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Can highly saline irrigation water improve sodicity and alkalinity in sodic clayey subsoils?


Panta, S and Doyle, RB and Hardie, M and Lane, P and Flowers, T and Haros, G and Shabala, SN, Can highly saline irrigation water improve sodicity and alkalinity in sodic clayey subsoils?, Journal of Soils and Sediments, 18, (11) pp. 3290-3302. ISSN 1439-0108 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2018 Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature

DOI: doi:10.1007/s11368-018-1986-3


Purpose: The concept of irrigating crops with saline irrigation water is not new, but impacts of this practice on soil properties remain debatable, particularly the use of highly saline water. In this work, key soil chemical properties were assessed to a depth of 300 cm following 2.5 years of application of highly saline irrigation to a sodic texture-contrast soil (Brown Sodosol) in south-eastern Tasmania, Australia.

Materials and methods: Control plots (rainfall only) were compared to irrigation treatments of low (0.8 dS/m) and high salinity (16 dS/m) waters at application rates of both 200 and 800 mm/year.

Results and discussion: Whilst significant increases in both electrical conductivity and chloride concentration occurred throughout the soil profile in the high salinity treatment, these values were well below those of the irrigation water, indicating effective deep leaching. In the upper soil profile, 0–50 cm, of the high salinity treatments both the exchangeable Na+ and its ratio to total base cations (ESP) were significantly increased whilst the lower soil profile between 50 and 200 cm, was improved via both reduced alkalinity and sodicity. Leaching of the exchangeable base cations Ca2+, Mg2+ and K+ was significant in the upper soil profile (0–50 cm). As expected, the low salinity treatment (0.8 dS/m) had minimal impacts on soil chemical properties. The upper topsoil (0–10 cm) total organic carbon was significantly reduced in the high salinity plots and was negatively correlated with Cl- concentration.

Conclusions: The data confirms the general concerns about application of saline irrigation, namely increased whole profile salinisation and upper soil profile (0–50 cm) sodicity, but they also show unexpected and desirable reductions in the lower soil profile (> 50 cm) alkalinity and sodicity. It appears the Na+ ions present in the saline waters led to differential leaching of base cations from the rooting zone, especially Ca2+ which then ameliorate the alkalinity and sodicity deeper in the soil profile (> 50 cm). Thus, surface application of gypsum may help sustain the application of highly saline waters; alternatively, subsurface irrigation above the sodic clayey subsoils could be trailed.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:saline water irrigation, exchangeable cations, soil chemical properties, soil salinity, soil sodicity
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Agriculture, land and farm management
Research Field:Agricultural land management
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Evaluation, allocation, and impacts of land use
UTAS Author:Panta, S (Dr Suresh Panta)
UTAS Author:Doyle, RB (Associate Professor Richard Doyle)
UTAS Author:Hardie, M (Mr Marcus Hardie)
UTAS Author:Lane, P (Associate Professor Peter Lane)
UTAS Author:Shabala, SN (Professor Sergey Shabala)
ID Code:125684
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:14
Deposited By:TIA - Research Institute
Deposited On:2018-04-30
Last Modified:2019-04-10

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