Why is soil solution sampling important?

June 13, 2012

Blogging on a regular basis about soil solution sampling is no easy task. When I Google ‘Soil solution sampling’ my own blogs dominate the first page! Flattering as this may be it doesn’t help when it comes to the next topic! I am surprised about this lack of general information on this topic because monitoring a soil to establish its permeability or ‘resistance’ is an essential element of better irrigation and so improved agriculture in terms of yields and crop choices – isn’t it?

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to come across a paper by Steven Falivene, dated November 2008 on Soil Solution monitoring in Australia (http://www.irrigationfutures.org.au/imagesDB/news/SoilSolutionreportIM0408-FINAL.pdf). A lengthy and detailed account of his research on the sustainability of irrigated agriculture which is dependent on how well solutes in water are managed.

Why is this important? A lack of water or a need to use less water in agriculture could potentially lead to a build-up of salt in the root zone to a level that could damage crops in the future. In addition, because water is being used more efficiently it is difficult to know whether nutrients levels in the root zone are also building up to dangerous levels and if we begin to use more recycled water and groundwater of lower quality in agriculture high levels of nutrients could be recycled to crops so it seems obvious the situation needs monitoring.

The worrying find of Steven Falivene’s research was that the momentum for monitoring soil solution was not maintained and this may be down to a lack of awareness of the tools but most significantly, even if routine soil solution samples were taken, there was no unambiguous way to interpret the results and make definitive recommendations.

I’m no expert in this field but what seems clear is that soil solution research using ceramic cups to collect samples is vital for those involved in the irrigation of crops because of the issues they face which include high soil salinity, maximising marketable production, reducing fertiliser costs and reducing environmental impact. Soil solution analysis is a tool that can assist in managing these issues.

So next time I Google this subject hopefully I’ll find more research on the topic!

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