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Sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) is a measure of the suitability of water for use in agricultural irrigation, as determined by the concentrations of solids dissolved in the water. It is also a measure of the sodicity of soil, as determined from analysis of water extracted from the soil.
The formula for calculating sodium adsorption ratio is:
Although SAR is only one factor in determining the suitability of water for irrigation, in general, the higher the sodium adsorption ratio, the less suitable the water is for irrigation. Irrigation using water with high sodium adsorption ratio may require soil amendments to prevent long-term damage to the soil.
If irrigation water with a high SAR is applied to a soil for years, the sodium in the water can displace the calcium and magnesium in the soil. This will cause a decrease in the ability of the soil to form stable aggregates and a loss of soil structure and tilth. This will also lead to a decrease in infiltration and permeability of the soil to water leading to problems with crop production.