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Irrigation with saline water in the reclaimed marsh soils of south-west Spain: Impact on soil properties and cotton and sugar beet crops



Irrigation with saline water in the reclaimed marsh soils of south-west Spain: Impact on soil properties and cotton and sugar beet crops



Agricultural Water Management 48(2): 133-150, June



The drained and irrigated marshes in south-west Spain are formed on soils of alluvial origin from the ancient Guadalquivir river estuary. The most important characteristics of these soils are the high clay content (about 70%), high salinity, and a shallow, extremely saline, water table. The reclaimed area near Lebrija, called Sector B-XII (about 15,000 ha), has been under cultivation since 1978. Some years, however, water supply for irrigation is limited due to drought periods. The objective of this work was to evaluate the effects of irrigation with high and moderately saline waters on soil properties and growth and yield of cotton and sugar beet crops. The experiments were carried out during 1997 and 1998 in a farm plot of 12.5 ha (250 m X 500 m) in which a drainage system had been installed, consisting of cylindrical ceramic sections (0.3 m long) forming pipes 250 m long, buried at a depth of 1 m and spaced at intervals of 10 m. These drains discharge into a collecting channel perpendicular to the drains. Two subplots of 0.5 ha (20 m X 250 m) each were selected. In 1997 cotton was growing in both subplots, and irrigation was applied by furrows. One subplot (A) was irrigated with fresh water (0.9 dS m-1) during the whole season, while in the other subplot (B) one of the irrigations (at flowering stage) was with water of high salinity (22.7 dS m-1). During 1998 both subplots were cropped with sugar beet. Subplot A was irrigated with fresh water (1.7 dS m-1) during the whole season, while in subplot B two of the irrigations were with moderately saline water (5.9-7.0 dS m-1). Several measurement sites were established in each subplot. Water content profile, tensiometric profile, water table level, drainage water flow, soil salinity, and crop development and yield were monitored. The results showed that after the irrigation with high saline water (subplot B) in 1997 (cotton), the soil salinity increased. This increase was more noticeable in the top layer (0-0.3 m depth). In contrast, for the same dates, the soil of subplot A showed no changes. After five irrigations with fresh water, the salinity of the soil in the subplot B reached values similar to those before the application of saline water. In 1998 (sugar beet) the application of moderately saline water in subplot B also increased soil salinity, but this increase was lower than in 1997. The irrigation with high saline water affected crop development. Cotton growth was reduced in comparison with that in the subplot irrigated only with fresh water. Despite this negative effect on crop development, the crop yield was the same as in the subplot A. Sugar beet development did not show differences between subplots, but yield was higher in subplot B than in subplot A.

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Accession: 010885835

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DOI: 10.1016/s0378-3774(00)00120-7



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