In this report, with first author Greet Blom (Plant Research International) and with contributions by Wouter Wolters, Marius Heinen, Koen Roest, Robert Smit and Bert Smit, the effects of salt on plants and their natural tolerance mechanisms to cope with salinity are described.
Irrigated agriculture is a large consumer of freshwater as worldwide more than 40% of the food production is from irrigated land. More than 30% of the world’s irrigated areas suffer from salinity problems. Over the past century, the incidence of salinity has even increased, resulting in a gradual loss of high quality farm land and grazing land. Thus, salinity remains one of the most serious threats to agriculture as it may have negative effects on crop yield. This emphasizes the urgency to find new ways to deal with salinity in agricultural practice has to be developed. In this review the effects of salt on plants and their natural tolerance mechanisms to cope with salinity are described.
The authors focus on the question “how to anticipate on or even benefit from plants’ tolerance mechanisms in the cultivation of cash crops?” They mention different farm management systems that may result in a more resilient agricultural practice under brackish or saline circumstances. To get more insight in the approach and in how to find hands-on solutions, a Case Study on potato is elaborated. The choice for potato is obvious as this staple crop is almost the most important cash crop in the world, its market perspectives in developing countries are increasing according to FAO trend analyses and moreover, potato has a very low Water Footprint compared to other staple crops.
In the concluding section of the report, the authors highlight 'the way forward'. Cooperation between the 'Golden Triangle' partners: government, business and research, will be highly useful in further advancing the ‘more crop per drop’ opportunities including the cultivation of salt-tolerant crops. Every partner can contribute from its own mandate: government from its responsibility for institutional arrangements; business from its access to venture capital and research from its possibilities to expand knowledge. Issues for a research agenda are also presented.