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26/9/2016

FrequentlyAskedQuestionsAboutSalinity:USDAARS

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FrequentlyAskedQuestionsAboutSalinity

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1FrequentlyAskedQuestionsAboutSalinity
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Whydoweirrigate?
Whathappenswhenyouirrigate?
Wheredoesallthesaltcomefrom?
Whatproblemsdoessalinitycause?
Whyisresearchonsalinitysoimportant?

Whydoweirrigate?
Irrigationisanancientandimportantagriculturalpractice.Cropyieldsarehigherunderirrigationandlessdependentonthe
effectsofweather.Whileonly15%oftheworld'scultivatedlandisirrigated,itaccountsfor3540%oftheglobalfoodharvest.
Projectedpopulationgrowthratesforthenext30yearswillrequireanincreaseinfoodproductionequalto20%indeveloped
countriesand60%indevelopingcountriestomaintainpresentlevelsoffoodconsumption.Expansionofirrigatedagriculture
wasinlargepartresponsibleforthe"greenrevolution"infoodproductionandwillcontinuetoplayanessentialroleinproviding
theneededincreasesinfoodandfiberproduction,especiallyindevelopingcountries.
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Whathappenswhenyouirrigate?
Irrigationinevitablyleadstothesalinizationofsoilsandwaters.IntheUnitedStatesyieldreductionsduetosalinityoccuronan
estimated30%ofallirrigatedland.Worldwide,cropproductionislimitedbytheeffectsofsalinityonabout50%oftheirrigated
landarea.Inmanycountriesirrigatedagriculturehascausedenvironmentaldisturbancessuchaswaterlogging,salinization,
anddepletionandpollutionofwatersupplies.Concernismountingaboutthesustainabilityofirrigatedagriculture.
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Wheredoesallthesaltcomefrom?
Applicationofirrigationwaterresultsintheadditionofsolublesaltssuchassodium,calcium,magnesium,potassium,sulfate,
andchloridedissolvedfromgeologicmaterialswithwhichthewatershavebeenincontact.Evaporationandtranspiration(plant
uptake)ofirrigationwatereventuallycauseexcessiveamountsofsaltstoaccumulateinsoilsunlessadequateleachingand
drainageareprovided.Excessivesoilsalinityreducesyieldsbyloweringplantstandandgrowthrate.Also,excesssodium
underconditionsoflowsalinityandespeciallyhighpHcanpromoteslakingofaggregates,swellinganddispersionofsoil
clays,degradingsoilstructureandimpedingwaterandrootpenetration.Sometraceconstituents,suchasboron,aredirectly
toxictoplants.
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Whatproblemsdoessalinitycause?
Overthecourseofhistory,thrivingcivilizationsdeclinedinpartduetotheirinabilitytosustainfoodproductiononlandsthathad
beensalinized.Itisestimatedthat10millionhectaresarenowbeinglosteveryyearasaresultofsalinityand/orwaterlogging.
Manyoftheseproblemsarecausedbyexcessiveuseofwaterforirrigationduetoinefficientirrigationdistributionsystems,poor
onfarmmanagementpractices,andinappropriatemanagementofdrainagewater.Inefficientonfarmirrigationpracticescause
localsalinityproblems.Localproblemsincreaseasaresultofpooronfarmdrainage.Excessiveirrigationincreasessalt
loadinginwatertablesanddownstreamaquiferswhichcausesregionalsalinization.Lackoflocalandregionaldrainage
systemsresultsinlandsbeingputoutofagriculturalproduction.
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Whyisresearchonsalinitysoimportant?
Inthefuture,globalfoodneedswillcontinuetoincreasewhilethesoilandwaterresourcesavailablefornewcropproduction
willbelimitedandofdiminishedquality.Theneedtoprotectsoilresourcesaswellastoconservewaterwillcontinueto
increase.Watermustbeutilizedmoreefficientlyanditsqualityprotected.Worldagriculturemustexpanditsbaseofproduction
andincreaseproductiononlandscurrentlyundercultivation.Appropriatemanagementpracticestocontrolsalinitymustbe
implementedonirrigatedfields,inirrigationprojects,andforgeohydrologicsystems.Inordertomeettheeverincreasing
demandsforfoodandutilizingeverdecreasingandmoremarginalsoilandwaterresources,thenationandmuchoftheworld
communitywillcontinuetolooktotheU.S.SalinityLaboratoryforexpertiseandleadershipinsalinityandwaterquality
researchandapplicationstosolvetheseproblems.
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