Published on July 16th, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer30
We Learn to Grow Crops in Saltwater
Just in time, too.
As climate change brings an increase in drought areas and rising sea levels we have to find a solution to soil salinity if our civilization is to survive.
Previous civilizations dependant on irrigation of dry soil have failed. The gradually increased salinity in irrigated dry soil has ended civilizations even though they solved the engineering and logistic problems of designing, building, and maintaining irrigation systems, but neglected the long-term effects of salinization.
We’ll have no choice but to learn to farm in salty water, as the next few centuries’ climate change dries up growing areas from California, Florida and the Middle East, to Africa and China and Australia – - and as seawater increasingly infiltrates crops on low-slung island nations.
So the research findings of a group of scientists from the University of Adelaide in Australia and Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK. attempting to learn to grow crops in saltwater is very good news.
The team has succeeded in keeping salt out of the leaves of the first plant species tested:
“Helping plants to withstand this salty onslaught will have a significant impact on world food production,” says Professor Mark Tester, the leader of the team of international scientists working on the problem.
The researchers modified genes specifically around the plant’s water conducting “pipes” so that salt is removed from the transpiration stream before it gets to the shoot; using a new GM technique to contain salt in parts of the plant where it does less damage.
“This reduces the amount of toxic Na+ building up in the shoot and so increases the plant’s tolerance to salinity,” Professor Tester says.
“In doing this, we’ve enhanced a process used naturally by plants to minimize the movement of Na+ to the shoot. We’ve used genetic modification to amplify the process, helping plants to do what they already do – but to do it much better.”
The team is now in the process of applying this technology to basic crops such as rice, wheat and barley. The results of their work are published in the top international plant science journal, ‘The Plant Cell’.
“Our results in rice already look very promising,” Professor Tester says.
Via Seed Daily
Image from Ken Foto