Salts and Your California Orchard

Three salt-related issues challenge almost all almond orchards in California: saline soils, low-quality water, and a salt-sensitive crop. Learn more about the issues and how you can address the situation to ensure quality and optimal yield.

1 | Almonds are fundamentally sensitive to salts.

Almonds are among several high-value crops that are particularly sensitive to salts, such as chloride. Continued application of potassium sources with a high chloride content or salt index, such as potassium chloride (MOP), can have a toxic effect, building up in the soil and contributing to lower yields, lower quality and lost income. Tests can be done to monitor salt levels, but the reality is salt imbalances may not be detectable until the trees show signs of damage. Even if the results from a leaf tissue analysis don't raise any flags, toxicity could still be damaging the root hairs.

2 | California's soil is naturally high in salts.

The areas where almonds are grown in California are facing rising amounts of salt in the soil. According to the University of California, "Soil salinity has become a serious issue in California, with damage already occurring in some regions and some of the state's most productive agricultural regions are in danger of becoming gradually less fertile."1

3 | Irrigation water is often high in salts.

Many growers rely on leaching to rinse their soils of salts. However, irrigation contributes to the problem of high salt levels because most water has a high salinity level, and gaining access to high-quality water is becoming increasingly more difficult.

The sensitivity of almonds, the high salt levels in the soil, and poor irrigation water all make growing almonds in California particularly challenging. In light of these challenges, adding extra salt through chloride fertilizers could magnify the issue of salt toxicity. Potassium sources, like potassium chloride (MOP), deposit more chloride into the already fragile orchard ecosystem. Protassium+® premium sulfate of potash is a safe way to meet fertility needs because of its virtually chloride-free formula.


1University of California Agricultural Issues Center, Soil Salinization, AIC White Papers on California Agricultural Issues November 2009. p1