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Waterlogging in agriculture
7 mins read |

We all know that the excessive use of everything is bad. But could anyone ever imagine the implication of excessive water availability to the soil? As much as plants need adequate water, sunlight, and fertilizers. The excessive and uncontrolled water supply could result in the logging of water and ultimately hinder the development of plants. In the worst cases, it may lead to the death of those plants.

What is waterlogging? How does it harm the crops?

Waterlogging refers to the excessive accumulation of water in the soil, leading to the saturation of the root zone. It occurs when the soil’s ability to drain water is compromised, often due to factors such as heavy rainfall, poor soil structure, or inadequate drainage systems.

It deprives plant roots of oxygen, hindering their ability to absorb nutrients and causing stress or even death. It adversely affects plant growth and crop productivity, making it a significant challenge in agriculture and requiring effective drainage measures to mitigate its impact.

The meaning of waterlogging in a much simpler term is the process of hardening or clogging of the topsoil due to excessive water availability to the soil. In agricultural terms, it can be defined as the extravagant and uncontrolled flow of water, through rain or irrigation practices to crops.

When the water available to the soil is much more than what the plant’s root and soil can absorb, then there will be waterlogging on the soil. The most significant effect of this condition on crops is the drop in the level of oxygen available to plants’ roots.

Water logging on the soil is a common problem in underdeveloped and developing countries where small-scale and medium-scale agriculture is majorly practiced. Large-scale farming usually has a strategy that controls the flow of water to crops.

Properly done Irrigation farming is an example of a modernized method of farming that reduces the stagnancy of water on the soil.

Crops need oxygen for normal activities such as respiration and consistent growth. CO2 absorbed by plants during respiration and photosynthesis is broken down into oxygen and carbohydrates. A greater portion of the oxygen obtained by the plant is released into the surroundings while the remaining portion is stored in the root for other purposes.

In severe cases, plants undergo anaerobic respiration to survive. This condition is called “anaerobiosis”, a condition of respiration when oxygen is absent. Plants may stop growing well, undergo denitrification, experience an evident decrease in the secretion of manganese and iron oxides, and eventually die off.

It is not usually detected until it has led to severe damages to the crops. Prompt detection reduces its effect on soil, plants, and the surrounding environment. Agriculturists need to know the signs of water logging on the soil for prompt detection and treatment.

It at the beginning stage leads to the yellowish coloration of the leaves. It also leads to wilting of leaves, smelly roots, and abnormally colored roots. Later signs are decomposition, stunted growth, and dying off of plants.

Summarily, waterlogging is the situation where there is oversaturation beyond the water holding capacity of the soil. It leads to clogging and obstruction in the flow of oxygen.

Forms of Waterlogging in Agriculture

There are various forms of waterlogging that occur in agriculture. The forms are:

  • Periodic waterlogging
  • Subsoil waterlogging
  • River waterlogging
  • Ocean waterlogging

Causes of waterlogging in Agriculture

1. Periodic 

Here, rainwater accumulates on depressed or flatlands and results in waterlogging of soil.

2. Subsoil 

This is when water enters the roots of plants. This usually happens during heavy rainfall or extensive irrigation practices.

3. River 

Here, there is an inflow from the bigger water sources like rivers into the farmlands. This is caused by extensive rainfall.

4. Ocean 

This is caused by adverse weather conditions such as earthquakes. Here, water from oceans flows into the farmlands.

Causes of waterlogging

The causes of waterlogging are:

  • Badly practiced irrigation
  • Poor medium of drainage
  • Land Topography
  • Heavy rainfall and flood
  • Soil permeability
  • Seepage inflow of water

1. Badly practiced irrigation

The intensive method of irrigation exposes soil to water logging. This is because water seeps through the soil and there is a rise in the groundwater table.

2. Poor system of drainage

In the absence of a proper draining system to evacuate water during rainfall, water remains stagnant on the soil. This is a major cause of waterlogging in agriculture. A drainage system helps to evacuate water from the land.

3. Land Topography

The topography of land includes the sloppiness, shape, and other physical features of particular land or environment. Some lands are accelerated such as hills and valleys, while some lands are depressed such as lowlands.

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Accelerated lands have high steeps and prevent it. While depressed lands are flat and encourage stagnant water. This becomes worse in the absence of a proper drainage system.

4. Heavy rainfall and flood

Excessive rainfall is a natural cause of waterlogging. Water may remain on the land for several days especially if the soil has low porosity or permeability.

A flood is a natural disaster that results in the accumulation of water. Flooding is more destructive to plants and usually leads to the dying off of plants.

5. Soil permeability

The different types of soil have different porosity and water permeability. For instance, loamy soil is more permeable and porous than other types of soil.

In the advent of excessive rainfall, loamy soil absorbs more water than clayey soil and prevents or reduces the effect of waterlogging on the soil.

6. Seepage inflow of water

Lands that are closer to large water bodies are more likely to experience water inflows to the land. This effect can be reduced by utilizing water effectively. Water from rivers can be treated and used for industrial purposes.

Effects of waterlogging

It has numerous effects on plants. The effects of waterlogging are:

  • Poor aeration
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Retarded growth of plants
  • Increased salinity
  • Growth of unwanted plants
  • Lowered soil temperature
  • Difficulties in performing farm operations
  • Environmental pollution

1. Poor aeration of the soil

Excessive and indiscriminate supply of water to plants leads to a reduction in the supply of oxygen to plants. Aeration is the process of air circulation in the soil. Plants produce oxygen during the day. A larger portion of the oxygen produced by plants is in the environment.

While the remaining portion is stored in plants’ roots. When water-logging occurs, the oxygen stored in the plant root is lost due to excessive moisture.

2. Anaerobiosis

Anaerobiosis is the condition of anaerobic respiration in plants. In extreme cases, plants lose the oxygen required for their normal respiration.

Thus, they resort to anaerobic respiration, a condition of respiration in the absence of oxygen.

3. Retarded growth of plants

It disrupts the normal biological function of plants. Excessive supply of water to plants reduces the supply of oxygen and nitrogen to plants.

Since both elements are fundamental to the growth of plants, disruption in their supply will retard the growth of plants.

4. Increased salinity

This is usually more common in intensive methods of irrigation farming. Salts are accumulated in the root of plants due to the accumulation of minerals in the water.

5. Growth of unwanted plants

Some water-loving and wild plants thrive more during the condition of waterlogging. These unwanted plants compete with the main crops for nutrients and sunlight.

They outgrow the main plants and retard their growth. In some cases, it eventually causes the crops to die. The growth of unwanted plants reduces the profit of farmers. A large amount of money is spent to get them destroyed.

6. Lowered soil temperature

Due to the moist environment created by waterlogging, there is a fall in the temperature of the soil. Low temperature encourages the activities and functions of microorganisms. Some chemical substances that are harmful to plants are also bred.

7. Difficulties in performing farm operations

Many farm operations such as weeding, plowing, planting, and more are best carried out in dry environments. It prevents farmers from carrying out many activities on the farm or makes those activities harder to perform.

8. Environmental pollution

It leads to water pollution in the environment. The accumulated water serves as a medium for the growth of microorganisms. It may also harbor dirt and unwanted objects. It may pose a great danger to the environment.

How to prevent waterlogging in agriculture

Due to the effect waterlogging has on soil, plants, the ecosystem, and agriculturists, it is necessary to prevent the occurrence of waterlogging on lands. Agricultural industries can prevent it through the following ways:

  • Growing crops in raised beds
  • Practice good drainage system
  • Mulching
  • Minimizing seepage inflow
  • Proper irrigation management
  • Alternating farming methods

How to prevent waterlogging in agriculture

1. Growing crops in raised beds

This method is more effective when the land or area of farming is small. For example, backyard gardens and small-scale farms. The beds of the crops may be raised to a higher level to avert it.

Although, this method is very stressful and requires a lot of effort by the farmer. But provides reliable prevention to waterlogging and protects crop roots from excessive water.

2. Practice good drainage system

This is an important precaution against it in agriculture. Farmers should ensure that their farms have a reliable drainage system. It ensures that water is properly evacuated from the farm. When draining water away from farms, farmers should ensure that the water does not remain stagnant on another person’s land or farm.

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This is to prevent affecting the environment or someone else with water logging. There are natural and man-made systems of draining water in agriculture. The farmer should adopt the method that is the best fit for his crop and type of land.

3. Mulching

Mulching provides a better and more practicable solution to the problem of waterlogging in farms. In Agriculture, mulching is the process of treating the soil with organic or inorganic substances. When these substances are added to the soil, it protects the soil surface and help plants grow.

It also helps to reduce the rate of evaporation. It is however advisable to use a thicker mulch of organic substances in severe cases of water logging. Mulching aids soil aeration and eventually eradicate it on the soil.

4. Minimizing seepage inflow

Water inflows from rivers, canals, and lakes to the farmland can be minimized or blocked to prevent it. Paths can be created along the water bodies to prevent the inflow of water to the farms. Drainage systems could also be planted along the water bodies to prevent unsolicited inflow of water to the farm.

The water bodies could also be widened to aid water flow to its maximum capacity. Also, water from lakes, canals, and oceans can be used more beneficially and economically. This will also prevent unnecessary inflow of water to the surrounding environment.

5. Proper irrigation management

Proper irrigation management should be practiced to prevent waterlogging of soil. The intensity or deepness of irrigation practices should be below. Proper soil types with the right level of porosity should be used for irrigation.

Furthermore, alkaline water or seawater should not be used for irrigation. This is because the minerals present in alkaline water can harden the soil surface and prevent soil from absorbing them. And this will result in waterlogging of the soil.

6. Alternating farming methods

Crop rotation should be practiced on lands to prevent waterlogging and improve the well-being of the soil. The farmer should endeavor to practice different crop production methods on his land. Also, extensive methods of irrigation farming should not be practiced on land for a very long time. Crops that require intensive irrigation should be encouraged.

In conclusion, It is a notable challenge in both modern and traditional farming. It may not be easily detected unless close attention is paid to it. Its causes are numerous and they are all highlighted in this article.

Some are natural while some are man-made. It has enormous consequences on the following: soil effectiveness, plants, agriculturists, and the ecosystem, and numerous methods can be employed to stop the incidence and also reduce its effect.

This article gives a detailed analysis of the issues surrounding waterlogging in farming. The underlying causes, and practicable prevention.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why should excessive supply of water to plants be avoided?

Excessive water supply to plants should be avoided to prevent waterlogging, nutrient loss, disease susceptibility, and water wastage. When a field becomes waterlogged, it can have detrimental consequences on plants.

The lack of oxygen in the waterlogged soil can suffocate plant roots, leading to root rot and poor nutrient uptake. Ultimately, these factors can result in stunted growth, wilting, yellowing of leaves, and even plant death.

2. What are the basic reasons of water logging and salinity?

The basic reasons for waterlogging and salinity are primarily related to poor drainage and excessive irrigation. It occurs when the soil is unable to drain adequately due to factors such as high water table, compacted soil, or inadequate drainage systems.

Salinity, on the other hand, arises when there is an accumulation of salts in the soil due to excessive irrigation and evaporation, leading to an increase in soil salinity levels. Both negatively impact plant growth and productivity, requiring proper drainage and irrigation management to mitigate these issues.

3. How does salinity affect plant growth?

Salinity negatively affects plant growth in multiple ways. High levels of salt in the soil can create an osmotic imbalance, causing water to be drawn out of plant roots, leading to dehydration and wilting.

Excess salt also interferes with the uptake of essential nutrients, depriving plants of vital elements necessary for growth and development.

Additionally, salt accumulation can damage plant tissues and disrupt physiological processes, impairing photosynthesis and reducing overall productivity. Ultimately, salinity stress can result in stunted growth, leaf burn, reduced yield, and even plant death.

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4. How does soil help plants grow?

Soil plays a crucial role in supporting plant growth in several ways. Firstly, soil serves as a medium for plant roots to anchor and obtain physical support. It also acts as a reservoir for water, holding moisture that plants need for hydration and nutrient uptake.

Soil provides essential nutrients to plants, acting as a source of minerals and organic matter necessary for their growth and development. Additionally, soil contributes to root aeration and gas exchange, allowing plants to access oxygen for respiration.

5. How the modern methods of irrigation are more water efficient than the traditional ones?

Modern methods of irrigation are more water-efficient compared to traditional ones for several reasons. Firstly, modern techniques such as drip irrigation and sprinkler systems deliver water directly to the root zone, reducing wastage through evaporation or runoff.

Secondly, these methods allow for precise control of water application, adjusting the flow rate and timing according to plant needs. Thirdly, technology-driven irrigation systems incorporate sensors and automation, enabling real-time monitoring and optimizing water usage.

Lastly, modern methods promote water conservation practices like mulching and soil moisture management, further enhancing efficiency. Collectively, these advancements minimize water loss and promote sustainable water usage in agriculture.

6. How to harden soil?’

To harden soil, there are a few simple steps you can take. Firstly, avoid over-watering the soil, as excessive moisture can make it soft and compact. Secondly, ensure proper drainage by improving the soil’s structure with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, which helps to promote better drainage.

Thirdly, avoid excessive foot traffic or heavy machinery on the soil, as this can lead to compaction. Lastly, consider incorporating sand or gravel into the soil to increase its density and improve its hardness.

7. How to prevent soil salinization?

To prevent soil salinization, manage irrigation carefully, improve soil drainage, use salt-tolerant plants, and practice crop rotation.

8. What are the four traditional methods of irrigation?

The four traditional methods of irrigation are flood irrigation, furrow irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, and manual irrigation. Flood irrigation involves flooding the entire field with water. Furrow irrigation involves creating small channels or furrows to direct water to the plant roots.

Sprinkler irrigation utilizes sprinklers to distribute water over the field. Manual irrigation involves manually carrying and applying water to plants, often using watering cans or buckets.

These traditional methods have been used for centuries but may not be as water-efficient as modern irrigation techniques.

9. What would happen to a plant if it grow in polluted soil?

If a plant grows in polluted soil, it can experience various adverse effects. The pollutants present in the soil can be absorbed by the plant’s roots and transported throughout its tissues. This can lead to reduced growth, stunted development, and yellowing or wilting of leaves.

Pollutants can also disrupt essential physiological processes, hinder nutrient uptake, and cause cellular damage. In severe cases, plants may die due to the toxic effects of the pollutants. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure plants grow in healthy, unpolluted soil for optimal growth and productivity.

11. How to fix a waterlogged garden?

To fix a waterlogged garden, several steps can be taken. Firstly, improve drainage by creating channels or trenches to redirect excess water away from the garden area. Secondly, amend the soil by adding organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure to enhance its structure and drainage capacity.

Thirdly, raise garden beds or create raised planting areas to elevate plants above waterlogged soil. Lastly, select plants that are more tolerant of wet conditions and ensure proper spacing to allow for adequate air circulation. These measures will help alleviate waterlogging and promote a healthier garden environment.

12. Does gravel absorb water?

No, gravel does not absorb water. Gravel is a non-porous material, meaning it does not have the ability to retain or absorb water. Instead, it allows water to pass through it freely, promoting drainage. Gravel is often used in landscaping and construction projects precisely for its excellent drainage properties, as it helps to prevent water from pooling or causing waterlogged conditions.

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