Pakistan is an agricultural country; major part of its population depends on agriculture. Pakistan is located between longitude 61° and 76° E and latitude 24° and 37°N. Major part of the country lies in semi-arid to arid region receiving annual rain fall 250 mm and ranges from 100 – 760 mm. Most of the area of Pakistan receives annual rainfall less than 240 mm. Evapo-transpiration increases than the precipitation which leads to the unfavorable distribution of salts and their accumulation in the root zone. Almost 6.28mha area of Pakistan is affected by salinity and sodicity, while most of the soil is saline-sodic in nature. According to an estimate nearly 40000 ha of land were being lost due to salinity and water-logging every year in Pakistan.
Biological approach is one of the best way to utilize the salt affected soils where there is no water available and soils are sodic in nature. For growing palatable salt tolerant grasses ground saline and surface rain water is used. There is a species of such kind of grass are available which have a number of beneficial effects for salt effected soil as well as for livestock.
Laptochloa fusca is widely distributed in salt affected areas of Pakistan. It is commonly called as “Kallar Grass” or (Salt grass). Kallar grass (Laptochloa fusca) is extremely tolerant for saline as well as sodic surroundings even watered by saline ground water or rain water. Kallar grass (laptochloa fusca) can tolerate salts up to (EC: 22-14.6 ds/m) and (14.1-9.3 g/L). Kallar grass not only has soil ameliorative properties but also provide edible forage for livestock. It improves the physical properties of the soil due to biological activity of roots. It possesses halophytic Character. It can be easily grown by seed, stem cuttings, root bases and by rhizomes. The plant may grow 1-1.5 meters high and have a high leaf production. Kallar grass is highly thermophilic in nature as grown in hot summer season, in July and August in Pakistan which fulfills the fodder requirements during fodder scarcity period. Because L. fusca has a strong symbiotic relationship with N2-fixing bacteria in rhizosphere, It has very low nutrient requirements as; 3-4 cuttings can be easily obtained without adding nitrogen in salt- affected and less fertile soils. It also has the ability to fix nitrogen under flooded conditions by the growth of “Blue Green Algae” and “Azolla”.
Kallar grass has a very important role in soil reclamation, because it behaves like Crypno-eu-halophyte which has both properties of excreting as well as accumulating. It develops extensive and fibrous root system in sodic soils. Penetration of roots in such soils will increase hydraulic conductivity, microbial activity, Organic matter and ultimately results in leaching of salts. L. fusca has a greater affinity to reduce the Electrical conductivity (ECe), Sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), pH (Soluble ions) and also exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP) of salt- effected soils. Kallar grass has a mechanism to excrete salts from shoot which makes it a usefull plant to remove unnecessary salts from root zone and provide improved soil environment to other plants. The widespread and fibrous root system open the soil, increase air exchange hydraulic conductivity, organic matter increases, also solublize native calcium carbonate (CaCo3). It also enhance salt leaching and the upper foliar parts increase organic matter, also act as mulching and decrease evaporation losses from surface and ultimately improve soil physical properties.
Kallar grass provides much needed forage for livestock. It is considered as good quality fodder in salt-affected and water-logged zones where other fodder kinds cannot propagate successfully. It is very palatable forage and has no toxic effect on long term consumption. It has almost similar nutritional status like conventional fodder and give almost 3-4 cuttings during a period of 3 months and provide about 5-10 tonnes of fodder ha-1 per cutting in salt-effected soil. Kallar grass also has the ability to store trace elements i.e (Zn, Fe, Mn, Cu) to fulfill the requirements of livestock in saline conditions.
It is concluded that growth elements such as spreading rate, easy propagation, colonizing ability, dynamic growth, nutritive value and long term persistence under environmental stresses make L. fusca (Kallar grass ) a versatile and excellent specie which can be cultivated in salt-effected land by using brackish water for economic exploitation. The specie can utilize sodic, high pH, water logged and saline soils. It can easily be propagated by using poor quality brackish water. In Pakistan soils are becoming saline or sodic due to use of poor quality brackish ground water so, we must have to develop some strategies to grow such kind of grass species to ameliorate the salt-effected soils.
This article is jointly authored by M. Yousaf Nadeem1, Wajid Umar2, M. Umer Chattha1, Imran Khan1, M.Safeer1 and M. Abubakar Saif1. 1Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture Faisalabad. 2Institute of Soil and Enviornmental Sciences, University of Agriculture Faisalabad.