Salt-tolerated cereal crops protects salinity in agriculture

Salinity affects the growth of plants worldwide, particularly in irrigated land where one third of the world’s food is produced. It is a problem that is only going to get worse, as pressure to use less water increases & quality of water decreases. Helping plants to withstand this salty onslaught will have a significant impact on world food production. An international team of scientists has developed salt-tolerant plants using a new type of genetic modification (GM).


They bring a salt-tolerated cereal crop that is step closer to the reality. They have used a new genetic modification technique to contain salt in parts of the plant where it does less damage. Salinity affects agriculture worldwide, which means the results of this research could impact on world food production & security. According to Professor Tester from the School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, his team used the technique to keep salt as sodium ions (Na+) - out of the leaves of a model plant species.

The researchers modified genes specifically around the plant’s water conducting pipes (xylem) so that salt is removed from the transpiration stream before it gets to the shoot. Professor Tester said, “This reduces the amount of toxic Na+ building up in the shoot & so increases the plant’s tolerance to salinity.”

He further said 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 transferring this technology to crops such as rice, wheat & barley.

The results in rice already look very promising. Rice is the most widely used crop in the world & it helps sustain billions of people. If researchers manage to successfully modify rice & maize (corn), then half of the food security problem would be solved, food experts believe.

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