Seawater holds key to future food (BBC News)


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Seawater holds key to future food

By Julian Siddle
Science reporter, BBC News

Salt and freshwater mix in river estuaries

Growing crops in salt water is becoming necessary to overcome shortages of fresh water, say researchers writing in the journal Science.

They suggest the domestication of wild plants that grow in salty conditions could help reduce global food shortages.

Only 1% of the Earth's water is freshwater.

Around the world, many agricultural areas are becoming less productive as salt levels in water supplies increase.

"Salinisation is irreversible," says Professor Jelte Rozema from the department of systems ecology at the Free University, Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. "Sooner or later mankind has to accept the world is becoming more saline."

The scientists say we will have to make use of salty environments for agriculture. Farmland is becoming increasingly salty as global sea levels rise, but plants which already thrive in salty areas may provide a ready food source.

Wild plants

Future crops could come from plant species that grow in brackish water, around the mouths of rivers, where salt and freshwater mix, say the researchers.

The rising cost of bringing in freshwater to irrigate traditional crops may force producers to turn to salt water agriculture.


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