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© 1997, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


In irrigated agriculture, the hazard of salt water is a constant threat. Poor-quality irrigation water is generally more concerning as the climate changes from humid to arid conditions. Salinity is not normally a threat where precipitation is a major source of salt-free water for crop production. Water entering the soil which is not stored or consumed by evapotranspiration moves through the crop root zone, eventually reaching the water table. This percolating process flushes (leaches) soluble salts. Less rainfall means smaller amounts of precipitation available to leach salts. In Nebraska, rainfall decreases from 30 inches in the east to 15 inches in the west. Therefore, salinity is more likely a problem in the western portion of the state. If the amount of water leaching through the soil is too low to remove salts, the soil's salt content increases and crop yields may decrease. In such situations, the soil is said to be salt-affected.