Improving crop salt tolerance

Journal of Experimental Botany
T J Flowers

Abstract

Salinity is an ever-present threat to crop yields, especially in countries where irrigation is an essential aid to agriculture. Although the tolerance of saline conditions by plants is variable, crop species are generally intolerant of one-third of the concentration of salts found in seawater. Attempts to improve the salt tolerance of crops through conventional breeding programmes have met with very limited success, due to the complexity of the trait: salt tolerance is complex genetically and physiologically. Tolerance often shows the characteristics of a multigenic trait, with quantitative trait loci (QTLs) associated with tolerance identified in barley, citrus, rice, and tomato and with ion transport under saline conditions in barley, citrus and rice. Physiologically salt tolerance is also complex, with halophytes and less tolerant plants showing a wide range of adaptations. Attempts to enhance tolerance have involved conventional breeding programmes, the use of in vitro selection, pooling physiological traits, interspecific hybridization, using halophytes as alternative crops, the use of marker-aided selection, and the use of transgenic plants. It is surprising that, in spite of the complexity of salt tolerance, there are co...Continue Reading

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