Rain is good for saline areas, but the effect is generally temporary, said Tom Jensen of the International Plant Nutrition Institute.
Heavy rains wash the salts down deeper, but when the soil dries out, evaporation brings it back to the surface.
“The only way to effectively manage salinity is to lower the water table. That’s called drainage,” Jensen told a recent Excess Moisture Meeting organized by the Canola Council of Canada.
But installing drainage tiles around the “bathtub rings” left by small sloughs isn’t worth it, and at any rate, farmers downstream and government officials aren’t thrilled to see salty water dumped downstream.
Salt causes “osmotic stress” on plant tissues, which is basically the same as drought stress. That’s why salty areas are generally host to drought-tolerant plants such as foxtail.
“The best thing to do with these areas is to plant a saline-tolerant grass and stay out of them,” he said. “Let your neighbour run his cattle on them in the fall.”