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Research Article

A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India

J.B. Pandya , R.H. Gohil , J.S. Patolia , M.T. Shah and D.R. Parmar
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Salicornia experiments on saline ingressed coastal soils were conducted in field during July-Aug (Kharif season) of 2003-04 at CSMCRI`s experimental site, Hathab on native species to investigate make improvements in agronomic criteria and allow species cultivation sustainable so to recover its` high valued vegetable salt and oil per unit of salt affected area. An application of N upto 100 kg ha-1 had significantly increased the seed yield (29 and 87%) and plant biomass (29 and 51%), over 75 and 0 kg N ha-1, respectively. Plant characters like canopy, spike length, number of segments and harvest index were also found increased with the increase in N application. An application of 75 kg P2O5 ha-1 was also found significant with an achievement in higher seed yield production (48%) and number of spike segments (43%) over the control. The interaction study between the applied doses of N x P was found significant at highest fertilizer levels (N2 x P2) and produced maximum seed yield over the control but remain and at par in case of plant biomass. The plant nitrogen content in biomass (spike+seed) though found increased with N application but has remained at par in case of P application. Nitrogen and potassium content and uptakes were found increased significantly with N application. The plant density had a significant effect on yield, biomass and other important yield attributes. Plant canopy increased significantly during different phases of growth. The potential usefulness of S. brachiata for agricultural producers in coastal semi-arid zones has been shown elsewhere; suggest that the establishment and growth of this halophyte can be experimentally improved using proper fertilization and optimum density.

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J.B. Pandya , R.H. Gohil , J.S. Patolia , M.T. Shah and D.R. Parmar , 2006. A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India. International Journal of Agricultural Research, 1: 91-99.

DOI: 10.3923/ijar.2006.91.99



Erratic precipitation pattern and low average rainfall (≈350 mm) are the characteristics of semi-arid west coast in India. Agricultural activities are, therefore, dependent on wells. Unfortunately, water extraction in excess of the rate of replacement and the inappropriate land and water use had accentuated salinization ingress of agriculture soils, which has now become major problem in the production of traditional crops (GEC, 2001; SAGAR, 1981). Production alternatives include development of salt-tolerant plants that already exists in salt flat areas and focusing on those that might make desirable crops (Ungar, 2000). This is especially worth in coastal area where arable soils gets frequently inundated and ingressed with sea water salinity (GEC, 2001; SAC (ISRO), 1992).

An obligate halophyte Salicornia brachiata, Roxb., (Chenopodiaceae) is inhabited to salt flats of Arabian Sea coast and costal soil sustained environments (Sanish et al., 1991). The annual leafless halophyte has green, jointed succulent stems that forms terminal fruit bearing spikes, in which the seeds are borne (Glenn et al., 1994; Gallawa, 1996). Salicornia seed yields special quality oil, highly poly-unsaturated, similar to safflower oil is rich in linoleic acid. This halophytic shrub of coastal mud flats is potentially high biomass producing marine ecosystem, recently innovated as a source of high valued vegetable salt and for bioactives’ potentials besides its seed oil for industrial use (Ghosh et al., 2003; Rathod et al., 2004). This plant was identified from many halophyte species tested for possible domestication because of its field crop potential not only as an oilseed plant, but as a new bio material for vegetable salt and herbal drug potentials (Glenn et al., 1991, 1995; CSMCRI, 2003; Mudie et al., 2005).

In the wild, productivity of Salicornia seeds is very low (around 1-3 g/plant) because of high competition for space, nutrition and the moisture. The optimum plant per unit area and appropriate doses of fertilization are most important parameters for increased crop productivity. No systematic work has been attempted so far. Hence, an attempt is made here to determine and standardize an alternate cropping model for utilization of saline wastelands and saline water use and evaluate productive efficiency of Salicornia under highly saline ingressed coastal soils and understand the influence of agronomic traits through planting geometry and fertilization on growth, yield and biomass production.

Materials and Methods

Study Site
The investigations were carried out during the year 2003-2004 at CSMCRI’s halophytic research farm on the southwestern coast of the Gulf of Cambay at Hathab (Bhavnagar, India 20° 35’ North, 072° 16’ East), where the annual halophyte Salicornia brachiata has been put under long term seawater-irrigation cultivation. The ground water salinity during the entire experimental periods fluctuated from as low as 8000 (Sep/Oct.) to 31000 (Jan/Feb.) ppm in the well (200 m away from sea) dug for irrigation purpose and used in the course of growth period of Salicornia species. Total six saline irrigations per month were applied with hose method of irrigation to each experiment for achieving optimum growth and fulfill its water requirements. Soil at the site is silty clay and saline in nature having pH: 8.53, EC: 10.4 to 13.39 dS m-1 and organic carbon 0.54%, available phosphorus and potassium were 24.5 and 1737.5 kg ha-1, respectively (Table 1). During the cropping season, i.e., July 2003 to March 2004, lowest minimum temperature was 12°C (January), maximum temperature reached 42°C (June) and relative humidity was always more than 50%. Salicornia brachiata flowered in mid-winter and was senescent by early January. Irrigations were terminated in mid-February.

Studies of Fertilizer Application
All the treatment combinations of three levels of N (0, 75 and 100 kg ha-1) and P (0, 50 and 75 kg ha-1) were tried in Randomized Block Design. The treatments were replicated thrice adopting a micro-plot size 12.5 m2. Nitrogen was applied through Urea in split as basal, 45 and 60 days after sowing and phosphorus through SSP (Single Super Phosphate) as a basal dressing.

Table 1: Soil characteristic of experimental site
Image for - A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India

Forty five days old seedlings grown in the same soil were transplanted (50x25 cm) in the field during 1st week of August 2003. At vegetative stage, 10 plants selected randomly for collecting all the morphological and harvested individual plant wise for yield data. Harvest index was calculated using the following formula:

Image for - A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India

Sampling Procedures
Soil within the each plot was sampled from 0 to 15 cm, a depth within the plant rooting zone and the amended residues. After harvesting Salicornia in February, five soil cores from each plot were taken in an X pattern with a 4.5 cm diameter bucket auger to a depth of 15 cm. All soil samples were well mixed, dried at 45°C and powdered. The dried soils (<2 mm) were digested with hydrofluoric and perchloric acids at 200°C (Hess, 1976) and finally dissolved in hydrochloric acid and analyzed for Na, K, Ca, Mg using atomic absorption spectrophotometer (GBC 932+). While, OC% was determined by using the method of Walkley (1947) and available P2O5 by Olsen et al. (1954). For the determination of EC and pH, potentiometer was used.

Nutrient Content
The nutrient content study was made analyzing the mature spikes, contributing ~75% of the plant dry biomass and having in cavities the tiny seeds filled in at the time of maturity. The biomass (spike+seed) after drying were digested with diacid mixture (HNO3 + HClO4, 4:1) and analyzed for P by ammonium molybdate vandate yellow colour method and N was determined by Kjeldahl method.

Studies of Plant Density
Treatments of plant density resorted by direct seeding of Salicornia brachiata for four densities viz., 800, 571, 400 and 278 plants 10 m-2 and are termed as T1 T2 T3 and T4, respectively. All treatments were replicated thrice in randomized block design. Five plants were randomly selected from every treatment for measuring the yield and its attributing characters at the time of harvesting. All plots were fertilized with Urea for 100 kg N ha-1 and Di-ammonium Phosphate at the rate of 75 kg P2O5 ha-1 for the normal crop growth.

Growth Pattern Observation
Being an annual halophyte and long duration crop, Salicornia has three important phases of its life-cycle viz., vegetative, flowering and seed setting. Seedlings with equal and homogenous growth were transplanted after 45 days in micro-plots in the same saline soil. Hundred plants were selected during 2002-03 and 2003-04 for observing its two important yields attributes which has major impact on species seed yield. These two attributes viz., plant canopy and plant height were selected for the purpose and observations were recorded during above three important phases attained at 90, 120 and 165 days after transplanting of the seedlings.

Results and Discussion

Effect of Fertilizer Application
Clearly S brachiata is a potential crop whose vegetable parts and oil-containing seed by-products Sare of special interest. Total absolute seed yield vis a vis a plant biomass are the most important parameters to evaluate. The results here in the present study for individual and interaction effect of N and P on yield, biomass and other yield attributes are described individually.

Effect of Nitrogen
Being a salt flat halophytic species, Salicornia has high N affinity and requirements. With an application of N up to 100 kg ha-1 increased the seed yield, number of main braches, number of segments, number of spikes per branch, spike length and harvest index, but significantly positive response was obtained for seed yield and number of spikes per branch which was at 75 kg ha-1, while it was found at par with 100 kg N ha-1. Salicornia seed yield (918.2 kg ha-1) was obtained highest at 100 kg N ha-1 dose recording an increase of 18 and 86 per cent higher yield over 75 kg N ha-1 and control, respectively. Several studies on the nutritional conditions necessary to faster growth of S. bigelovii have identified the need for extremely high quantities of nitrogen (N) fertilizer (Mota, 1996; Rueda-Puente et al., 2004). In case of biomass production, 100 kg N ha-1 found significantly high over control with an increase of 51% (Table 2). Similar results wee obtained in studies with S. bigelovii (Mota 1990, 1999; Covin and Zedler, 1988; Loveland and Ungar, 1983; Glenn et al., 1991; Ungar, 2000).

Effect of Phosphorus
Increasing doses of phosphorus up to 75 kg ha-1 increased the seed yield and spikes per branch significantly. Moreover, same was found significantly higher over control and 50 kg ha-1 levels. The phosphorus application on Salicornia produced highest seed yield at 75 kg P2O5 ha-1 dose (846 kg ha-1) with an increase of 48% of seed production over control whereas, the biomass production per hectare did not show any specific trends over the different doses of applied phosphorus (Table 3).

In case of interaction between the nutrients, the seed yield got highly influenced at highest level of fertigation i.e., N2xP2 and found significantly high over control (Table 4) whereas it is found non-significant for plant biomass production.

Nutrient Content and its Uptake
Application of N significantly increases the content of nitrogen in Salicornia biomass (spikes+ seed), spike is a scale like structure. Consequently, the nitrogen uptake in Salicornia biomass increased significantly mainly as a result of higher plant biomass and improvement in N content. The magnitude of increase in potassium uptake was more as results of symbiosis with nitrogen. The K uptake by Salicornia biomass (spikes + seed) increased by 65 and 91% with respective addition of 75 and 100 kg N ha-1. A progressive increase in P level through applied fertilizer also gradually increased the content and uptake of phosphorus by Salicornia biomass (spikes + seed). The highest uptake of phosphorus was recorded with the treatment P2, giving highest yield of spikes which was higher by 22 and 41% over P1 and P0, respectively. However, the effect of phosphorus application on N and K content and uptake was found non significant (Table 5).

Table 2: Effect of nitrogen on yield and its attributes of Salicornia brachiata (Roxb.)
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Table 3: Effect of phosphorus on yield and yield attributes of Salicornia brachiata (Roxb.)
Image for - A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India

Table 4: Interaction effect of nitrogen and phosphorus on seed yield (kg ha-1) of Salicornia
Image for - A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India

Table 5: Effect of nitrogen and phosphorus on their content and uptake in Salicornia plant biomass (Matured spike)
Image for - A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India

These findings are against the normal trend prevailing in arable soils where N and K is found increased with the application of P (Rajput et al., 1991; Sharma and Namdeo, 1992). Application of N also caused a considerable and significant increase in content of P but remained non significant for the uptake. Thus it is concluded that for achieving higher seed and biomass production of Salicornia spikes, higher doses of N and P should give to this species.

Effect of Plant Density
Plant density did not affect positively the height of Salicornia brachiata plant. This is due to high succulent nature of the species, preferring salty water. But plants did grow significantly wider under T3 over T0 and T2. Plant density in control (T0) recorded the least canopy width of plant due to the limited availability of moisture, nutrients, space and light for better growth. Higher plant density resulted in severe competition for space, light etc. As a result of low plant density, there was significant increase in number of secondary branches per plant and number of spikes per secondary branches in T1 followed closely by T3, both being at par. Chandel et al. (1994) and Halvankar et al. (1999) also reported higher values for the branches per plant and pods per plant at lower planting density in an oil-bearing crop like soybean. The T3 recorded the highest number of spike segments and segment length (Table 6b) and Plant density under T3 had significantly more accumulation of shoot weight per plant than rest of densities. It also produced higher accumulation of root weight per plant. T3 also produced significantly higher dry biomass (7727 kg ha-1) over control and spike weight per plant (56.27 g/plant) than rest of the treatments (Table 6a).

Table 6a: Effect of plant density on biomass and yield attributing characters of Salicornia
Image for - A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India

Table 6b: Effect of plant density on yield and yield attributing characters of Salicornia
Image for - A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India

Table 7: Morphology of Salicornia at different growth phases
Image for - A Study on Salicornia (S. brachiata Roxb.) in Salinity Ingressed Soils of India

The seed yield was found significantly influenced by the plant population. The plant density if resorted to T3, produce significantly highest yield (639.5 kg ha-1) over control (T0) but remained at par with T1 and T2 (Table 6b). This is due to better geometric arrangement resulting in more photosynthesis and better absorption of soil moisture and nutrients and consequently resulting into high seed productivity in the species. The character length of spike is significantly decreased with increase in spacing, which may be due to the fact that root has to go deeper for getting nutrient and moisture due to heavy competition whereas, lateral root length is increased with increase in available spacing, due to better scope of available food, though found not significant. Better root development at lower plant densities was due to less competition and more availability of moisture and nutrients. Similar results have also been reported in Arachis hypogea L. (Bhan and Mishra, 1971; Chauhan and Sobaran, 1991).

Amongst the plant density, T1 recorded very low values for yield attributes like seed yield per plant, spike weight per plant, plant biomass, number of spikes per branches and plant canopy. These have resulted in low biomass and seed yield output. This neither gets compensated with higher number of plants. The harvest index (%) remained highest for T3 (13.66) followed by T2 and T1.

Growth Pattern Observation in Salicornia
First observations were recorded after 90 DAS in the month of November considering as vegetative phase when the Salicornia foliage were showed a dark-green colour. During this stage, plant height was observed 32.73 and 29.13 cm whereas, plant canopy remained 97.17 and 117.5 cm for the year of 2001-02 and 2002-03, respectively.

This difference in height and canopy may be largely due to delay in transplanting of the seedling. Second observation taken during the month of December i.e., after 120 DAS, when flowering starts, plant height was found significantly higher over the previous observation with an increase of 21.2 and 18.4% for the year 2001-02 and 2002-03, while canopy growth trend also indicated and showed it significantly higher in both the year with an increase of 22.3 and 35.7% in the respective yearsand. This suggests that though the flowering stage initiate for the species during the month of December, the vegetative growth remain continued in the both the years. Third observations recorded and taken were at seed filling stage which was during the month of January, after 165 DAS. During this stage plants colour changes from dark green to brownish red. At this phase, plants height is found decreasing by 6.5 and 12.9% for the previous observation for the year of 2002-03 and 2003-04, respectively. This is attributed due to succulent nature of species so lowering down of plant because of the weight of spikes due to seed filling in its cavity. Plant canopy however still had positive growth trend but of low magnitude i.e., 9.6 and 3.04% measured over the growth observed during December for the both the years (Table 7).


The findings here indicates a potential benefit of Salicornia brachiata if resorted and integrated to crop production system in saline ingressed soils for enhancement of scope of sustainable marine ecosystem and as remedial measure of coastal saline agriculture of world inclusive of salt affected waste lands.

Optimum plant density of 278 plants 10 m-2 and 100 kg N ha-1 and 75 kg P2O5 ha-1 have had good impact on improvements of vegetable biomass and oil of Salicornia brachiata. This findings will help farming community and producers a new alternative cropping system which has high industrialization potential for its valued Nutritional salt, Linoleic rich oil and plant bioactives’ assets obtainable from saline wastelands.


The authors acknowledge their gratitude to Dr. P.K. Ghosh, Director, CSMCRI, Bhavnagar for constant encouragement and the facilities provided. The research was supported by GSFC (SF), Vadodara, for research project on Studies and Improvements of Halophytes and thanks are due to them. The help rendered by Arup Ghosh is thankfully acknowledged for the suggestions in preparation of manuscript and Shri Dharmesh Jani for computerization of project findings.

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