Monday, June 16, 2008

Salts and Saskatoon

Testing for conductivity

The person in the photo is a fellow named Les Henry. Les wrote a publication called The Nature and Management of Salt-Affected Land in Saskatchewan. Les is from the Soil Science Department at the University of Saskatoon. The device in Les’s hands – he calls his Ouija Board – is a devise used to test for soil conductivity. In other words the devise is helping us look for salt.

If you look at Les’s feet in the photos and you will recognize the tell tale spot of white that occurs in a highly alkali soil. When the soils are drying out, the salts are drawn to the surface by evapo-transpiration and there fore we get salt crystals at the surface. Les’s devise provides a reading at the surface and again at four feet. We are taking alakali readings all across the future range at Saskatoon Golf & Country Club.

They have salts in much of the soils in Saskatchewan. Salt not only takes away the plants ability to take up water but also ties up much of the nutrients too. When I routed the new nine holes, I intentionally ran the holes over the high areas not only to deal with flooding in the spring but also to get far enough away from the water table and the saline soils underneath. The only area that I could not accomplish this was one small area on the south side where they the old 9th and 18th were - and I intentionally placed the range in this area. This was equally due to it being the ideal location for the range and also to the issue of salts.

The area for the range

So we have a range that has areas of high alkaline soils. Les spent the day taking readings which told us where the soils were alkali and where the soils were acceptable. This told me how much topsoil we could strip and use and what topsoil should be buried with fill to keep the salts from occurring in the top soil layer. Now salts can be “washed” out of the topsoil over time – the process takes a few years and recovering the soils is a common technique. We don’t have the time – so we needed to organize the build to avoid having alkali soil where we will be seeding new grass.

The future range

This trip out by Les was all about where we could get topsoil, how much soil we had to use, how to deal with the soils we had and what we should do with the range. I’ve dealt with a lot of issues – including a very difficult build at Muskoka Bay - but this issue is one is one of the most complicated I have ever had to deal with.