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Home Grown: Studying soil salinity

Home Grown: Studying soil salinity

YUMA, Ariz. - One of the most key nutrients to keeping a plant healthy is water. But what happens to the health of a plant when water is a scarce commodity? 

In this week’s Home Grown, we will learn how the University of Arizona studies irrigation and salinity to keep crops happy. 

The University of Arizona believes that the best plant management practices are methods that maximize production efficiency while minimizing environmental impact from crop production.

Since water is becoming more scarce, the agriculture center is being challenged to figure out how to use water more efficiently.  

For example, the salinity research project run by Dr. Charles Sanchez focuses on figuring out the water needs of a crop. 

Though salts have certain nutrients for a plant, it is harder for plants to absorb water with high salt content.   

Sodium can also destroy soil structure.

Research scientists like Dr. Sanchez look at how to make efficient water delivery systems like drip irrigation. 

Systems like these both supply water to crops and manage the buildup of salts, hence, salinity. 

To track data, Dr. Sanchez and his team use Eddy Covariance systems and space based sensors. 

“What Eddie covariance systems do is measure every component of the energy balance equation and crop evapotranspiration is one of them. It can also be measured with space-based sensors either on satellite, or sensors that are fixed to the space station. We use our ground stations to calibrate algorithms to give us similar predictions from space-based sensors,” said Dr. Sanchez.

Post-doctorate, graduate and undergraduate students work with Dr. Sanchez to gain understanding and experience with salinity out in the field.

This project has been so crucial to irrigation, even programs like NASA help fund research.


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