Plants for amelioration of subsoil constraints and hydrological control: the primer-plant concept

Kluwer Academic Publishers
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Plant And Soil, 2003, 257 pp. 261 - 281
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In this review, we propose the use of suitable plant species, termed primer-plants, for the primary purpose of preparing soil conditions for the benefit of following crops. Such plants may be used in the temperate agricultural belts of southern Australia, where dryland salinity is a major environmental and agricultural problem that threatens the viability of many crop production enterprises. It is recognised that growing plants that have deeper roots and use more water than the current shallow-rooted annual crops provide a long-term solution for managing the dryland salinity problem. Increased plant water-use is expected to mitigate the rising watertable that transfers salt to the root-zone of crop plants. On medium to heavy textured soils, common in this region, impermeability of the subsoil to roots and water movement is another major impediment to high water-use and productivity by plants, which may lead to other adverse hydrological events in the soil such as water-logging and excessive run-off. Plants that possess the ability to penetrate the dense subsoil and make it porous, in addition to having the capacity for using soil water at high rates, should be effective in combating dryland salinity. These plants normally should have thick roots that grow deep in the soil and are able to modify or withstand the adverse chemistry of the often-saturated subsoil, so that upon the death and decay of their roots, channels or biopores are created.
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