Salt causing area soybean problems

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 23, 2010

VIDALIA — Soybean crops around Concordia Parish are starting to show signs of struggle, as salts in the irrigation water are making it hard for them to grow.

Associate professor and extension specialist of soil fertility and nutrient management J. Stevens said this problem did not happen overnight.

“This problem is something that we have seen become larger over the past few decades,” he said.

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Glen Daniels, LSU AgCenter county agent in Concordia Parish said the levels of salts in the water this year are the highest he has ever seen.

“I’ve been here for 30 years, and this is the worst I have ever seen the salt levels,” Daniels said. “This is a tremendous problem, scattered throughout the area.”

Stevens said around the area the clay-textured soil is also playing a part in the problem.

“Clay-textured soil has a large accumulation of salts in the root zone,” Stevens said. “There is no good drainage for the salt to be pushed out, causing it to accumulate in the plant.”

Daniels said there is an aquifer in Mississippi that pumps water to the crops. This pump is where a lot of the salt is coming from.

“Everybody has been pumping water out of this aquifer for their crops,” he said. “Water with higher salt levels in it is pumping out because salt sinks to the bottom, and the aquifer is getting lower with time.”

Daniels said salt in the water does not just affect soybeans.

“Soybeans and rice rotate being planted in the area,” he said. “The water problem will also hurt rice crops in the winter time.”

With local farmers staring at a possibly damaging financial situation, Daniels said they are working on ways to help solve this problem.

“Right now we are testing new varieties of soybeans and rice,” he said. “The crops we are testing are resistant to salt.”

Daniels said they would be testing these varieties for three years with no irrigation, using only rainwater.

“So far, all but one have shown resistance,” he said.

He also said there is something the farmers can do to help stop the problem.

“Do not pump the well water to your crops,” Daniels said.

Stevens said for farmers to try flushing the salt out of their crops if they can.

“Get some good quality water, and pump it to your crops to push the salts out your root zone,” Stevens said. “This should help the crops grow better.”