High salt concentration in soil is a major abiotic stress, which adversely influences the growth, overall development, and productivity of crops. More than 20% of the land of the world used for crop production is adversely affected by high salt concentration. The problem of salt stress becomes a major concern when previously fertile, productive agricultural lands are salinized more profoundly as a result of anthropogenic activities along with natural causes. Therefore, this review is focused on various aspects of salt-affected soils (SAS), their effects on plants, and different approaches for reclamation of SAS to enhance the potentiality for crop production. Salt-affected soils are categorized into saline, saline-sodic, and sodic soils based on the amount of total soluble salts as expressed by electrical conductivity (EC), sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP), and soil pH. The inhibition of plant growth in saline soils is mainly induced by osmotic stress; reduced uptake of essential macro- and micronutrients, including nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), and copper (Cu); and specific toxicities of sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). Sodic soils adversely affect the plant through high soil pH and poor physical condition resulting from an excessive amount of exchangeable Na. Different plants respond to salt stress in different extents. Salt-affected soils must be reclaimed to restore their productivity for increasing food production. The approaches for the management of SAS include leaching, incorporation of different organic and inorganic amendments, mulching, and development of salt-tolerant crops. The suitability of approaches depends on several considerations such as cost of reclamation, the time required, the extent of the salt stress, soil properties, availability of technology, and other environmental factors. Among different strategies, the incorporation of organic amendments is beneficial, cost-effective, environment friendly, and sustainable for amelioration of salt stress and enhancement of crop production due to the extensive roles of organic amendments in improving the soil’s physical (structural stability, porosity, and permeability), chemical [pH, EC, ESP, organic matter, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and Na leaching], and biological and/or biochemical (microbial abundance, microbial activity, biomass carbon, and enzymatic activities) properties.
Part of the book: Abiotic Stress in Plants