Comparison of growth of annual crops used for salinity bioremediation in the semi-arid irrigation area
The decline of soil organic carbon (SOC) has aggravated salinity-related problems in semi-arid irrigation areas of the Awash river basin, Ethiopia. This study aimed at evaluating the performance of potential remediation crops on saline soil and their effectiveness for remediating soil salinity and improving pH, SOC, bulk density (BD) and hydraulic conductivity (HyCo). Rhodes grass (RHG), alfalfa (ALF), sudangrass (SUG) and blue panicgrass (Retz) (BPG) were grown in saline (3–13.9 dS/m) field plots. The crop biomass was incorporated into the soil immediately before flowering. The results show that at high soil salinity levels, BPG and SUG grew well, with the harvesting frequency of BPG being much higher than for SUG. Conversely, the growth of ALF and RHG was strongly inhibited by high soil salinity. Significant (P < 0.05) reduction of soil salinity levels (–3.2 dS/m) and related ionic concentrations, an increase of SOC (0.8% to 1.6%) and improvement of BD and HyCo were observed in BPG plots. The fast-growing nature of BPG in the hot climate of the experimental area resulted in harvests every three weeks and promoted the incorporation of high amounts of biomass to the soil and efficient soil salinity remediation. At moderately saline conditions, ALF also showed a great potential for salinity reclamation (–1.8 dS/m) and SOC accumulation. The cultivation of fast-growing annual crops proved an efficient and low-cost strategy for soil salinity mitigation and the reclamation of salinity-associated soil degradation in irrigation agriculture in Ethiopia.
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