Saltwater Intrusion: A Rising Problem

Saltwater intrusion is becoming a common question from growers and Seedsman in the northeast. In basic terms, saltwater intrusion is the movement of saltwater into agriculture soil and crop root zones. Saltwater moves into this zone from large storms, rising tides, and movement through groundwater. Drought can contribute to the movement of saltwater in that there is not enough freshwater to wash out the saltwater that has crept closer to the agricultural root zone, thus impacting crop growth.

Illustration of saltwater intrusion. Figure 1: Illustration of saltwater intrusion. Illustration courtesy of and used with the permission of Danielle Weissman and Kate Tully, University of Maryland.

A large portion of the Channel® brand soybean portfolio can withstand higher salt concentrations. However, as a grower and manager of crops and farmland, other methods are available to help manage this rising problem. A few ways to help reduce the salt content of the soil is to utilize irrigation to get fresh water through the soil profile, use composted manure products, and gypsum can help reduce the salt content of the soil. 

Cover crops are becoming an ever-increasing tactic to help with fertility and available nutrients; however, they also help with water infiltration. With better infiltration comes less salt content in the soil as it typically leaches through the soil profile. Barley, sorghum, salt tolerant soybean, and switchgrass are some different cover crops that are currently being tested to see which will handle the salt in the coastal areas of the Northeast. 

Hopefully, growers who plant cover crops, were able to do so in preparation for next spring. Now, is also the time to start planning for the spring thaw and when you can apply some manure on your fields.

There are still a lot of questions that are being researched regarding saltwater intrusion. More information to come as the universities continue their research.

Jared Hauseman


Weissman, D., Tully, K. McClure, K., Miller, C. 2019. Saltwater intrusion: A growing threat to coastal agriculture. USDA Northeast Climate Hub.,table%20below%20the%20soil%20surface/.

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ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Performance may vary, from location to location and from year to year, as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible and should consider the impacts of these conditions on the grower’s fields.
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