Soil salinity caused by desertification is a principal limiting factor for agriculture and lands development in Central Asia. High spatial heterogeneity of soil salinity constrains monitoring desertification and decision making on land management and soil remediation. Low-cost express methods to monitor soil salinity are highly demanded especially at the regions, where implementation of more expensive conventional measurements is constrained due to budget limitations. This research aimed to test onsite and laboratory measurements of soil electroconductivity (EC) as a proxy of soil salinity in the Hungry Steppe (Syrdarya province of Uzbekistan). Four Water Consumer Associations (WCA) with different land quality were analyzed and the EC observations were compared to the results derived from soil salinity maps. An overall satisfactory performance of the indicator was shown with an average 28% of the correctly predicted soil salinity classes. Field EC observations significantly positively correlated to the lab observations (r = 0.57; p < 0.05), but underestimated the absolute values in 66% of the cases. The best performance (53% of corrected predictions) was obtained for the Beruni WCA with the lowers land quality, therefore EC can be recommended as a relevant proxy in areas with high salinity rather than in areas with low concentrations of water-soluble salts. © 2020, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.