Combating desertification through sustainable use of saline habitats.
Saline habitats are one of the main factors for inducing desertification especially in arid zones. Various approaches have been taken to combat desertification. Among these, revegetation of the arid lands, using plant species that are more tolerated and adapted to stressful conditions of the salt affected deserts is probably the most effective practice owing to its affordability in combating desertification. Vegetation cover not only prevents desertification process, but also significantly improves soil and, in turn, the environmental condition of the region, since these plants can bioremediate the soil. Halophytes are particularly effective in this regard by reducing salinity level of the soil via removing the salts or by utilizing saline and low quality waters for their growth. Growing halophytes for forage production on salt-affected soil under organic fertilization was suggested as a new approach to combat desertification. Field trials were carried out at the Model Farm of National Research Centre, El Tour, South Sinai, Egypt to evaluate growth and productivity of some local and exotic halophytic plants grown under drip irrigation system with saline water (EC: 8.7 dSm). The tested halophytic 1 plants were Leptochloa fusca (local), Spartina patens, Sporobolus virginicus (exotic). Six organic fertilization treatment were applied (control, chicken manures, cattle manures, farm waste, fresh grinded Atriples nummularia mixed with cerialene+phosphorene and fresh grinded Leucaena leucocephala mixed with cerialene+phosphorene). Significant differences were reported for fresh cuttings and total productivity as well as nutritional values of the tested plants with superiority to chicken manures and the grinded Atriplex nummularia mixed with (cerialene+ phosphorene). Moreover, successive cuttings have positive impact on soil bioremediation process by decreasing of EC as well as the content of Na+ and Cl- in the soil. All the tested plants can tolerate cutting 5-6 times per year and capable of recovering and maintaining a productive stand Leptochloa fusca, Spartina patens and Sporobolus virginicus seemed to be promising halophytic plants for feeding goats and sheep in desert area by using saline water in irrigation. It can be concluded that some halophytes may be used not only as a tool for combating desertification in arid and semi-arid regions through depleting soil salts, but also offering a new salt-tolerant forage crops can grow better under organic agriculture.