Coping with salinity in irrigated agriculture: Crop evapotranspiration and water management issues

Elsevier, Agricultural Water Management, Volume 227, 20 January 2020, 105832
P.S. Minhas, Tiago B. Ramos, Alon Ben-Gal, Luis S. Pereira

Soil and water salinity and associated problems are a major challenge for global food production. Strategies to cope with salinity include a better understanding of the impacts of temporal and spatial dynamics of salinity on soil water balances vis-à-vis evapotranspiration (ET) and devising optimal irrigation schedules and efficient methods. Both steady state and transient models are now available for predicting salinity effects on reduction of crop growth and means for its optimization. This paper presents a brief review on the different approaches available, focusing on the FAO56 framework for coping with the effects of soil salinity on crop ET and yields. The FAO56 approach, applied widely in soil water balance models, is commonly used to compute water requirements, including leaching needs. It adopts a daily stress coefficient (Ks) representing both water and salt stresses to adjust the crop coefficient (Kc) when it is multiplied by the grass reference ETo to obtain the actual crop ET values for saline environments (ETc act = Ks Kc ETo). The same concept is also applied to the dual Kc approach, with Ks used to adjust the basal crop coefficient (Kcb). A review on applications of Ks is presented showing that the FAO56 approach may play an interesting role in water balance computations aimed at supporting irrigation scheduling. Transient state models, through alternative formulations, provide additional solutions for quantification of the salinity build-up in the root zone. These include irrigation-induced salinity, upward movement of salts from saline ground water-table, and sodification processes. Regardless of the approach, these models are now very much capable of supporting irrigation water management in saline stress conditions. For maintaining crop growth under salinity environments, soil-crop-water management interventions consistent with site-specific conditions are then discussed. Adequateness of irrigation methods, cyclic uses of multi-salinity waters and proper irrigation scheduling are further analyzed as examples of efficient means to obviate the effects of salinity.