheet

The Soil Quality Test Kit Guide (prepared by NRCS and ARS) is an 82-page booklet containing procedures for 12 on-farm tests, an interpretive section for each test, data recording sheets, and a section on how to build the kit. Chapter 5 includes an electrical conductivity test for salinity. See Section II for salt tolerance of selected crops.

USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program

HortNote No. 5, SALT-AFFECTED SOILS: THEIR CAUSES, MEASURE, AND CLASSIFICATION Before installing salt-tolerant plants or reclaiming a salt-affected site, landowners and managers need good analytical information to create a strong conservation plan. The latest HortNote issue, Number 5, from the Plant Materials Center at Bridger, Montana, examines causes of salt-affected soils, several tests used to measure saltiness, and various classifications of salt-affected soils. Soil salt levels can greatly influence plant survival and growth. The effect of high-salt soils in the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains, for example, is dramatic. It is estimated that 300,000 acres in Montana alone have been removed from production because of increased salinity. Even soils classified as "slightly saline" are marginally acceptable for many crops. The next issue of HortNote will continue this theme, addressing plant tolerance to salt accumulation.

The HortNote electronic newsletter provides timely information on a variety of plant and conservation horticulture topics, such as windbreak design, installation, protection, and maintenance; species selection; greenhouse operations; plant propagation and production; and native, low maintenance, and xeriscape landscaping. Past issues are available on the Plant Materials Program Web site - select Publications, select Bridger, MT, select Newsletters.

American Society of Civil Engineers

Agricultural Salinity Assessment and Management
(ASCE Manuals and Reports on Engineering Practice No. 71).

Subjects include effects of salts on soil and plants; methods of sampling, monitoring, and measuring salinity; use of saline drainage water in irrigation; methods of managing salinity;

USDA-ARS George E. Brown Salinity Laboratory

Handbook No. 60 Saline and Alkali Soils, Diagnosis and Improvement, 1954
Salinity Assessment Resources

Salt, Chloride and Boron Tolerance of Plants

Assessment of Salinity and Irrigation/Drainage Practices

Salt Tolerance Databases

Lower Colorado Region Salinity Assessment Network

other ARS Salinity Models

click here for descriptions and links to ARS salinity computer models

Colorado River Board of California

Colorado River Board of California
2002 Review of Water Quality Standards for Salinity - Colorado River System

Utah State University

Salinity and Plant Tolerance
Water Salinity and Crop Yield

New Mexico State University

Soil Test Interpretations

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service:

Salt-Affected Soils
Crop Tolerance to Soil Salinity

North Dakota State University Extension Service:

Salinity and Sodicity in North Dakota

University of California, Davis

Agricultural Salinity and Drainage, Publication #93-01
Irrigation Water Salinity and Crop Production

Water and Soil Salinity Studies on California Rice

Managing Saline, Sodic or Saline-Sodic Soils for Turfgrasses

Estimating Leaching Fraction Requirements

Australian Academy of Science

Monitoring the white death -- soil salinity