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Open access

Ved Parkash and Sukhbir Singh

Salinity stress is among the major abiotic stresses prevailing in arid and semiarid areas such as the southern high plains of the United States. In these areas, both declining quality of groundwater and cultivation practices have resulted in increased accumulation of salts in the root zone. The occurrence of excessive salts in the root zone is detrimental for plant growth and economic yield. Recently, biochar has received a great consideration as a soil amendment to mitigate the detrimental impacts of salinity stress. However, the effectiveness of biochar to mitigate the salinity stress depends on the feedstock type, pyrolysis temperature and time, soil type and properties, and plant species. Therefore, a pot experiment in a greenhouse was conducted to 1) examine the effects of salinity stress on physiology, shoot and root growth, and yield of eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), and 2) evaluate the potential of hardwood biochar and softwood biochar to mitigate the damaging effects of salinity stress on eggplant. The experiment was conducted in a split-plot design with three salinity levels of irrigation water [S0 (control, 0.04 dS·m−1), S1 (2 dS·m−1), and S2 (4 dS·m−1)] as main-plot factor and three biochar treatments [B0 (control, non-biochar), Bh (hardwood biochar), and Bs (softwood biochar)] as subplot factor with four replications. Results showed that stomatal conductance (g S) and photosynthesis rate decreased significantly, while leaf temperature and electrolyte leakage increased significantly with increase in irrigation water salinity levels. Root growth (root length density and root surface area density), shoot growth (plant height, stem diameter, and leaf area), and yield of eggplant declined with increase in levels of salinity stress. Biochar application helped to enhance g S and photosynthesis rate, and to decrease leaf temperature and electrolyte leakage in leaf tissues of plants. This resulted in better root growth, shoot growth, and fruit yield of eggplant in treatments amended with biochar than non-biochar (control) treatment. There was no significant difference in the effect of two types of biochars (hardwood and softwood biochar) on physiology, root growth, shoot growth, and yield of eggplant. Therefore, it can be concluded that softwood and hardwood biochars could be used to minimize the detrimental impacts of salinity stress in eggplant.

Full access

Manpreet Singh, Rupinder Kaur Saini, Sukhbir Singh, and Sat Pal Sharma

Water shortage is one of the major challenges faced by the current agricultural systems worldwide, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Deficit irrigation (DI), a water-saving strategy of applying less water than crop evapotranspiration (ETc) demands, has been extensively investigated in different crops, including water-intensive vegetables. The DI strategies such as regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) and partial root zone drying (PRD) generally increase water use efficiency (WUE) and have emerged as potential practices to save water for agricultural sustainability. However, in view of the sensitivity of shallow-rooted vegetable crops to water stress, DI is often associated with yield losses. A review of 134 DI reports of vegetable crops revealed significant reductions in yield under all DI levels in 52% of cases and yields statistically similar to those of full irrigation (100% ETc in most cases) under small water deficits in 44% of cases, thereby raising concerns about the sustainability of vegetable production under DI. Biochar, a carbon-rich co-product of pyrolysis of organic matter, is increasingly undergoing study as a soil amendment to mitigate drought stress and is being explored as an additional practice with DI to minimize the yield losses due to water deficits. This work reviews the effects of biochar application on growth, yield, physiology, and WUE of different vegetable crops under DI regimes to determine the potential of biochar and DI used in combination to sustain vegetable productivity in water-limited areas. Overall, the addition of biochar under DI has helped to compensate for yield losses of vegetables and further enhanced WUE. However, field studies investigating long-term soil–biochar interactions that strongly conclude the impact of biochar under moisture stress conditions are lacking.

Open access

Ved Parkash, Sukhbir Singh, Manpreet Singh, Sanjit K. Deb, Glen L. Ritchie, and Russell W. Wallace

Water scarcity is increasing in the world, which is limiting crop production, especially in water-limited areas such as Southern High Plains of the United States. There is a need to adopt the irrigation management practices that can help to conserve water and sustain crop production in such water-limited areas. A 2-year field study was conducted during the summers of 2019 and 2020 to evaluate the effect of deficit irrigation levels and cultivars on root distribution pattern, soil water depletion, and water use efficiency (WUE) of cucumber (Cucumis sativus). The experiment was conducted in a split-plot design with four irrigation levels [100%, 80%, 60%, and 40% crop evapotranspiration (ETc)] as main plot factor and two cultivars (Poinsett 76 and Marketmore 76) as subplot factor with three replications. Results showed that root length density (RLD) was unaffected by the irrigation levels in 2019. In 2020, the RLD was comparable between 100% and 80% ETc, and it was significantly higher in 100% ETc than both 60% Eand 40% ETc. Root surface area density (RSAD) was not significantly different between 100% and 80% ETc, and it was significantly lower in both 60% and 40% ETc than 100% ETc in both years. Soil water depletion was the highest in 40% ETc followed by 60% and 80% ETc, and it was least in 100% ETc in both years. Evapotranspiration (ET) was the highest in 100% ETc followed by 80%, 60%, and 40% ETc. The WUE was not statistically different among the irrigation treatments. However, numerically, WUE was observed in the following order: 80% ETc > 100% ETc > 60% ETc > 40% ETc. The RLD, RSAD, soil water depletion, and ET were not significantly different between ‘Poinsett 76’ and ‘Marketmore 76’. However, fruit yield was significantly higher in ‘Poinsett 76’ than ‘Marketmore 76’, which resulted in higher WUE in Poinsett 76. It can be concluded that 80% ETc and Poinsett 76 cultivar can be adopted for higher crop water productivity and successful cucumber production in SHP.