Plants often are only as strong as the soil in which they grow. While certain greenery may thrive no matter where it’s planted, soil conditions are often key to successful growing.
Sodic soil is one condition people may experience at home or in commercial farming operations. Sodic soils, sometimes called saline-alkali soils or dispersive soils, are defined as having high levels of exchangeable sodium and low levels of total salts, according to the Colorado State University Extension. These conditions compromise growing conditions because sodic soils tend to be poorly drained and crust over. Water intake also can be poor in sodic soils, and pH is usually high – coming in above 9.0.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development of the Government of Western Australia advises a simple sodic soil test to check for sodicity. One can collect dry soil aggregates (crumbs of soil) from different depths. Those crumbs should be placed into a clear jar of distilled water, taking care not to mix or agitate the soil. The water around the edges of sodic soil will become cloudy and appear milky. For highly dispersive soil, the dispersion will be evident after about 10 to 30 minutes. Moderately sodic soil may take 2 hours.
Individuals can take steps to improve sodic soil. Gypsum is the most commonly used amendment for sodic soil, according to Science Direct. It also can reduce the harmful effects of high-sodium irrigation waters. Gypsum is a mineral that is composed of hydrated calcium sulfate. Gypsum has an effect on reducing the rate of soil erosion. It is more effective when gypsum is spread on the soil surface rather than mixed in.
Limestone, which also contains calcium, is another additive that can amend sodic soils. Gardeners may want to add calcium to the soil because it replaces the sodium and then the sodium can be leached out.
Additional mitigation methods for sodic soils include changing plant species or varieties to more tolerant ones that will grow more readily.
Commercial farmers or home gardeners may encounter sodic soil. Though sodic soil is not ideal, it can be remedied in various ways.
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