Call edition 2012

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Evaluation of the salinization pattern on the Maniçoba Irrigation Project, Northeast Brazil

Stijn SPEELMAN student laureate

°1978 Belgium
Bio-engineer in agricultural sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 2002

Evaluation of the salinization pattern on the Maniçoba Irrigation Project, Northeast Brazil

Agriculture in irrigated areas in semi-arid regions has a considerable impact on socio-economic development, and makes a big difference to the way land is used and to agricultural practices over large areas. However, large-scale irrigation can have destructive effects such as salinisation (in the broad sense of the word) of the soil.
Even if the importance of this phenomenon has been recognised, still, its origins, mechanisms and actual effects on the soil depend on complex interactions, and are generally speaking inadequately quantified.
In this work, the phenomena of salinity, sodicity and toxicity in the soils of the Maniçoba Irrigation Project in north-east Brazil are quantitatively analysed. The mechanisms of salinisation are firstly described, as a function of geological, pedological and hydrological factors, and are then modelled.
Consequences for agricultural practices, including the abandonment of plots of land, are explained. In conclusion, guidelines for good practice in the conservation of soils in the Maniçoba Irrigation Project are suggested.
This work features the two qualities needed to contribute to the region’s development: a quantitative scientific approach, which takes account of the complexity of the physical and chemical phenomena, and constant contact with those working in the field, both the public authorities and private partners.

report by Dr. P. Tréfois, Cartography and photo-interpretation, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium