Soil salinization is a global phenomenon that affects large tracts of arid farmland worldwide. It contributes to the loss of soil fertility, declining yields, and – in the most severe cases – land unsuitability for cultivation. Irrigation water applications are both the main cause of and the solution to, anthropogenic (or ‘secondary’) salinization because salt typically enters the soil column as dissolved in irrigation water and leaves it through excess water applications (e.g., leaching). Excess leaching, which places additional water costs in areas affected by water scarcity, can be achieved with different irrigation techniques and practices. Here, by complementing a process-based crop water model with a salt balance of the shallow soil, we investigate the tradeoff between root zone salinization and water conservation to limit withdrawals from the water source. We evaluate how such a tradeoff is achieved under different irrigation technology and excess leaching practices. Considering as a case study the cultivation of tomatoes in Egypt, we find that drip and furrow irrigation allows for better control of salt accumulation, thus preventing crop exposure to salt stress. Drip irrigation achieves this goal with minimal water applications because it maintains the soil wetter. Thus, the (rare) rainfall events find more suitable conditions to drain the excess moisture. Conversely, by using more irrigation water (and ‘less efficiently’), furrow irrigation allows for higher rates of soil drainage and salt leaching. The irrigation schedule typically adopted with sprinkler irrigation allows for soil drying, thus limiting the ability of rainfall events to drain the soil and leach its salts. Collectively, these results highlight the key role of irrigation technology and practices in the management of secondary salinity in dryland agriculture. Specifically, there is a tradeoff between minimizing water use and preventing salt accumulation in the root zone. Drip irrigation exhibits the co-benefit of achieving both goals, while furrow irrigation limits soil salinity at the cost of requiring greater volumes of applied irrigation water.

The tradeoff between water savings and salinization prevention in dryland irrigation

Saeed Karimzadeh;Davide Danilo Chiarelli;Maria Cristina Rulli;Paolo D’Odorico
2023-01-01

Abstract

Soil salinization is a global phenomenon that affects large tracts of arid farmland worldwide. It contributes to the loss of soil fertility, declining yields, and – in the most severe cases – land unsuitability for cultivation. Irrigation water applications are both the main cause of and the solution to, anthropogenic (or ‘secondary’) salinization because salt typically enters the soil column as dissolved in irrigation water and leaves it through excess water applications (e.g., leaching). Excess leaching, which places additional water costs in areas affected by water scarcity, can be achieved with different irrigation techniques and practices. Here, by complementing a process-based crop water model with a salt balance of the shallow soil, we investigate the tradeoff between root zone salinization and water conservation to limit withdrawals from the water source. We evaluate how such a tradeoff is achieved under different irrigation technology and excess leaching practices. Considering as a case study the cultivation of tomatoes in Egypt, we find that drip and furrow irrigation allows for better control of salt accumulation, thus preventing crop exposure to salt stress. Drip irrigation achieves this goal with minimal water applications because it maintains the soil wetter. Thus, the (rare) rainfall events find more suitable conditions to drain the excess moisture. Conversely, by using more irrigation water (and ‘less efficiently’), furrow irrigation allows for higher rates of soil drainage and salt leaching. The irrigation schedule typically adopted with sprinkler irrigation allows for soil drying, thus limiting the ability of rainfall events to drain the soil and leach its salts. Collectively, these results highlight the key role of irrigation technology and practices in the management of secondary salinity in dryland agriculture. Specifically, there is a tradeoff between minimizing water use and preventing salt accumulation in the root zone. Drip irrigation exhibits the co-benefit of achieving both goals, while furrow irrigation limits soil salinity at the cost of requiring greater volumes of applied irrigation water.
2023
Soil salinization management,Irrigation techniques, Crop yield and salinity, Sustainable irrigation, Excess leaching, Water resource management
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11311/1257938
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