Managing sodic soils for better productivity and farmers’ income by integrating use of salt tolerant rice varieties and matching agronomic practices
Regaining the agricultural potential of salt–affected lands offers an opportunity of production enhancement and sustaining food security in less favourable environments. This study aims at deciphering the synergy of adaptive and mitigation strategies– using salt tolerant rice varieties with affordable land reclamation and crop management options. The study was conducted following farmers’ participatory approach for 3 years (2017–19) in sodicity–affected Ghaghar Basin of Haryana, India. Compared with the locally adapted variety PB1121, using the salt tolerant Basmati CSR30 resulted in less yield reduction and better returns, providing better opportunities for stabilizing crop production, and enhancing resilience and adaptation in sodic soils irrigated with alkali water. Gypsum and pressmud–mediated land reclamation reduced soil sodicity, improved salt tolerance and increased yield by ∼35 % compared to the control (2.19 t ha–1). Transplanting two seedlings per hill at 20 × 15 cm spacing resulted in better crop establishment and plant stand, with consequent increase in yield and economic gains over the farmers’ practice of randomly transplanting one seedling hill–1. The significant increase in yields with addition of ∼25 % more N confirmed the farmers’ perception of using more N in sodic soils, suggesting the need for revising existing recommendations. Curve Expert model revealed genotypic variation in N requirements, with 90 kg N ha–1 for CSR30 and 140 kg N ha–1 for PB1121 as economically optimum in sodic soils. Transformative improvements involving the use of adapted stress–tolerant varieties with location–specific agronomic practices increased yield by 6% over the existing recommendations and by 24 % over farmer’s practices; showing potential for bridging the rice yield gaps, halting salt–induced land degradation and improving rural livelihood in salt–affected areas.