Rice is more sensitive to salinity than previously thought
Field studies conducted by UC and under controlled greenhouse conditions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service indicate that rice is more sensitive to salinity than current guidelines suggest. This information is particularly important to rice growers who have experienced salinity problems after holding water on fields for longer time periods to reduce pesticide loading into the Sacramento River. Our field experiments show that an average seasonal salinity of the field water in excess of 1.9 deciSiemens per meter (dS/m) can reduce grain yields; current guidelines indicate that salinity affects rice yield at or above 3.0 dS/m. Salinity had a negative impact on a number of yield components including stand establishment; panicles, tillers and spikelets per plant; floret sterility; individual grain size; and even delayed heading. The emergence and early seedling growth stages were most sensitive to salinity, as was the three-leaf to panicle-initiation stages. Irrigation management practices should be adopted to minimize salinity during these critical growth stages.