Non-conventional waters


Mediterranean crop production on saline soils

The problem of saline soils basically refers to two conditions:

  • the first one is related to the huge extension of irrigated surfaces over the last century. In hot regions this causes, together with overestimation of crop water requirements and the absence of a drainage network, mineral salt accumulation in the volume of soil explored by roots. In the literature, it is reported that the land lost from cultivation because of excessive salinization, varies from 10 to 20 million hectares per year. No country with salt-affected soils has solved such a problem so far, despite the quality of its research team or its willingness to do so; 
  • the second condition is related to the use of saline waters in agriculture on soils somehow previously affected by salinity. This is especially true in water-scarce countries where available fresh water resources have been already exploited, whereas population food requirements are incessantly increasing. The use of saline waters is a remedy to face the present water scarcity. Accordingly, should the assumption that climate change will lead to a more arid climate in southern Mediterranean countries come true, it is expected to develop further in the future.

Given the above conditions, practicing environmentally sound agriculture that copes with economic constraints is the current challenge the scientific community has to take up. This would be possible if saline irrigation is part of an appropriate management policy. Many authors have described the various factors (physical and chemical soil properties, irrigation and drainage systems...) that contribute to such a policy. The choice of appropriate crop species and varieties that can produce under saline conditions is one of these factors and a crucial one indeed. Some irrigation practices - accurate determination of crop water requirements, irrigation scheduling based on performing indicators, installation of a drainage system - contribute to mitigating soil salinization. 

Timing:
Starting: 8.01.1989
Scheduled ending: 31.12.2009
Real ending: 31.12.2011
Objectives: The research works focusing on a small number of Mediterranean crop species (barley, wheat, chick pea, broad bean, and lentil) are intended to investigate the following for each of the investigated species:
  •  The change in internal water relationships in crops grown under saline conditions (water status, osmotic adjustment, adaptation of stomata conductance), and then the consequences of this change on water and photosynthetic functioning;
  • The effect of salinity on germination, growth, development and appearance of reproductive organs;
  •  Yield and its components as well as the saline water use efficiency;
  •  The characteristics of physiological and agronomic adaptation to salinity.


The elaborated works are aimed at analysing:

  •  The long-term consequences of using saline water on the soil mineral balance;
  •  The effect of salinity on environmental balances (water, carbon, nitrogen and salt);
  •  The setting up of a methodology that allows comparing the suitability of cultivated species in the Mediterranean basin to produce under saline conditions;
  •  The crop yield response to water stress of different origin (salinity, drought and the combined salinity-drought effect);
  •  The assumptions that explain the resistance of the investigated crops to salinity.
Justification:

The major reasons leading to the implementation of this project are the use of saline water is a practice that is expected to develop a lot in the future. Under the MAI-Bari umbrella,  an international research team involved in salinity problems has been established. Its peculiarity is to gather researchers with diversified skills and including agronomists, eco-physiologists, geneticists and soil specialists. Such a team succeeds in expressing unity of objectives, the willingness of working as a team and sharing available means. The setting up, at MAIBari, of a lysimeter station (30 lysimeters) specially designed for the implemented research programme. 

Potential:

The project potentialities can be analysed at two levels:

  • In terms of research: the identification of the physiological and agronomic adaptation characteristics  associated with drought tolerance of the investigated crop species and varieties allows geneticists to purse interesting research lines to select species and varieties.
  • In terms of management: a number of results obtained in the framework  of this research programme entirely falls within sustainable and sound management of saline soils, as it is the case, for instance, of: i) accurate determination of crop water and fertilizer requirements under saline conditions; ii) the identification of tolerant crop species or varieties that can make the best use of saline water; iii) the identification, in the investigated crops, of the growing stages particularly sensitive to salinity.  
Results:
Notes:
  • Strengths

It is a concrete example of Mediterranean North-South collaboration on a scientific problem that especially concerns southern countries. Complementarities of approaches applied in this study allow covering different aspects of the investigated research topic.Research works are solely focused on 5 crop species. Simply notice that ICARDA was assigned an international mandate to improve these species that are staple commodities in the southern Mediterranean countries. All the implemented research works were published. The project allows having quite strong links between training and research.

  • Weaknesses

 In this project, it was initially scheduled to set up another experimental station in a southern Mediterranean country in order to confirm the experimental results obtained  from the lysimeter station. For different scientific and budgetary reasons, it was not possible to find out the partner which could manage such a station.

Research works require the participation of two students per year for the preparation of a thesis within the frame of the Irrigation master programme. Such a condition was not fulfilled in the academic year 2009-2010 and the project stopped in 2009.

Reference person/s: Hamdy Atef / Lahmer Fadila /
Collaborators:
Thesis: La réponse des cereals et des légumineuses à l’effet combine salinité-sécheresse : synthèse et analyse des mechanismes en cause
L’effet combiné de la salinité et de la sècheresse sur le fonctionnement hydrique, le développement, la croissance et la productivité de la fève
Effet de l’irrigation à l’eau salée et de la sècheresse sur la salinité des sols, l’absorption de l’azote, la consommation en eau, et le rendement de la fève
L’effet combiné de la salinité et de la sécheresse sur le fonctionnementhydrique, le développement, la croissance et la productivité de l'orge
Effect of saline irrigation water and drought on soil salinity, nitrogen uptake water, consumption and yield of barley
La réponse de la variété de blé dur Cham-1 aux effets associés des stresses hydriques et salins
Effect of saline irrigation water and drought on soil salinity, nitrogen uptake water consumption, and yield of durum wheat
Effect of saline irrigation water on germination percentage, soil salinity, nitrogen uptake, water consumption and yield of bread wheat
Effet de la salinité sur le développement, le fonctionnement hydrique et la productivité de deux variétés de blé tendre
Effet de la salinité de l’eau d’irrigation sur le sol, l’absorption de l’azote et le rendement de l’orge
Effet de la salinité sur le fonctionnement hydrique et la productivité de deux variétés d’orge
Effet de la salinité sur le fonctionnement hydrique et la productivité de deux variétés de blé dur de tolérance variable à la sécheresse
Effect of saline irrigation water on soil salinity, nitrogen uptake, water consumption and yield of wheat
Effet de la salinité sur le fonctionnement hydrique et la productivité de deux variétés de fève de tolérance variable à la sécheresse
Effet de la salinité de l'eau d'irrigation sur le sol, l'absorption de l'azote et le rendement de la fève
Effet de la salinité de l'eau d'irrigation sur le sol, l'absorption de l'azote et le rendement de la fève
Effet de la salinité sur le stress hydrique, la croissance et le rendement de la fève
Effect of saline environment on water plant relation and the productivity of two chickpea varieties
Effect of saline irrigation water on soil salinity, germination, nitrogen uptake and yield of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.)
Institutions involved: Consiglio per la Ricerca e la sperimentazione in Agricoltura (CRA)
Institut National de Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)
Wageningen Universiteit (WU)
 
 
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