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Modeling irrigated cotton with shallow groundwater in the Aral Sea Basin of Uzbekistan: II. Soil salinity dynamics


Years of ill-managed irrigation have triggered secondary soil salinization in the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan located in the Aral Sea basin. To assess the magnitude and dynamics of secondary soil salinization, to quantify improved management strategies and to derive updated irrigation standards, the soil water model Hydrus-1D was used. Water and soil salinity dynamics in three cotton fields with different soil textures were monitored and simulated for the years 2003 and 2005. Until now in Khorezm, overall soil salinity could only be controlled by pre-season salt leaching using high amounts of water. This water, however, may not be available anymore in the near future because of global climate change and shrinking fresh water resources. Simulations confirmed that the present leaching practice is barely effective. At two out of the three locations within a sandy loam field, leaching did not remove salts from the 2 m profile. Instead, salts were only shifted from the upper (0–0.8 m) to the lower (0.8–2 m) soil layer. Strong groundwater contribution to evapotranspiration triggered secondary (re)-salinization of the topsoil during the cropping season. As a consequence, salt amounts in the top 0.8 m of soil increased from 9 to 22 Mg ha−1 in the field with loamy texture, and from 4 to 12 Mg ha−1 in the field with sandy texture. Management strategy analyses revealed that reducing soil evaporation by a surface residue layer would notably decrease secondary soil salinization. Here, owing to the reduced capillary rise of groundwater, post-season salt contents of the three fields were reduced by between 12 and 19% when compared with residue-free conditions. Even more effective would be improving the efficiency of the drainage system so as to lower the groundwater table. This would require a revision of the current irrigation management schemes, but could, as simulations revealed, reduce the post-season salt content in the 2 m soil profile of the three fields by between 36 and 59% when compared with unaltered conditions. For the revised irrigation management in total not more water than already foreseen by national irrigation recommendations would be needed. Increasing leaching and irrigation efficiency would help sustaining the present cotton production levels while reducing future leaching demands.

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Correspondence to Rolf Sommer.

Additional information

Communicated by J. Ayars.

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Forkutsa, I., Sommer, R., Shirokova, Y.I. et al. Modeling irrigated cotton with shallow groundwater in the Aral Sea Basin of Uzbekistan: II. Soil salinity dynamics. Irrig Sci 27, 319–330 (2009).

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  • Root Mean Square Error
  • Total Dissolve Solid
  • Soil Salinity
  • Irrigation Event
  • Root Water Uptake