With the dry conditions, I’ve been getting a lot of texts and calls about managing salinity and why are the spots getting bigger? This is a great question for Tom DeSutter, a professor of soil science at North Dakota State University, who has been researching the dynamics of salinity for the past several years:
First, we generally don’t want to till these areas, but if you do, plant right into it after tillage. Get something growing as soon as you can to manage the water. This is where you’ll put your small grain.
Next, if the saline spot still isn’t growing anything, try to work your way into the area. This means seeding the perimeter to a small grain and just leave the really hot spots in the center alone. Don’t make yourself crazy doing this, but there are borders or perimeters that can be managed and with time you will work your way in.
Lastly, be patient. This is probably the most difficult, for anyone. It takes time and you can’t expect rapid changes overnight, especially if conditions stay dry and there is not any precipitation to leach the salts deeper into the profile. Keep in mind that we have seen these approaches work, but the changes are over several years. While you’re trying to be patient, you can call your Extension agent to catch up and talk about your concerns, or watch NDSU Soil Health YouTube videos. There’s plenty of those to keep you busy. Do something else to pass the time instead of fixating on the saline area.
Abbey Wick is an Extension soil health specialist at North Dakota State University.