Keep Your Trees Happy — Avoid High Soil Salinity
Spring has officially sprung, which means that summer is fast approaching! Many of us are starting to have summer thoughts — like beautifully blue ocean water welcoming our winter-frozen toes, a perfectly seasoned top-choice selection of humanely-raised meat on the barbeque, or maybe a relaxing margarita with a salted rim. While these summer thoughts start to occupy our minds, we should note that one thing they all share is a salty reminder of an important environmental factor within our soil — salt content, also known as soil salinity.
Salinization, or the process by which water-soluble salts accumulate in the soil, occurs through natural and anthropogenic processes. Primary salinization is the result of the accumulation of salts over a long period of time through natural processes such as the weathering of parent materials (underlying geological material) and the deposition of oceanic salt transported by weather events. Secondary salinization results from human activities that change the balance of the soil water. According to the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), secondary salinization is a result of the “excessive use of water for irrigation due to inefficient irrigation distribution systems, poor on-farm management practices, and inappropriate management of drainage water.” Other causes of secondary salinization can include land clearing and the replacement of perennial vegetation with annual vegetation.
Primary and secondary salinization can both affect vegetation in the same way — by decreasing growth rates and the overall plant population per unit area. Growth rate and plant stand are affected because the presence of salt in the soil reduces the ability of plants to take up water. High soil salinity can also inhibit plant growth by the rising water tables and the saturation of soil, preventing the possible leaching of water-soluble salt.
High soil salinity can be limited through several effective management practices which can also help to ensure the optimal growth of vegetation. Homeowners and land managers can help mitigate soil salinity and salinization by testing soil periodically, selecting plant(s) that fit the specific conditions of the property, ensuring the proper intervals between watering, and using the appropriate fertilizers. The addition of native trees can also act as a defense to high soil salinity by preventing surface water from moving downward to groundwater, while also helping to establish perennial vegetation, improve productivity and increase natural regeneration.
If you feel as if your property is being affected by high soil salinity or any other soil-based illness, contact Donegan’s Tree Service’s expert team to determine the best course of action to keep your trees happy, healthy, and ready for summer!
—Crys Bauer, B.S. in Sustainable Resource Management & Donegan’s Tree Service team writer