Agriculture and Farming Technology Updates

How to improve and manage saline soil?

Salinity and alkalinity is a very serious problem for 67.3 lakh hectares of land in the country.


Agriculture is possible on 47 percent of the country’s land (1597 million hectares). Whereas 67.3 lakh hectares of land is such for which salinity and alkalinity have become a very serious problem. This reduces the fertility of the soil and decreases the yield. The problem of salinity and alkalinity is usually seen in such arid and semi-arid areas where the salts present in saline soils do not have the drainage system or where there is not enough rain. There are 38 lakh hectares of waste land in the country, which are being improved and made cultivable.

Saline soils are high in sodium

The problem of saline land in the country is especially visible on a large scale in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Rajasthan. In these large states, three-fourth of the total saline and alkaline soil area of ​​the country is present. Its area is about 67.3 lakh hectares. Saline soils are high in sodium, calcium, magnesium or their chlorides and sulphates. All these elements are soluble in water. A white crust of these soluble saline elements is formed on the upper surface of the soil of the field. 

How to improve and manage saline soil?

The infestation of saline soil is often seen on land where there is a problem of water logging. That is why it is also called waterlogged saline soil or sand land. Due to water logging, the soluble salts present in the soil float to the top surface of the soil and due to lack of proper drainage system, they remain frozen on the soil surface after evaporation of water. That is why, if proper drainage is done in saline soil, its physical condition usually gets better as most of the soluble salts that form a white crust in the field are washed away with water.

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According to experts from ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal and Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University, Jabalpur, white crust of alkaline and saline soils on the basis of electrical conductivity, exchangeable sodium content and pH value is classified. 

Soil classification 

Nature of SoilElectrical Conductivity (Deci Simmons/m)Exchangeable Sodium (%)pH Value 
alkaline and alkaline <4.0>15>8.5

Crop selection to improve saline soil 

Crop selection is also very important in improving saline soils. Salt tolerant crops and varieties should be adopted on such land, so that maximum yield can be obtained. Oilseed crops with low water requirement can tolerate saline water easily whereas pulse crops are extremely sensitive to it. The salt tolerance of crops and selection of improved varieties also depend on the soil nature of the field. That is why by tolerating the salinity or alkalinity of irrigation water, only varieties of different crops developed to give higher yield should be adopted. 

Salt tolerant varieties of crops 

Crop Salt tolerant speciesAlkali tolerant species
Paddy CSR 30, CSR 36, Sumati and Bhootnath CSR 10, CSR 13, CSR 23, Sumati and Bhootnath, CSR 30 
Wheat WH 157, Raj 2560, Raj 3077, Raj 2325 KLR 1-4, KLR 19, KLR 210, KLR 213, Raj 3077 
Mustard CS 52, CS 54, CS 56, CS 330-1,CS 52, CS 54, CS 56 DIRA Pusa bld, RH 30 336 
Chana Karnal Chana-1Karnal Chana-1 
MilletHSB 60, HM 269 HM 331, HM 427 HSB 392, HM 269, HM 280

Source: ICAR-Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal 

How to improve saline and alkaline soil? 

Application of gypsum: Gypsum is a very effective correcting agent for the improvement of alkaline soils. It is easily available in the market at cheap price. Because of its cheap and extremely useful characteristic, it is widely used. But before using gypsum, it should be ensured that its purity is not less than 75%. If the pH value of the soil is high, then gypsum should be applied directly to the fields. Generally 10 to 15 tonnes per hectare of gypsum is required to improve alkaline soil. But to know how much quantity of gypsum will be suitable for a particular field, farmers should get the soil tested and treat it.

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Drainage method: Since the saline soil starts growing in the fields where there is no proper drainage system, it is very important to strengthen the drainage system by making maximum number of drains etc. This method is very useful for where the layers in the land are hard or the groundwater level is high. The proper management of irrigation on such land is also very important, because the amount of irrigation, the interval between them and the crop to be planted, all have a direct relationship with the groundwater level. More or less irrigation and improper spacing also reduce the yield.

Leaching Method

In this method, first of all, the field suffering from salinity is divided into small pieces and bunds it. After this, water is filled in the field up to a height of 10-15 cm. Due to this, the soluble salts present in the soil dissolve in water and go below the level where the roots of the crop plants reach and get nutrition for themselves. Leaching method should be adopted in those areas where the groundwater level is very low. Otherwise, there will be a risk that the soluble salts of the soil will start polluting the ground water itself. Summer season is considered best for leaching method. The leaching method should not be used in areas where the lower soil surfaces are hard layers.

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Area of ​​saline soil in Indian states 

State Saline Soils (Thousand Ha) Alkaline Soils (Thousand Ha) Total Saline Soils (Thousand Ha)
Andhra Pradesh77.6196.6274.2
Gujarat 1680.6541.42222.0
Uttar Pradesh22.01347.01369.0
West Bengal441.30441.3
Madhya Pradesh0139.7139.7
Tamil Nadu13.2354.8368.0
Andaman and Nicobar77.0077.0
Jammu and Kashmir017.517.5
Total Area2809.83953.36745.1

Total saline and alkaline soils: 67.5 lakh hectares

Source: ICAR-National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Planning, Nagpur 


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