Pre-irrigation of a severely-saline soil with in-situ water to establish dryland forages
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Alfalfa serves as one of the most important forage plants in North America. It is also the recommended remedial crop for dryland salinity control. But, because of its limited salt tolerance, it does not establish satisfactorily in severely or moderately saline soils. A series of irrigations with the in-situ ground water located beneath a severely-saline site were delivered across seedbeds prepared within the same site prior to seeding ‘Beaver’ alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and ‘ AC Saltlander’ green wheatgrass (Elymus Hoffmannii). In this field study conducted in semiarid Saskatchewan, fall irrigations with 4.6 dS/m-water from a shallow, on-site, backhoe-dug well fitted with a solar-powered pump preceded spring seeding. Irrigation treatments ranged from zero to 2530 mm in total applied water. Plant emergence, spacing, height, cover, and forage yield of the alfalfa were significantly improved following pre-irrigation. Mean plant emergence increased from 20 to 79% for the alfalfa. The wheatgrass height and forage yield also improved significantly, but showed only an upward trend in emergence, spacing, height, and cover. The mean plant height in July increased from 90 to 159 mm for the wheatgrass and from 35 to 140 mm for the alfalfa. Based on linear regression of irrigated volume, every 119.3 mm of irrigated, in-situ water up to 2530 mm increased alfalfa forage yield by 10 g/m2.
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