Farm Progress

What to plant if your soluble salt levels are 2-4, 4-6 or more than 6 millimhos per centimeter.

June 29, 2018

1 Min Read
WICKS' TIPS: Abbey Wick, NDSU Extension soil health specialist, offers tips on managing saline soils.

Abbey Wick, North Dakota State University Extension soil health specialist, says the first step to prevent saline areas from expanding is to carve out the problem area from the rest of the field.

"I am a big fan of splitting the field, especially early on in the process when you see your crop yields starting to decline in what may be a salt-affected area," Wick says.

Planting a different, more salt-tolerant crop is a great way to actively manage those areas before they get worse, she says.

To figure out what to plant, test the soil for soluble salts.

"If the soluble salt levels are between 2-4 millimhos per centimeter then I'd plant wheat as a cash crop or if you think you might use cereal rye as a cover crop tool on your farm, seed that in the fall. After harvest of wheat or cereal rye, seed a cover crop. At these levels, you can use barley, radish, turnip, sunflower. Keep it cheap and rely on the wheat or rye re-growth as part of the mix," she says.

If the salt levels are between 4-6 millimhos per centimeter, forage barley is your best bet as a cash drop, Wick says.

Follow it with a cover crop, but rely the barley re-growth as the primary tool.

If levels are over 6 millimhos per centimeter, then using a perennial grass may be the ticket.

"But always test these areas by planting barley first and see what you get," she says. Barley seed is less expensive than grass seed and, if it takes, residue can be built up for the expensive perennial seeds to establish."

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