Scientists Investigate Salty Surge Effects on Agricultural Fields

Linda Benedict  |  1/5/2006 3:31:55 AM

Keith Fontenot, left, county agent in Evangeline Parish, and Carlos Smith, horticulture specialist in the Central Region, were among the crew taking soil samples to test for salinity in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. (Photo by Bruce Schultz)

LSU AgCenter scientists hope they will soon be able to make recommendations for farmers whose fields were hit with saltwater contamination from Hurricane Rita’s storm surge.

Steve Linscombe, the LSU AgCenter’s regional director for Southwest Louisiana and also in charge of the Rice Research Station, said extensive soil sampling results are being analyzed to determine what, if anything, should be done to fields.

“We won’t be able to answer all the questions, but we’ll have a better idea of where we stand,” he said.

Research is being done in a greenhouse to determine how well rice will grow in different soils collected from seven locations in Vermilion Parish. Linscombe said those locations also will be retested throughout the winter.

In addition, two products are being tested for effectiveness at helping plants overcome high salt levels.

Linscombe said most of the research published so far about salt contamination deals with salt levels in irrigation water rather than the effects of a storm surge. He said the LSU AgCenter wants to make certain its recommendations are sound.

“People would like to have answers today, but this is something we have to approach cautiously,” Linscombe said.

Bruce Schultz

(This article appeared in the fall 2005 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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