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  • Author or Editor: Jeffrey. C. Silvertooth x
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About 33% of all irrigated lands worldwide are affected by varying degrees of salinity and sodicity. Soil with an electrical conductivity (EC) of the saturated extract >4 dS·m−1 is considered saline, but some horticultural crops are negatively affected if salt concentrations in the rooting zone exceed 2 dS·m−1. Salinity effects on plant growth are generally osmotic in nature, but specific toxicities and nutritional balances are known to occur. In addition to the direct toxic effects of Na salts, Na can negatively impact soil structure. Soil with exchangeable sodium percentages (ESPs) or saturated extract sodium absorption ratios (SARs) > 15 are considered sodic. Sodic soils tend to deflocculate, become impermeable to water and air, and puddle. Many horticultural crops are sensitive to the deterioration of soil physical properties associated with Na in soil and irrigation water. This review summarizes important considerations in managing saline and sodic soils for producing horticultural crops. Economically viable management practices may simply involve a minor, inexpensive modification of cultural practices under conditions of low to moderate salinity or a more costly reclamation under conditions of high Na.

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Vegetable and fruit crops produced in the desert southwestern United States generally do not respond to K fertilization. Even when pre-plant soil test K levels are low and crop K accumulations are high, responses are infrequent. We have performed a number of evaluations aimed at understanding why crops produced in this region fail to respond to K fertilization. First, data show the potential for substantial K inputs through irrigation. For example, Colorado River water, which is widely used for irrigation in this region, contains ≈5 ppm K, resulting in potential K inputs of 30 to 60 kg K/ha. Second, many of the soils used for crop production have a clay content and mineralogy making a response to K unlikely. Studies evaluating the kinetics of K release from the mineral fraction of soils in the region has shown that many soils used for crop production have a high capacity to replenish K to the soil solution and exchange sites following crop uptake. Finally, the observation that Na can partially substitute for the K requirement of many fast-growing leafy vegetables may also be a contributing factor for the infrequent K fertilizer responses for these commodities.

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