Annex 1. Crop salt tolerance data

Introduction

In 1985, FAO published a revised version of Irrigation and Drainage Paper No. 29. This publication incorporated an extensive list of crop salt tolerance data. Since then, Maas and Grattan (1999) have published updated lists of salt tolerance data. This annex reproduces these data together with the introductory sections.

Crop yield response functions

The salt tolerance of a crop can best be described by plotting its relative yield as a continuous function of soil salinity. For most crops, this response function follows a sigmoidal relationship. However, some crops may die before the seed or fruit yields decrease to zero, thus eliminating the bottom part of the sigmoidal curve. Maas and Hoffman (1977) proposed that this response curve could be represented by two line segments: one, a tolerance plateau with a zero slope, and the other, a concentration-dependent line whose slope indicates the yield reduction per unit increase in salinity. The point at which the two lines intersect designates the threshold, i.e. the maximum soil salinity that does not reduce yield below that obtained under non-saline conditions. This two-piece linear response function provides a reasonably good fit for commercially acceptable yields plotted against the electrical conductivity of the saturated paste (ECe). ECe is the traditional soil salinity measurement with units of decisiemens per metre (1 dS/m = 1 mmho/cm). For soil salinities exceeding the threshold of any given crop, relative yield (Yr) can be estimated with the following equation:

Yr = 100 - b(ECe - a) (1)

where a = the salinity threshold expressed in dS/m; b = the slope expressed in percent per dS/m; and ECe = the mean electrical conductivity of a saturated paste taken from the rootzone.

The two-piece linear response function is also reasonably accurate when salinity is expressed in terms of the osmotic potential of the soil solution at field capacity (OPfc). When the OPfc is known, yield responses can be determined as a function of the osmotic stress that the plants experience. For osmotic potentials exceeding the threshold of a crop:

Yr = 100 - B(Opfc - A) (2)

where A = the salinity threshold expressed in bars; B = the slope expressed in percent per bar; and OPfc = osmotic potential of the soil water extracted from the rootzone at field capacity. Equation 2, like Equation 1, is linear even though OPfc is not a linear function of ECe. However, the deviation from linearity is small, and relative yields calculated from Equation 2 are within 2 percent of those calculated from Equation 1. The salt tolerance data in the subsequent sections are expressed in terms of ECe. Threshold (A) and slope (B) parameters in terms of OPfc can be determined from the ECe data with the following relationships:

A = -0.725a1.06 (3)

(4)

These equations are based on the relationship, OPfc = -0.725 ECe1.06, which was obtained from Figure 6 of the USDA Handbook No. 60 (USSL, 1954) after converting osmotic pressure in atmospheres at 0°C to osmotic potential in bars at 25°C. It is further assumed that the soluble salt concentration in the soil water at field capacity is twice that of the saturated-soil extract.

The threshold and slope concept has its greatest value in providing general salt tolerance guidelines for crop management decisions. Farmers need to know the soil salinity levels that begin to reduce yield and how much yield will be reduced at levels above the threshold. However, more precise plant response functions would be advantageous for crop simulation modelling. Van Genuchten and Hoffman (1984) have described several non-linear models that more accurately describe the sigmoidal growth response of plants to salinity. Computer programs for these models were developed and documented by Van Genuchten (1983).

Salt tolerance data

Herbaceous crops

Table A1.1 lists threshold and slope values for 81 crops in terms of ECe. Most of the data were obtained where crops were grown under conditions simulating recommended cultural and management practices for commercial production. Consequently, the data indicate relative tolerances of different crops grown under different conditions and not under a standardized set of conditions. Furthermore, the data apply only where crops are exposed to fairly uniform salinities from the late seedling stage to maturity. Where crops have particularly sensitive stages, the tolerance limits are given in the footnotes.

Figure A1.1. Division for classifying crop tolerance to salinity

The data in Table A1.1 apply to soils where chloride is the predominant anion. Because of the dissolution of CaSO4 when preparing saturated-soil extracts, the ECe of gypsiferous (non-sodic, low Mg2+) soils will be 1-3 dS/m higher than that of non-gypsiferous soils having the same soil water conductivity at field capacity (Bernstein, 1962). The extent of this dissolution depends upon the exchangeable ion composition, CEC, and solution composition. Therefore, plants grown on gypsiferous soils will tolerate ECes approximately 2 dS/m higher than those listed in Table A1.1. The last column provides a qualitative salt tolerance rating that is useful in categorizing crops in general terms. Figure A1.1 illustrates the limits of these categories. Some crops have only a qualitative rating because the experimental data are inadequate for calculating the threshold and slope.

Woody crops

The salt tolerance of trees, vines and other woody crops is complicated because of additional detrimental effects caused by specific ion toxicities. Many perennial woody species are susceptible to foliar injury caused by the toxic accumulation of Cl- and/or Na+ in the leaves. Because different cultivars and rootstocks absorb Cl- and Na+ at different rates, considerable variation in tolerance may occur within an individual species.

In the absence of specific-ion effects, the tolerance of woody crops, like that of herbaceous crops, can be expressed as a function of the concentration of total soluble salts or osmotic potential of the soil solution. One could expect this condition to obtain for those cultivars and rootstocks that restrict the uptake of Cl- and Na+. The salt tolerance data in Table A1.2 are believed to be reasonably accurate in the absence of specific-ion toxicities. Because of the cost and time required to obtain fruit yields, tolerances of several crops have been determined for vegetative growth only. In contrast to other crop groups, most woody fruit and nut crops tend to be salt sensitive, even in the absence of specific-ion effects. Only date-palm is relatively salt tolerant, whereas olive and a few others are believed to be moderately tolerant.

Table A1.1. Salt tolerance of herbaceous crops

These data serve only as a guideline to relative tolerances among crops. Absolute tolerances vary, depending upon climate, soil conditions, and cultural practices.

Botanical and common names follow the convention of Hortus Third (Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium Staff, 1976) where possible.

§ In gypsiferous soils, plants will tolerate an ECe about 2 dS/m higher than indicated.

Ratings are defined by the boundaries in Figure A1.1. Ratings with an * are estimates.

# Less tolerant during seedling stage, ECe at this stage should not exceed 4 or 5 dS/m.

†† Unpublished U. S. Salinity Laboratory data.

‡‡ Grain and forage yields of DeKalb XL-75 grown on an organic muck soil decreased about 26 percent per dS/m above a threshold of 1.9 dS/m (Hoffman et al., 1983).

§§ Because paddy rice is grown under flooded conditions, values refer to the electrical conductivity of the soil water while the plants are submerged. Less tolerant during seedling stage.

¶¶ Sesame cultivars, Sesaco 7 and 8, may be more tolerant than indicated by the S rating.

## Sensitive during germination and emergence, ECe should not exceed 3 dS/m.

††† Data from one cultivar, "Probred".

‡‡‡ Average of several varieties. Suwannee and Coastal are about 20 percent more tolerant, and common and Greenfield are about

20 percent less tolerant than the average.

§§§ Average for Boer, Wilman, Sand and Weeping cultivars. Lehmann seems about 50 percent more tolerant.

Table A1.2. Salt tolerance of woody crops

These data serve only as a guideline to relative tolerances among crops. Absolute tolerances vary, depending upon climate, soil conditions, and cultural practices. The data are applicable when rootstocks are used that do not accumulate Na+ or Cl- rapidly or when these ions do not predominate in the soil.

Botanical and common names follow the convention of Hortus Third (Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium Staff, 1976) where possible.

§ In gypsiferous soils, plants will tolerate an ECe about 2 dS/m higher than indicated.

Ratings are defined by the boundaries in Figure A1.1. Ratings with an * are estimates.

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