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Most crops do not grow well on soils that contain salts.

One reason is that salt causes a reduction in the rate and amount of water that the
plant roots can take up from the soil (see Fig. 105). Also, some salts are toxic to
plants when present in high concentration.
Some plants are more tolerant to a high salt concentration than others. Some
examples are given in the following table:
The highly tolerant crops can withstand a salt concentration of the saturation extract
up to 10 g/l. The moderately tolerant crops can withstand salt concentration up to 5
g/l. The limit of the sensitive group is about 2.5 g/l.

Symptoms of salt injury in plants resemble drought. Both conditions are
characterized by water stress (wilting)and reduced growth. Severe injury caused by
prolonged exposure or high salinity results in stunted plants and tissue death.
Reduced growth caused by salinity is a progressive condition that increases as
salinity increases above a plants tolerance threshold.
Plants vary in their response to soil salinity. Salt tolerant plants (plants less affected
by salinity) are better able to adjust internally to the osmotic effects of high salt
concentrations than salt-sensitive plants. Salt-tolerant plants are more able to absorb
water from saline soils. Salt-sensitive plants have a limited ability to adjust and are
injured at relatively low salt concentrations. Many horticultural and landscape plants
are classified as sensitive or moderately sensitive to soil salinity. Specific plant
tolerances are affected by climate, soil conditions, cultural practices, and variety
selection. During cool weather when plant transpiration demands are low, salt injury

will be less than during hot, dry weather. There is wide variation in salt tolerance
among varieties or rootstocks of some species. Salt tolerance during germination and
emergence, though not well defined, is often less than that given for mature plants.
A good example is beets. Beets, a moderately tolerant plant, are more sensitive at
germination than corn, a moderately sensitive plant. Practices to reduce salinity in
the seed zone, such as leaching before planting and planting on the sides of sloping
beds, can be used to improve germination and emergence. For ornamentals, size and
appearance are the important criteria for determining salt tolerance. Comparisons
based on growth reductions may not be completely applicable. In some cases,
tolerances are based on the premise that reduced growth may be acceptable as long
as plants appear healthy and attractive. Soil salinity is difficult to overcome. Salts
can be removed from the soil by leaching if drainage is not restricted. Watering
plants more frequently can reduce salt injury. Adverse effects of soil salinity can
also be reduced by promoting vigorous growth through good management and
adequate fertility. If you suspect soil salinity is a problem, contact your university
extension educator

As soils become more saline, plants become unable to draw as much water from the
soil. This is because the plant roots contain varying concentrations of ions (salts) that
create a natural flow of water from the soil into the plant roots. As the level of
salinity in the soil nears that of the roots, however, water becomes less and less likely
to enter the root. In fact, when the soil salinity levels are high enough, the water in
the roots is pulled back into the soil. The plants become unable to take in enough
water to grow. Each plant species naturally contains varying levels of root salts. This
is why some plants can continue to thrive when others have died. If the salinity
concentration in the soil is high enough, the plant will wilt and die, regardless of the
amount of water applied. .

Soil salinity is one of the most serious agricultural problems. The cause of this
process is the accumulation of salts in soil capillaries leading to a sharp decrease in
plant fertility. Salt concentration left in plant capillaries, with insufficient amount of
nourishing substances leads to plants dying.
Plant growth and yield are limited mainly by the soil environment factors. Soil,
water, nutrients, salinity, sodicity, structure, temperature, pH, and mineral toxicities
can all interact to limit plant growth. In Saline soils although pH (<8.5) and ESP
(<15%) are not high, CEC is >4 mmhos/cm and an excess of soluble salt in the
subsoil restricts water uptake by crops; in the case of alkalinity there are Nutrient
deficiencies (either because of a lack of nutrients, or because roots are unable to
access them). The best way of understanding these limitations is to consider them in
terms of the interacting factors that directly influence crop growth.

Salinity problems are caused from the accumulation of soluble salts in the root zone.
These excess salts reduce plant growth and vigor by altering water uptake and
causing ion-specific toxicities or imbalances. Establishing good drainage is generally
the cure for these problems, but salinity problems are often more complex. Proper
management procedures, combined with periodic soil tests, are needed to prolong the
productivity of salt-affected soils.
Excessive soil salinity reduces the yield of many crops. This ranges from a slight
crop loss to complete crop failure, depending on the type of crop and the severity of
the salinity problem.
Although several treatments and management practices can reduce salt levels in the
soil, there are some situations where it is either impossible or too costly to attain
desirably low soil salinity levels. In some cases, the only viable management option

is to plant salt-tolerant crops. Sensitive crops, such as pinto beans, cannot be

managed profitably in saline soils. Table 4 shows the relative salt tolerance of field,
forage, and vegetable crops. The table shows the approximate soil salt content
(expressed as the electrical conductivity of a saturated paste extract (ECe) in dS/m at
25 degrees C) where 0, 10, 25, and 50 percent yield decreases may be expected.
Actual yield reductions will vary depending upon the crop variety and the climatic
conditions during the growing season.
Fruit crops may show greater yield variation because a large number of rootstocks
and varieties are available. Also, stage of plant growth has a bearing on salt
tolerance. Plants are usually most sensitive to salt during the emergence and early
seedling stages. Tolerance usually increases as the crop develops.

The salt tolerance values apply only from the late seedling stage through maturity,
during the period of most rapid plant growth. Crops in each class are generally
ranked in order of decreasing salt tolerance.



High salt levels can reduce water uptake by plants, restrict root growth, cause
marginal burning of the foliage, inhibit flowering, limit seed germination, and reduce
fruit and vegetable yields. Irregular bare spots in gardens and uneven crop growth
suggest salinity problems. Crop yields may be reduced as much as 25% without any
damage being apparent. Salt injury generally is more severe during periods of hot
dry weather, when water use is high. Sensitivity to soluble salts differs among plant
species/cultivars and also with their state of growth. Seed germination and seedling
growth are more sensitive to salt stress than mature plants.



This process can be observed in low-lying coastal areas of the country due to salt
water intrusion and the use of saline water to irrigate agricultural fields. Philrice
(2001) reported that salinity has become a widespread constraint to rice production
in most parts of the country. Salinization-prone coastal lands are estimated at 0.4 M
ha of which 0.2 M ha is considered severely salt-affected. Places with considerable
saline areas are cagayan valley, bicol, Iloilo, Palawan, negros, samar, Leyte and
surigao. Over extraction of ground water in coastal areas for household and
agriculture uses is also expected to increase the areas affected by salinization. rising
sea level due to global warming will also increase the problem of sea water
intrusion in low lying coastal areas throughout the country.


Salinity is the amount of salt in the soil or water. The dominant salt in most saline
soil is common saltsodium chloride (NaCl). Varying amounts of calcium,
magnesium and potassium chlorides and sodium sulfates can also occur.
It is important to know the level of salinity. This determines:
the types of plants that will grow in the soil, and their yield potential
the characteristics of a soil
the quality of water for irrigation, domestic, industrial and stock use
the extent of the problem.