Reclamation of saline lands seems difficult for climatic and economic reasons, but cultivation of salt-tolerant plants is an approach to increasing productivity and improvement of salt-affected wastelands. A five-year field study was conducted to evaluate the effects of growing a salt-tolerant species Leptochloa fusca (L.) Kunth (kallar grass) on chemical properties of a saline sodic soil irrigated with poor quality groundwater. Soil salinity, sodicity and pH decreased exponentially by growing kallar grass as a result of leaching of salts from surface (0–20 cm) to lower depths (>100 cm). Concentrations of soluble cations (Na+, K+, Ca2+ and Mg2+) and anions (Cl−, SO42− and HCO3−) were reduced through to greater soil depths. A significant decline in soil pH was attributed to release of CO2 by grass roots and solublization of CaCO3. Both soil salinity and soil pH were significantly correlated with Na+, Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, Cl−, HCO3− and sodium adsorption ratio (SAR). Significant correlations were found between soluble cations (Na+, Ca2+ and K+), soluble anions (Cl−, SO42− and HCO3−) and the SAR. In contrast, there were negative correlations between soil organic matter content and all chemical properties. The ameliorative effects on the soil chemical environment were pronounced after three years of growing kallar grass. Cultivation of kallar grass enhanced leaching and interactions among soil chemical properties and thus restored soil fertility. The soil maintained the improved characteristics with further growth of the grass up to five years suggesting that growing salt-tolerant plants is a sustainable approach to biological amelioration of saline wastelands.J. Akhter, K. Mahmood, K.A. Malik, S. Ahmed and R. Murra
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