Author

Kovach

Date of Award

12-2006

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa DeChano

Second Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Baker

Third Advisor

Dr. Gregory Veeck

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

The purpose of this research is to compare and analyze the leaching of road salt (sodium chloride) in soils of blueberry farms. Due to recent events in Ottawa County, Michigan, road salt is increasingly being blamed for blueberry production loss. Sodium chloride is harmful because once a significant amount of salt enters the soil profile the salt is unable to be flushed out, and reduces the chance for nutrients to reach the plant for effective growth. This study tested the farms' soils for salinity before winter (October 2005), during winter (March 2006) and after winter (May 2006) to determine if there was an increase during the winter due to applications of the road deicer. Data were collected from four blueberry farms in Van Buren County, Michigan. The four farms were different distances from major roadways to test the effects of distance-to-road on the dispersal of the salts. Soil salinity readings were taken in a systematic pattern with more than one hundred sample points from each farm for each round. Statistical analysis techniques were used to examine the spatial distribution of salt in the soils. Results indicated, as expected, an increase in sodium chloride in blueberry soils occurred during the winter season due to the amount of salt applied to the roads. This research provides important information to county officials for implementing alternative road deicers for environmentally sensitive areas.

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