SALTFREE - Salinization in irrigated areas: risk evaluation and prevention
Fernando Santos, Instituto Dom Luiz, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
Salinization, Irrigation, Soil conservation, Water conservation, Sustainable agriculture
The aim of this project is to develop a framework to evaluate the salinization risk in irrigated production systems in the Mediterranean basin and to propose management practices to prevent or correct salinization mechanisms. We want to be able to advise managers of production systems about practices can reduce the vulnerability to salinization and conserve soil and water. Salinization has been identified as a major cause for soil degradation in countries around the Mediterranean. Soil salinization limits agricultural productivity and can ultimately cause desertification and abandonment of the land. Salinization can also affect the quality of both ground and surface water resources, degrade infrastructures, and decrease biodiversity. Such effects represent major negative social, economic, and environmental impacts.
The ecological conditions of the Mediterranean region favour salt accumulation in soils. Furthermore, agricultural practices such as irrigation and fertilization may further promote salt accumulation and accelerate land degradation in Mediterranean environments. At the same time, irrigation is of primal importance to increase agricultural production. The irrigated area in Mediterranean basin is expected to expand, as a mean to increase production, and as result of climate change, with the annual precipitation being likely to decrease in most of the Mediterranean basin.
The salinization risk in irrigated production systems depends on natural factors such as the soil type and the local climate, but also on the quality of the irrigation water, irrigation and fertilization management practices. We want to understand how these factors interact and make a production system more or less vulnerable to salinization.
The work plan includes defining case-study production systems with varying parameters: soil type, irrigation and fertilization management; measurement of the pedosphere with geophysical methods (electromagnetic induction) during at least two periods of the irrigation cycle and during two consecutive years, in order to analyse the temporal variability of the salinity; and numerical modelling of the production systems and simulation under scenarios such as climate change and variability in the quality of the irrigation water. The result of our work is a powerful framework that can be used to achieve sustainable agricultural intensification. SALTFREE gathers scientists from around the Mediterranean in order to enhance knowledge about soil and water conservation in irrigation areas, namely prevention of soil salinization. We propose to do this by using innovative technological approaches, by harmonizing processes, and by gathering competencies in different areas. The project plans collaborative research and cross-training of young scientists, and continuous dissemination and publication of the results.