The availability of brackish groundwater in the Negev Desert, Israel has motivated the cultivation of various salinity tolerant crops, such as olives trees. The long term suitability of surface drip irrigation (DI) or subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) in arid regions is questionable, due to salinity concerns, in particular, when brackish irrigation water is employed. Nevertheless, DI and SDI have been adopted as the main irrigation methods in olive orchards, located in the Negev Desert. Reports on continued reduction in olive yields and, essentially, olive orchard uprooting are the motivation for this study. Specifically, the main objective is to quantify the spatial distribution of salinity and sodicity in the active root-zone of olive orchards, irrigated with brackish water (electrical conductivity; EC = 4.4 dS m-1) for two decades using DI and subsequently SDI. Sum 246 soil samples, representing 2 m2 area and depths of 60 cm, in line and perpendicular to the drip line, were analyzed for salinity and sodicity quantities. A relatively small leaching-zone was observed below the emitters depth (20 cm), with EC values similar to the irrigation water. However, high to extreme EC values were observed between nearby emitters, above and below the dripline. Specifically, in line with the dripline, EC values ranged from 10 to 40 dS m-1 and perpendicular to it, from 40 to 120 dS m-1. The spatial distribution of sodicity quantities, namely, the sodium adsorption ratio (SAR, (meq L-1)0.5) and exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP) resembled the one obtained for the EC. In line with the dripline, from 15 to 30 (meq L-1) 0.5 and up to 27 %, in perpendicular to the drip line from 30 to 60 (meq L-l)0.5 and up to 33 %. This study demonstrates the importance of long terms sustainable irrigation regime in arid regions in particular under DI or SDI. Reclamation of these soils with gypsum, for example, is essential. Any alternative practices, such as replacing olive trees and the further introduction of even high salinity tolerant plants (e.g. jojoba) in this region will intensify the salt buildup without leaving any option for soil reclamation in the future.
- Arid region
- Brackish water
- Olives trees
- Sub surface drip irrigation (SDI)