Tools for saltlands diagnosis formulated

Jul 18, 2013

Australian farmers could soon be provided with new ways of diagnosing the capability of salt-affected land for agriculture.

New research suggests using saltland capability assessment methods such as depth to watertable and subsoil could help farmers determine suitable areas within saltland sites where the growth of perennial halophytes (salt-) will provide economic returns.

Researchers from UWA's Centre for Echohydrology tested the growth and survival of five salt-tolerant perennial plants – samphire, river saltbush, small leaf bluebush, saltwater couch and Rhodes grass – using measurements of depth to watertable and subsoil salinity at three separate saltland sites in WA from 2003 to 2006.

The three sites had varying watertable depths, with Meckering being the site with the shallowest waterable while Wubin and Pingaring had deeper watertables.

Lead author and UWA's Edward Barrett-Lennard says salinity has been an enemy of agriculture for 10,000 years and not all salt-affected land is productive.

"Thus, we are trying to provide farmers with robust ways of distinguishing areas of salt-affected land that is suitable for , from areas that is not," Professor Barrett-Lennard says.

Prof Barrett-Lennard says planting perennial halophytes on saltland is environmentally beneficial as they can lower the watertables slightly.

"Their ability to lower the watertables even slightly means can encourage the growth of less salt tolerant plants underneath and around them—bringing in a change in the local hydrology of the saltland sites."

The measurement of the relationship between the electrical conductivity of the saturated extract (ECe) of the subsoil and plant survival in the study found samphire (27-65 dS/m) to be the most salt tolerant plant and Rhodes grass to be the least salt tolerant.

"Plant survival was related to the subsoil rather than because salinity in the former is not seasonally variable, making it easier for farmers to diagnose the capability of saltlands any time of the year," Prof Barrett-Lennard says.

While the researchers initially hypothesised that the combined effects of salinity and waterlogging would affect plant growth and survival on saltland, Prof Barrett-Lennard says the findings of the study indicated otherwise.

"The most important principle affecting in the trials was not waterlogging – the presence of shallow watertables due to the seasonal rainfall in winter – but rather the depth to watertable in summer."

"We found that highly salt-tolerant plants such as samphire needed shallow watertables to survive in summer, while moderately salt-tolerant plants such as small leaf bluebush and river saltbush needed deeper water tables," he says.

The researchers also concluded that sites growing samphire are likely to be too saline to grow saltland pastures and are not economically profitable.

Explore further: Salt-tolerant rice bred at Philippines institute

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Salt-tolerant rice bred at Philippines institute

Apr 16, 2013

Scientists have successfully bred a rice variety that is salt-tolerant, which could enable farmers to reclaim coastal areas rendered useless by sea water, a Philippine-based institute said Tuesday.

Salt-tolerant crops show higher capacity for carbon fixation

Dec 12, 2011

Salt can have drastic effects on the growth and yield of horticultural crops; studies have estimated that salinity renders an about one-third of the world's irrigated land unsuitable for crop production. Imbalances in soil ...

Researchers develop highest yielding salt tolerant wheat

Apr 15, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a major breakthrough for wheat farmers in salt-affected areas, CSIRO researchers have developed a salt tolerant durum wheat that yields 25 per cent more grain than the parent variety in ...

Recommended for you

Building better soybeans for a hot, dry, hungry world

11 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study shows that soybean plants can be redesigned to increase crop yields while requiring less water and helping to offset greenhouse gas warming. The study is the first to demonstrate ...

Gene removal could have implications beyond plant science

11 hours ago

(Phys.org) —For thousands of years humans have been tinkering with plant genetics, even when they didn't realize that is what they were doing, in an effort to make stronger, healthier crops that endured climates better, ...

Chrono, the last piece of the circadian clock puzzle?

Apr 15, 2014

All organisms, from mammals to fungi, have daily cycles controlled by a tightly regulated internal clock, called the circadian clock. The whole-body circadian clock, influenced by the exposure to light, dictates the wake-sleep ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

Chimpanzees may select a certain type of wood, Ugandan Ironwood, over other options for its firm, stable, and resilient properties to make their bed, according to a study published April 16, 2014 in the open-access ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

IBM's first-quarter earnings fell and revenue came in below Wall Street's expectations amid an ongoing decline in its hardware business, one that was exasperated by weaker demand in China and emerging markets.