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how to desalinate soil?

 
Thomas warren
Posts: 67
Location: Yakima County, E WA
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I just moved to a house, and a couple relatively small sections of ground were covered with a white powdery substance, which fellow permie Nicanor tasted and confirmed to be salt.
Is there any method to remove/nullify the salt buildup?

Or, does anyone know plants that really like salt?
 
alex Keenan
Posts: 487
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You may wish to first determine why this area is high in salt.
If possible the first thing you want to do is stop the salt from reaching you property.
Second, best way to remove salt is to allow it to flush out with rain cycle. This assumes that property can get clean water and that water has some place to drain to.
Once you have these in line. You might want to have a soil test. Correct any in-balances you discover.
Assuming all these things have been done.

You can start by planting salt tolerant plants. Depending on your location there are a likely to be a number of plants that might be able to live in your conditions.
Now assuming the salt can leach out and drain away over time, you should see a reduction in salinity over time allowing you to plant less salt tolerant plants.
 
Marvin Cans
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Though high salinity soil can be damaging to plants, it can be relatively easy to deal with. Following the simple protocol of soil test, natural irrigation, and then application of gypsum if necessary should bring your soil back to a fertile state. In fact, as Rubens notes, "Gypsum has been used in parts of the arid western US to restore barren high sodium soils to full agricultural productivity, allowing growth of even salt sensitive crops". Regardless of your situation, there is a high probability that taking these steps in this order will rectify the condition of your yard.
 
John Alabarr
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According to geoff lawton, if you add a bunch of mulch to an area, microbes will use the mulch as food and produce substances that neutralize the salts. The salts are still there, but they are inert.
 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
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Location: Richmond, Utah
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When Bill Mollison came out to stay with my friend Stan, here in Northern Utah, he saw the poor state of Stan's orchard was because of clay and salt. So he had Stan gather all his drywall scraps and throw them,paper and all, down on the soil sheet mulch style. It worked like a charm!
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 1985
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Gypsum board (drywall) is perfect to use for desalination projects, you can do as Bill suggested and just lay it down A la sheet mulch or you grind it or smash it up and spread it that way, both will let the gypsum leach into the soil and neutralize the salts.

Gypsum board can be found free at just about any construction site, once they are putting up the drywall, there will be many pieces discarded by the drywall installers. I've never had to buy any, I just find the homes being built, talk to the drywall installers and usually get invited to pick up the leftover scraps. On occasion I get a call and am asked if I want to come to a site they are doing as a result of a renovation or addition. If you get on their radar, they may look at you as an asset to their business since you keep the costs of disposal down which keeps more money in their pockets.
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 774
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Aren't they contaminated? I think what we call Gyprock doesn't it come from CHina?
 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
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Location: Richmond, Utah
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It will say right on the paper on the end of the boards where the paper tapes the 2 pieces together if it is made in the USA. I only use brands exclusively made in the USA. These have some toxins in the glue that holds the paper on, but so does most paper mulch like cardboard and newspaper.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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1) Pour some water and dissolve the salt.Then soak it down into the soil below 10ft. Then have to soil dry and the salt will move back up but keep it continually soaked, well watered where the salt layer is at least 5ft below.

2)Pour some fresh soil on top of it

3)Get plants that like high alkalinity or that can grow by the sea or that doesn't mine saline conditions.

4)Get some woodchip, then some microbes/fungi that can extract minerals from salty soil. Once the microbes are established, they will become the plants root and trade minerals for sugar from the tree.
 
Chris DeBoer
Posts: 30
Location: Boulder, CO
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S Bengi wrote:1)

4)Get some woodchip, then some microbes/fungi that can extract minerals from salty soil. Once the microbes are established, they will become the plants root and trade minerals for sugar from the tree.


I getting ready to move onto a 74 acre property in Western Colorado.....Given I haven't had the chance to do soil tests or talk to the local NRCS guy/gal...I'm looking for some advice on the salts that have come up.

So far my plan is as follows:
1) Test soils and water and determine source of salts (we're on silty clay loam that geologically speaking are Salt Flats so its probably in part due to subsoil)
2) As I deep rip inoculate with proper soil amendment (remineralize where deficient, compost tea/extract, biofertilizer etc.)
3) get a good ground cover in along with alkaline and salt tolerant plants and dynamic accumulators (pH is about 8-8.5 and covering the ground will help bring evaporation down and leaving salts in the topsoil)
4) Also compost with good fungal foods as it used to be native grassland and is now chockfull of weeds (indicating bacterial dominant microbiology)
5) Test again

Would composting with some existing soil help proliferate existing bacteria already working to make nutrients available in alkaline/salty soils?
How can I identify or encourage these microbes/fungi that can extract minerals from salty soil?

Thanks and any other suggestions are gladly welcomed!

Chris D.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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Some new sheetrock (gypsum board) is reinforced with fiberglass, which you might not want on/in your soil.

Asparagus can tolerate so much salt that it can be broadcast onto asparagus plots to kill weeds. Other plants native to seashores, and therefore tolerant, include beets and most of the brassicas to some degree.
 
Chris DeBoer
Posts: 30
Location: Boulder, CO
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Just found a couple articles that might have some science to back up what Geoff was able to accomplish....

Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi
 
Chris DeBoer
Posts: 30
Location: Boulder, CO
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REMEDIATING STRATEGY FOR SALINE SOILS

I've been poking around some more on the internet on this issue. I while back a read a study out of Montana State University about using saltbush to mine the salt out of the soils.

Special glands on the leaves accumulate the salts and then burst, if caught or collected somehow, this could be a cheap and chemical free way to desalinate the soil.
Saltbush can also be used as animal fodder but I don't know enough about how animals might metabolize these mineral salts to know if it will just come out the back end.

My only issue is, if these salts DO contain valuable minerals then collecting them might also result in mineral deficiencies, an expense I'll take on by putting them back from some other source.

Does anyone know how mineral salts can be best incorporated back into the nutrient cycle without affecting the soil?

The best I can come up with is cycling them through animals or microbes while trying to cover the soil, improve water infiltration and adding organic matter so that when they do make it back to the field they aren't left at the surface by evaporating water. Sounds like a strategy worth trying but might take a couple years to see the benefits....so be it.
 
2017 Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
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