Soil salinisation and irrigation management of date palms in a Saharan environment

  • Zied Haj-Amor
  • Mohamed-Khaled Ibrahimi
  • Nissma Feki
  • Jean-Paul Lhomme
  • Salem Bouri


The continuance of agricultural production in regions of the world with chronic water shortages depends upon understanding how soil salinity is impacted by irrigation practises such as water salinity, irrigation frequency and amount of irrigation. A two-year field study was conducted in a Saharan oasis of Tunisia (Lazala Oasis) to determine how the soil electrical conductivity was affected by irrigation of date palms with high saline water. The study area lacked a saline shallow water table. Field results indicate that, under current irrigation practises, soil electrical conductivity can build up to levels which exceed the salt tolerance of date palm trees. The effects of irrigation practises on the soil electrical conductivity were also evaluated using model simulations (HYDRUS-1D) of various irrigation regimes with different frequencies, different amounts of added water and different water salinities. The comparison between the simulated and observed results demonstrated that the model gave an acceptable estimation of water and salt dynamics in the soil profile, as indicated by the small values of root mean square error (RMSE) and the high values of the Nash–Sutcliffe model efficiency coefficient (NSE). The simulations demonstrated that, under field conditions without saline shallow groundwater, saline irrigation water can be used to maintain soil electrical conductivity and soil water content at safe levels (soil electrical conductivity <4 dS m−1 and soil water content >0.04 cm3 cm−3) if frequent irrigations with small amounts of water (90 % of the evapotranspiration requirements) were applied throughout the year.


Arid lands Irrigation practises Saline water Soil salinisation 



The authors would like to express their thanks to the Agricultural Development Group of Lazala Oasis and the Regional Office for Agriculture Development of Kebili (Tunisia) for their help and technical support. The authors sincerely thank Dr. Joseph Kloepper (from Auburn University, USA) for his language assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zied Haj-Amor
    • 1
  • Mohamed-Khaled Ibrahimi
    • 2
  • Nissma Feki
    • 3
  • Jean-Paul Lhomme
    • 4
  • Salem Bouri
    • 1
  1. 1.Water, Energy and Environment LaboratoryNational Engineering School of SfaxSfaxTunisia
  2. 2.Graduate School of Agricultural and Life SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Environmental, Geotechnical and Civil Materials Research UnitNational Engineering School of SfaxSfaxTunisia
  4. 4.IRD (UMR LISAH)MontpellierFrance

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