There is no doubt, worldwide salinity of soils, irrigation and groundwater plays an increasing role in crop production and protection of natural habitats. In all continents areas affected by salinity problems have increased significantly in the last decades. But fortunately also our knowledge on plant growth under saline conditions, management of saline soils, using water of higher salinity for irrigation and cultivation of halophytic crops has improved significantly.
    However in spite of our increasing experience in saline agriculture and environments, in many parts of the world salinity problems seriously impair sustainability of agriculture and degrade natural resources especially under irrigation. This gap between scientifically proved growth potential in saline environments and effective results under practical conditions often comes from missing chemical data on soils, waters and plants. A professional management of plant growth under saline conditions requires a continuous supply with relevant and site specific chemical data (salinity monitoring).
    We conclude: a professional management of saline agriculture requires a permanent supply of farmers and/or project management with data on salinity and soil fertility, when crop production takes into consideration the following expectations:
    • reasonable and economical yields
    • no over-irrigation
    • protection of environment
    However even when the need for a long-term monitoring of relevant data is accepted principally, there is still the question how to realise this understanding under practical field conditions at reasonable costs with the available staff. To close this gap between understanding and the practical measurement of relevant data we conclude that there is a need for cost-effective strategies and simplified chemical field methods that can be applied and evaluated by non-chemists too.
    Consequently it is the objective of this HANDBOOK to offer a vast choice of rapid chemical field methods to measure and to evaluate parameters on water, soil and plant samples. Most proposed methods have been tested since many years in field studies, they are applicable under the simplest field conditions (villages of least developed countries). But they are also helpful under conditions in developed countries (e.g. greenhouse, drip irrigation), when there is financial pressure or when rapid decisions are expected.
    The HANDBOOK addresses to agronomists, soil chemists, environmentalists and irrigation engineers involved in the preparation, planning, execution and monitoring of irrigated areas and opposed to salt-affected soils and environments. To my experience the data quality and their evaluation has never been a limiting factor. On the contrary, often evaluated data are even more reliable, as measurements can be cross-checked immediately in the field e.g. with visual impressions.
    The HANDBOOK does not address to scientists and other theorists that are mostly interested in analytical precision itself, which does not affect the data evaluation with respect to practical conclusions. With respect to analytical precision the recommended methods will not compete with stationary laboratories equipped with expensive and sophisticated equipment.
    Concerning the general problem for the acceptance of rapid field tests I need not indicate to the limited expressiveness of many well established methods with respect to practical recommendations, especially when they were transferred from agriculture of the developed world to farmer's environment in developing countries. I think that this book contributes to replace the widespread and costly 'trial and error' approaches by professional and effective approaches based on scientific measurements and quantitative data evaluation.
    I hope that some readers of this handbook are encouraged to loose their shyness from the application of rapid field tests. I am sure they will profit from the large potential of rapid field tests and learn to identify and to solve practical problems. Anyhow the need for more environmental related studies and monitoring programmes on the one hand and the limited financial resources on the other hand will force us to look permanently for more cost-effective solutions in the future.
    In case you feel that my way of working with the field laboratory may be interesting for you, contact me please. I can offer you to acquire the field laboratory and in case that you think you may need some assistance to work with the laboratory a TRAINING COURSE is possible. Details on the training course you will find on my website .
    The HANDBOOK is written in English, which is not my mother tongue. When you are American, British or Australian, you will notice that my 'German English' differs from your English. I apologize for this inconvenience. But for most readers interested in this subject it will be easier to understand my 'German English' than to read German, I think. And there is still the chance for you to send to me your corrections, the earlier the better. I am even 100% sure that there are many things to improve and to supplement, the HANDBOOK is a first and clear step.

    And last not least I want to mention that the development and application of the presented methods over more than two decades and writing of this handbook was a really great challenge. The motivation to write and to publish the handbook came from many colleagues, national and international partners, who cooperated at various levels with me in numerous field studies. So I have to thank first of all those institutions working for development aid projects (e.g. KfW, GTZ, DANIDA, EU) that were flexible enough to give me the opportunity for collecting the required experience and to test the technical approaches under practical field conditions of their projects.

    Wolfenbuettel, 2003
    Uwe Schleiff