The forage and oilseed halophyte, Salicornia bigelovii Torr., was grown in gravity-drained lysimeters set in open plots of the same crop over two seasons in a coastal desert environment in Sonora, Mexico. The lysimeters were irrigated daily with seawater (40 g l-1 salts) at rates ranging from 46-225% of potential evaporation. Biomass and seed yields increased with increasing irrigation depth over the range of treatment. Biomass yields ranged from 13.6-23.1 t DM ha-1, equivalent to conventional forage crops, on seasonal water application depths of 2.3-3.8 m, but were markedly lower at lower irrigation depths. Increasing the irrigation depth lowered the soil solution salinity, resulting in greater growth and water use, and hence leaching fractions that were nearly even over irrigation treatments, averaging 0.5. Evapo-transpiration rose in direct proportion to the irrigation depth. Potential evaporation was estimated by site pan evaporation and by the Blaney-Criddle and Penman models using climatological data; the methods agreed within 15%. The ratio of evapo-transpiration to potential evaporation increased over the growing season and approached 1.5 by pan on the highest irrigation treatment due to the combined effects of high transpiration and high evaporation from the permanently moist soil surface. The best field predictor of biomass yield was the salinity of the soil moisture in the top 15 cm of soil profile, which constitutes that root zone for this crop. Root zone salinity must be kept at 70-75 g l-1 for high yields. Although irrigation and drainage requirements were high compared to conventional crops, seawater irrigation appears to be feasible in medium sand and could augment crop production along coastal deserts. The possibility of using this crop for animal production is discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Earth-Surface Processes