Pickleweed tolerates irrigation with seawater and high levels of boron

October 8, 2008

Reuse of agricultural drainage water (DW) for irrigation is one of the few on-farm water management options available to growers on the west side of California's San Joaquin Valley (SJV) for reducing drainage water volumes (San Joaquin Valley Drainage Implementation Program, 2000). Management strategies that reduce drainage volumes are attractive because they would reduce the area required for environmentally sensitive evaporation ponds and lower the costs associated with disposal of the final effluent. Moreover, reductions in drainage volume would reduce the amount of trace elements (Se, B and Mo) and nutrients reaching the San Joaquin River and would help grower's meet newly established targets for total maximum daily loads (TMDLs).

In sequential reuse systems, saline drainage water is sequentially applied on progressively more salt-tolerant crops where application of concentrated effluents to halophytes is the final step in the sequence prior to disposal or treatment. However the effectiveness of halophytes in reducing drainage volume is dependent upon their ability to tolerate extremely high levels of salinity and boron over the long term, maintain high rates of evapotranspiration, and thrive in saline-sodic conditions with poor physical conditions.

Grattan et al. conducted greenhouse experiments with Pickleweed, Salicornia bigelovii Torr., a halophyte native to North American coasts and arguably one of the most salt-tolerant vascular plants. It has also sold in European markets as green tips used in salads and cooking and its seeds produce oil that is high in polyunsaturated fat.

The authors found that S. bigelovii grow very well over a range of salinity treatments (19-52 dS/m) comprised of either seawater or hyper-saline drainage water. Moreover, the plants were also able to tolerate high concentrations of boron (28 mg/L), an important constituent found in drainage water. The most remarkable find for Grattan and co-investigators was that evapotranspiration (ET) rates from these plants exceeded that lost from an evaporation pan by 1.5 to 2.5 times. Grattan and co-workers also developed a method to separate evaporation and transpiration by accounting for the changes in the isotopic signature of water in the reservoir due to evaporation. They found that high ET rates were due primarily to high transpiration rates (> 78% of ET).

"This finding is somewhat surprising considering this halophyte has no true leaves," commented Grattan. Although some challenges remain regarding the consistent establishment of S. bigelovii under field conditions, these data indicate that hypersaline drainage water, characteristic of California's Westside of the San Joaquin Valley, can be used to irrigate this halophyte and substantially reduce drainage volumes.

Source: Soil Science Society of America

Explore further: Mining for metals in society's waste

Related Stories

Mining for metals in society's waste

October 1, 2015

Metals are crucial to society and enable our modern standard of living. Look around and you can't help but see products made of metals. For instance, a typical gasoline-powered automobile contains over a ton of iron and steel, ...

How solar tech can help California's drought

September 14, 2015

In the midst of California's ongoing drought, researchers at the University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar) at UC Merced are turning to an unlikely ally to help solve the problem of water availability ...

Saving Louisiana's coast

August 27, 2015

It was Day Nine after Katrina struck in 2005 when Sarah Mack's bosses at the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans called her back to work.

Experts see long-term risks from Colorado mine spill

August 12, 2015

Toxic waste that gushed from a Colorado mine and threatened downstream water supplies in at least three states will continue to be dangerous when contaminated sediment gets stirred up from the river bottom, authorities said ...

Recommended for you

Climate scientist hits out at IPCC projections

October 13, 2015

As a new chairman is appointed to the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) a University of Manchester climate expert has said headline projections from the organisation about future warming are 'wildly over optimistic.'

'Bridge' fuel may escalate atmospheric greenhouse gas

October 13, 2015

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests there has been a decline in measurable atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use in the U.S. for the past seven years, a Cornell scientist says ...

Study sees powerful winds carving away Antarctic snow

October 13, 2015

A new study has found that powerful winds are removing massive amounts of snow from parts of Antarctica, potentially boosting estimates of how much the continent might contribute to sea level. Up to now, scientists had thought ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 08, 2008
What happens to the salt and boron (and selenium, etc.) over time? Do they accumulate in the soil or get transferred to the harvest? For extra credit, please name some other unintended consequences.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.