Comparison of four steady-state models of increasing complexity for assessing the leaching requirement in agricultural salt-threatened soils
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Irrigation scheduling in salt-threatened soils must include an estimation of the leaching requirement (LR). Many models have been developed over the last 40 years for assessing the LR, and they should be compared on common grounds to guide potential users. The LR for salts (LR gamma), chloride (LRCI) and SAR (LRSAR) and therefore the eventual LR was assessed with simple equations and three steady-state computer models of increasing complexity, WATSUIT, SALSODIMAR and SALTIRSOIL. These models were assessed in 30 scenarios characterised by different crops and water qualities in the irrigated area of the Vega Baja del Segura (SE Spain). The simple equations, WATSUIT and SALTIRSOIL calculated quite similar eventual LRs, which were between 0.99 depending on crop species and water quality. The SALSODIMAR gave remarkably higher eventual LRs (between 0.31 and > 0.99). This occurred because SALSODIMAR uses the hypothesis that the saturation extract is more concentrated than the drainage water, contrary to what is assumed by the simple equations or calculated by WATSUIT and SALTIRSOIL. Rainfall, which is not taken into account by the simple equations and WATSUIT, and soil calcite weathering, which is not taken into account by SALSODIMAR, were revealed, respectively, as important and very important aspects to be included in steady-state models. Although the SALTIRSOIL appears to be the most complete model, the simple equations give acceptably similar irrigation doses for many of the situations considered in this study. Irrigation doses lower than presently used could be profitably applied in the Vega Baja del Segura.