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Waterfall Chart of Putting Green Sodium Levels

I have decscribed how a waterfall chart can be used to show the nutrients that enter and leave a system, using potassium as an example. In that example, I did not show any input of potassium from irrigation water or rainfall, because I made the assumption that those inputs would be negligible. David Kuypers, the Golf Course & Grounds Superintendent at Cutten Fields in Guelph, Ontario, asked what would happen with sodium (Na) added through irrigation water:

That is an excellent question, and this chart for Na shows what may happen with that element. Na-waterfall-chartLet's look at a few components of this waterfall chart.

  1. The horizontal blue line at 110 ppm marks the MLSN guideline for Na. Unlike the 35 ppm level for K, which is a minimum guideline, this 110 ppm maximum guideline for Na is related to increased chance of rapid blight disease at soil Na concentrations above 110 ppm.
  2. I assume that we start with a Mehlich 3 extractable Na of 75 ppm. The annual plant uptake of Na is minimal for cool-season grass and I estimate it as being equivalent to a decrease in soil Na of 5 ppm. 
  3. I assume no Na is added as fertilizer.
  4. David said that his irrigation water has an average Na concentration of 110 ppm. That means for each liter of water, there are 110 mg of Na. If he adds 205 mm of irrigation water to the greens over the course of the season, that is equivalent to 205 L of water for each square meter. If we assume that the 22,550 mg of Na contained in those 205 L of irrigation water are distributed throughout the top 10 cm of the rootzone, and that the bulk density of the rootzone is 1.5 g/cm3, then that amount of Na will increase the Na in the system by 150 ppm.
  5. With this depiction on the waterfall chart, we can see that the amount of Na expected to be added with this much irrigation is twice the amount of Na that was in the soil at the start of the year. And we can make some comparison of the magnitude of each input and loss of Na from the system.
  6. However, sometimes there will be thunderstorms or other heavy rain events that will cause some leaching of that Na. Most of that Na will be remaining in soil solution; it won't be extensively held on cation exchange sites which would make it resistant to leaching. And if rain doesn't come, I assume that David will sometimes apply extra irrigation water to induce leaching of the Na. I assume that 130 ppm of the Na will be lost by leaching.
  7. With these assumptions, that leaves us at the end of the year with 90 ppm of Na in the soil, still below the 110 ppm MLSN guideline. And if we would go through the fall, and through the winter, we would expect no irrigation water to be applied, and some leaching to occur, and by the start of the next irrigation season, the Na would be reduced even more. In an arid climate, the Na would be expected to increase and increase, but in a humid climate, one in which precipitation exceeds evapotranspiration, most of the applied Na is expected to leach.
  8. We can see that if no leaching occurs, the addition of Na through irrigation will increase soil Na above the MLSN guideline of 110 ppm.

For more about maintaining soil Na below 110 ppm, see this document from PACE Turf.

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