Combined Application of Compost, Zeolite and a Raised Bed Planting Method Alleviate Salinity Stress and Improve Cereal Crop Productivity in Arid Regions
Soil salinity and climate change have a negative impact on global food production and security, especially in arid regions with limited water resources. Despite the importance of planting methods, irrigation, and soil amendments in improving crop yield, their combined impact on saline soil properties and cereal crop yield is unknown. Therefore, the current study investigated the combined effect of soil amendments (i.e., compost, C and zeolite, Z) and planting methods such as raised bed (M1) and conventional (M2), and different fractions of leaching requirements from irrigation water, such as 5% (L1) and 10% (L2), on the soil physio-chemical properties and wheat and maize productivity in an arid region. The combined application of C + Z, L2, and M1 decreased soil salinity (EC) and sodicity (ESP) after wheat production by 37.4 and 28.0%, respectively, and significantly decreased by these factors by 41.0 and 43.0% after a maize growing season. Accordingly, wheat and maize yield increased by 16.0% and 35.0%, respectively under such a combination of treatments, when compared to crops grown on unamended soil, irrigated with lower leaching fraction and planted using conventional methods. This demonstrates the significance of using a combination of organic and inorganic amendments, appropriate leaching requirements and the raised bed planting method as an environmentally friendly approach to reclaiming saline soils and improving cereal crop production, which is required for global food security.