Saline and Sodic Soil Management
A college professor once told me, “wars in the future would not be fought over oil; rather, they would be fought over water.” At the time, I disregarded this as drama to entice attention to the already dry subject of soil physics. Recently, I’m beginning to wonder if there might have been a small amount of truth in there.
In the most desperate situations last summer, water came close to $1000/AF to keep permanent crops alive. It is more important than ever to stretch your water as far as possible. However, with the limitations on water quantity are coming limitations on water quality. Since surface water is scarce, growers are looking for other options and the trend has been to drill more and deeper. Typically, when you reach deeper aquifers water quality diminishes quickly. For example, I came across a new well water sample from a depth of over 2000 ft that had a pH of 9, 300ppm Sodium and around 250ppm Chloride. What happens when you irrigate with this water for one season? With three acre feet of this water you’re applying about 1 ton of table salt. If left untreated your crop health and soil fertility will quickly take on the characteristics of your water. Above is a quick reference guide on typical soil conditions derived from poor water quality and the best treatments.
- Chad Lessard, Agronomist