Soil and water salinity/sodicity is a major agricultural problem around the world including Pakistan. The use of these saline-sodic soils and waters is becoming essential to feed and improve the liviling standards of the people of these salt-affected areas. This is also important to decrease the disposal problems of the poor quality drainage water. The rehabilitation of the barren lands is also important for the betterment and conservation of the environment. This project aims to demonstrate the rehabilitation of salt-affected land at Proka farm, UAF through the production of salt tolerant tree and forage species. Salt tolerant plant species are very important for agricultural production from marginal and salt-affected lands. These plant species are historically being used as a source of food, fodder and fuel but with poor production. These plant species differ in their ability to grow and yield on barren salt-affected lands and are very valuable genetic resource for these lands. It is dire need of the time to collect the salt tolerant high yielding tree and forage species from around the world and introduce these to the local farmers. This project will demonstrate this technology of valuable genetic resources at the University farm for the observation and education of the farmers of the salt-affected lands of Pakistan. This technology transfer project is very important for agriculture in Pakistan where food, fuel and forage production are far behind the demands.
Although several salt tolerant cultivars and species of agronomic crops are available for growing on saline soils yet these cultivars fail to produce good yields on highly degraded salt affected soils. Reclamation of such soils through physical approach is also not feasible and cost effective. Re-vegetation of these lands with salt tolerant tree and forage species is a viable approach mainly because of its low input requirement and increased demand of forage, fuel and timber wood. Trees may have many more functions including shelter and shade for the people and animals, wind breaks, and water conservation and ecological rehabilitation agents. Above all the utilization of barren salt-affected areas is highly environment friendly activity.
A patch of barren salt affected land has been selected at Proka Farm, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Photography and soil characterization of the salt-affected fields will be carried out. Ten to fifteen salt tolerant trees and grasses/shrubs has been selected based on the reported scientific information on their salt-tolerance. Seeds of these plant species are being collected and nursery is being raised during first six months of the project period. A small part of the experimental field will be kept as a control without any intervention. The field will be prepared for the plantation and the plants will be transplanted in the field at the age of 3-6 months. The plants will be irrigated by the available canal/ tube well water as and when required. The weak and dead plants will be replaced by the new ones during 6-12 project months. The experiment will be continued for 3 years and data regarding plant height, stem circumference, number of leaves and branches will be recorded after every six months. Leaf, water and soil samples will also be collected at an interval of six months. Leaf samples will be analysed for Na+, K+ and Cl-, water samples will be analysed for EC, RSC and SAR and, soil samples will be analysed for EC, SAR and organic matter.
- To develop a demonstration site comprising of salt-tolerant plant species on the salt-affected land at Proka Farm University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.
- Farmer education and dissemination of technology to the other stakeholders.
Expected benefits/ Recommendations
- Tree plantation on barren salt-affected lands will be a source of income from these otherwise non-productive lands.
- The rehabilitation of the barren lands by trees and other plants will contribute to ecological and environmental rehabilitation and conservation. This is a low cost and environmental friendly approach for the sustainable utilization of the salt-affected soil and waters in Pakistan and around the world.
- The farmers are recommended to utilize their salt-affected land for the production of salt tolerant tree and forage species.