California Soil Toxins Worsened by Drought
by Dennis Pollock (Western Farm Press) Salinity and scarcity of water were very much in the spotlight at the 2014 California Plant and Soil Conference in Fresno.
Multiple speakers showed pictures of what they labeled “California snow,” salt that had precipitated out atop soil where trees and other crops fight to grow.
They painted a grim picture of a year in which sparse winter rains have done little to drive toxic minerals deeper, away from plant roots. They said an expected lack of available water will take away one of the weapons growers can use to combat the toxins.
Among those looking for crops that can survive the less than friendly soils on the Central Valley’s west side is Gary Banuelos, a researcher with the Agricultural Research Service in Parlier.
Banuelos has been looking for plants that can grow in toxic soils, including some varieties of poplars for biomass to generate electricity, cacti with fruit that can be used in juice and other products, grasses that may be blended into cattle feed, mustard, broccoli, safflower and other plants. READ MORE