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Soil Science Society of America
5585 Guilford Road • Madison, WI 53711-5801 • 608-273-8080 • Fax 608-273-2021
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Contact: Susan V. Fisk, Public Relations Director, 608-273-8091,

Putting sidewalks on low-sodium diet

Winter salt use can have long-term impact

Jan. 3, 2017 –  Wintry weather can pack a slippery punch. While use of salt on roads and sidewalks can return surfaces to a safer status, too much salt can have long-term effects on soil. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) January 1 Soils Matter blog post explains how too much salt reduces soils’ ability to retain plant nutrients and water, and damage soil structure.

Clearing snowy sidewalkSalts that blow off the pavement or flows away with melted ice and snow wreak havoc on soil systems. “Soils that contain too much sodium are unable to effectively retain important plant nutrients,” says blog author Mary Tiedeman. “Sodium in soils can also reduce plant-available water, and is even toxic to many plant species.”

The troubles don’t end there, however. “Sodium contamination leads to the breakdown of soil aggregates (or clumps),” Tiedeman says. “Water and air cannot move as easily through the soil. This process makes for a harsh environment for plants. It also has water quality ramifications, as surface soils erode far more readily when water cannot easily penetrate the soil surface."

If you are concerned about the health of your soil and nearby water resources:

  • Be proactive with shoveling
  • Use the smallest amount of salt necessary
  • Wet deicers before application
  • Use kitty litter or sand for traction

To read the entire blog post, visit

Follow SSSA on Facebook at, Twitter at SSSA_Soils. SSSA has soils information on, for teachers at, and for students through 12th grade,

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a progressive, international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. It provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.

SSSA supports its members by providing quality research-based publications, educational programs, certifications, and science policy initiatives via a Washington, DC, office. Founded in 1936, SSSA proudly celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2011. For more information, visit or follow @SSSA_soils on Twitter.