Salts and bicarbonates in soil still increasing
A growing concern that many ag professionals now face are issues with poor water quality. Water that is riddled with salts such as sodium or bicarbonates can have far-reaching effects on crop production, but may otherwise go unaddressed when growers aren’t actively managing irrigation water.
Water Right Technologies (www.wrtag.com/) creates customized crop management programs using a full-spectrum analysis of each grower’s soil-water solution that is specific to each and every crop being grown.
High evaporation rates in arid areas makes soil especially susceptible to higher concentration of salts accumulating in the soil. For example, there is constant concern about California soil salt content for irrigated soils. Coastal areas are also at risk of salt infiltration from sea water when groundwater exploitation lowers the water table.
John Witzke, owner of WRT, explains that many of his current and prospective clients have met a large amount of difficulty dealing with elevated levels of sodium and bicarbonates in their water and soils this past season. He comments, “I’ve had growers come to me who have said they’ve analyzed their soil and tailored management programs based on the results. They add amendments to counteract mineral deficiencies, build-ups and so on with little to no success. When water being used contains high salt levels it will completely tie up the available nutrients, and crops suffer regardless of having the proper amount of nutrients in the soil.”
Poor water causes plant stress and decreased crop yields. The effects that result from not actively managing irrigation water can drastically reduce yields. Growers have seen water sources becoming inundated with sodium and bicarbonate buildup. It is not likely for growers to have control over upstream water supplies, but steps can be taken to counteract problematic water by implementing specific products to offset any buildup.
“High bicarbonate levels are typically addressed by adding gypsum to soils that have low free calcium, and sulfur to soils that have high lime content,” said Witzke. “When testing is done prior to planting, the prep work falls short of success if water quality isn’t added to the equation. Each time you irrigate, more minerals are applied to the soil.”
WRT claims to provide “sustainable solutions” to water quality issues different than conventional partial solutions. It is true that some growers are becoming extremely concerned as the problem becomes greater.