Soil salinity impacts about 70% of Oman’s agriculturally suitable land in Oman. The increase in soil salinity of South Al-Batinah is due to seawater intrusion and irrigation mismanagement along with naturally occurring salt accumulation because of high temperatures and low rainfall.

Oman Shell in collaboration with Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), carried out research between 2020 and 2022, to study how effective Special-S (a sulphur fertilizer produced using Shell Thiogro technology) is in remediating saline-sodic soils through soil acidification.

In Phase 1 of the research, incubation trials and column experiments were performed with Special-S on decreasing soil pH (measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil), and salt leaching was carried out on five different types of soil collected from different Omani farms. Special-S showed significant acidification of the soil, and was effective in salt leaching, doubling salts leached as compared to control.

Field trials were also conducted to evaluate the plant response to this amendment. With the application of Special-S, there was a 13% increase in yield of Rhodes grass and 59% increase in yield of wheat. The calcium and phosphorous uptake by Rhodes grass plants were 75% and 14% higher respectively as compared to control.

In Phase 2 of this research, a socio-economic survey was carried out to understand current Omani farmers’ perception of the soil salinity issue and its management, as well as their willingness to apply new technologies to alleviate soil salinity. Though 62% were not currently using any specific techniques to alleviate salinity, 82% of farmers indicated a willingness to purchase soil amendment to manage soil salinity. Additionally, improving the active management of soil salinity would increase the sustainability of these farms, and mitigate a myriad of social and economic problems associated with the decay of soil quality and productivity.

Further studies in Phase 2 testified to Special-S effectiveness in leaching salts compared to agricultural gypsum and control, with Special S being 31 – 37% more effective in leaching. Compared with agricultural gypsum, Special-S enables the replacement of Na+ ions without the addition of external Ca2+ ions that are already abundant in Omani soils.

With the conclusion of Phase 1 and Phase 2, SQU recommends 1 ton per hectare per year Special-S application on soils with electrical conductivity between 4 – 20 dS/m that experience poor irrigation water quality. Referencing to Oman Salinity Strategy 2012, about 30 - 40% of Omani farms Al Batinah meet these conditions.

Oman Shell’s Country Chairman Walid Hadi commented on the research saying, “Soil salinity is an increasing concern for South Al-Batinah. We have worked together with SQU to conduct critical research which has been a big contributor to a productive and sustainable agricultural sector.” He added, “It has been a privilege to work with the brilliant minds at SQU to meet this real-life challenge facing the industry head-on.”

Zain Hak, Shell’s Global Vice President Agriculture & Forestry (A&F) highlights, “Soil salinity puts pressure on existing agricultural communities. As the research with SQU validates, Special-S alleviates soil salinity and increases productivity in Omani farms. This helps address Oman’s food security concerns while empowering Omani farmers to raise their income with more arable land and higher yields.” He also adds, “This research collaboration with SQU is a great example of how Shell A&F continues to look for opportunities to offer sustainable and integrated solutions to meet productivity and emissions related challenges across the agriculture and forestry value chains.”

Dr. Daniel Blackburn, Project Leader from the Department of Soils, Water and Agricultural Engineering of Sultan Qaboos University said, “The salt contamination of agriculture soils in South Al-Batinah has been a real agricultural challenge, reducing farm yields and profitability, and in extreme cases, forcing farmers to abandon their lands. Our collaboration with Oman Shell represents a fantastic public-private partnership directed at community wellbeing, as we believe that the use of Special-S will provide continuous Sulphur and nitrogen nutrition to crops. This product will aid in the reclamation of salt affected soils, helping in leaching excess sodium salts, whilst decreasing soil alkalinity and improving plant nutrition. With this technology and data from the research results, we hope to make a substantial contribution to the sustainable management of Omani soil and to the Sultanate’s food security.”

About Oman Shell

  • Shell has been a partner in Oman’s development and progress over the last several decades. We have been providing pioneering technologies and expertise in the energy industry and creating value for the community.
  • Shell is active in Oman across the energy industry and is involved in joint venture and independent activities ranging from research and development, exploration and production to trading, retail and new energies. Shell also implements an extensive social investment programme that contributes to the sustainable development of the country.
  • Shell has also been appointed as the official operator of Block, as per Royal Decree in 12/2022 and hold interests in Blocks 42 and 55.
  • Shell holds interests in Petroleum Development Oman (34%), Oman LNG (30%) and Shell Oman Marketing Company (49%). Together they represent a substantial part of Oman’s economic growth.

About Shell Agriculture & Forestry (A&F)

A&F is a dedicated organization within Shell to profitability serve and jointly decarbonize the A&F sector which accounts for about 27% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A&F does this by being the partner of choice in offering sustainable and integrated solutions to solve challenges across A&F value chains, accelerating the sector’s transition to net zero emissions.


Salima Al Masrouri
External Communications Advisor, Oman Shell.

Media Relation Advisor, MENA.
Shell Development Oman LLC
Mobile: +968 9173 5418

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