SIDEBAR: How to tell when salt is really hurting your fields

What are the warning signs that salt contamination might be at work?
Keith Reid, the Ontario agriculture ministry’s soil fertility specialist, says the sodium portion of salt can stick to clay and therefore can build in soil and hurt its structure. An indication of buildup would be the soil falling apart and turning to mud when it rains, making it susceptible to crusting.

High concentrations of salts will reduce a plant’s growth because they affect the process it uses to draw water and nutrients. “In serious situations, you’ll get roots that actually look like they’re burned. They’ll be darkened and look like somebody has held a lit match to them,” he says.

Better Farming - August/September 2009