Aerial view of
central California fields suffering from severe salinization.
salt-tolerant flowers and turfgrasses that can thrive on lower-quality,
recycled waters, ARS researchers are helping to conserve valuable freshwater
resources--and save money for growers. Click images for more information
Conference Tackles Global Problem of
Salinity By Erin
Peabody April 25, 2005
RIVERSIDE, Calif., Apr. 25The
Salinity Forum that begins here today has drawn more than 200 scientists
from 20 countries to discuss concerns about accumulating salts that threaten
millions of acres of irrigated land around the globe. The three-day conference
is sponsored by two USDA agenciesthe
Agricultural Research Service and the
Natural Resources Conservation
Servicetogether with the U.S. Bureau
of Reclamation and the U.S. Bureau of Land
"ARS efforts to find salt-tolerant crops that can use lower-quality
drainage and sewage waters, including turf grasses for lawns and golf courses,
will help conserve the region's vital fresh-water supplies and reduce threats
to local aquatic and marine environments," said ARS Administrator Edward B.
NRCS, the nation's private-lands conservation agency, uses ARS science
and longstanding conservation expertise to help landowners control salinity and
face other environmental challenges on their land.
"Enhancements to salinity resistance are very important to
agricultural production and the protection of our natural resources," NRCS
Chief Bruce Knight said. "Salinity is often called the 'silent killer' and with
ARS science and NRCS technical expertise, landowners have the best available
assessments and solutions."
Soil and water experts, many from the ARS
E. Brown Jr. Salinity Laboratory in Riverside, will present their latest
research findings on how to best manage salt-stressed soils. Representatives
from agricultural commodities impacted by salinity, such as cotton, wheat, rice
and fresh produce, will also attend.
At the conference,
Suarez, director of the Riverside laboratory, will discuss how
ARS-developed computer models can help water districts and irrigation
consultants make informed decisions about salinity management. Other ARS
researchers will discuss their technologies to effectively monitor and map soil
salinity, as well as efforts to breed salt-tolerant crops that can thrive on
recycled agricultural waters.
Irrigated fields, such as those in California's Central Valley, rely
heavily on water that is conveyed hundreds of miles from its source. This water
contains salts dissolved from the rocks and soils through which it passes
before being stored in reservoirs.
When the water is used on cropland, it can leave behind salts and
other potentially harmful trace elements, such as selenium and boron. Without
adequate drainage, or with excessive irrigation, fields accumulate the damaging
salts and can become toxic to many crop plants. In some cases, patches of white
crust mark the fields that are most severely impacted.
USDA expects a result of the conference to be wider use of the best
available science-based practices for salinity management.