Dealing with Salty, Hard-Pan Soils
In both images above, the soil sample on the right shows improved soil structure following applications of Liquid Chisel.
In many places around the western United States, salt levels in agricultural soils are too high for optimal growing conditions. This leads to hard-pan areas, reduced germination and growth, and generally poor soil conditions. In soils that are tilled, excess salt can partially be flushed out through the tiles using heavy irrigation. In other areas, there are not many options to remove salt. Even in in areas where tiles
exist, the cost of water can make this positively expensive.
Helena’s new product, Liquid Chisel, can be a significant help in moving salt though the soil profile. In doing so, it dramatically improves soil tilth and drainage, allowing hard-pan soils to become more productive. The above photos of identical amounts of soil demonstrate the increase in soil volume from a rock-hard field after equal volumes of water and water with a small amount of Liquid Chisel are added. When dried, these soils show very different friability. Where Liquid Chisel was applied, sensitive seedlings can push through more easily after germination. Upon drying, the treated soil breaks much more easily as can be seen in the photos.
The soil conditioning agents in Liquid Chisel help move the salts downward through the soil profile by changing calcium and magnesium salts into their ionic forms--Mg++ & Ca++. They displace the Na+ from clay particles and allow it to be flushed away from the root zone. In tiled fields, this salt would be carried away in the drainage ditch water. In non-tiled fields, it can be pushed deeper and out of harm’s way. In many cases, long defunct tile lines have started to run for the first time in years after Liquid Chisel treatment.
The change in soil structure not only improves seed germination, particularly with tiny seeds, but it significantly improves harvest of root vegetables or crops where soil adherence can be a problem. That
would include potatoes, sugar beets, carrots, garlic, etc. Liquid Chisel is labeled for use at 1-4 qt/A,
with a typical rate of 2-3 quarts in most soils.
- Ian Watkinson, Desert Product Manager