Growing Crops in Salty Soils

While most plants require freshwater to survive, some can adapt to saltier soils. Dutch firm Salt Farm Foundation stimulates saline agriculture through innovative irrigation techniques and by training farmers.

Lettuce

Lettuce

Global challenge of salinisation

The world’s population continues to grow and with it the demand for food. At the same time, every day large amounts of agricultural land are lost to salinisation. Salts are a natural component of soil, but climate change and human activities render many soils less fertile or result in desertification. Farmers find it increasingly challenging to produce food from salt-affected soils, which leads to increased food shortages and poverty.

Saline solution

For many years, the Salt Farm Foundation has been testing the production of salt-tolerant crops at their state-of-the-art outdoor lab on the Dutch island of Texel. This innovative method of food production, known as saline agriculture, utilises salt water for irrigation. The various familiar crops produced, look and taste exactly like their freshwater-irrigated counterparts., However, thanks to smart irrigation techniques and the correct drainage, they can be cultivated on salt-affected land.

By focusing on the crops, and not the soil, saline agriculture avoids the need to reduce the salt concentration of the soil. It creates the potential to reuse some 70-120 million hectares of salt-affected land globally. This not only improves food security, the land’s natural ecosystems and associated biodiversity also remain unscathed. Added to that, there is minimal impact on scarce freshwater resources.

Spread the word

The Salt Farm Foundation has more than a decade of saline agriculture expertise, gained through research and projects in the Netherlands, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their goal is to share expertise with the world, starting with farmers. This is achieved by raising awareness and ensuring knowledge on saline agriculture is disseminated and put to good use.

All the Foundation’s activities and know-how are publicly available at their online Knowledge Centre on Saline Agriculture. Together with tools and practical tips, this resource supports anyone interested in saline agriculture. Knowledge is also shared through training and education, teaching farmers around the world how to adapt and apply techniques to their land. This benefits the planet, with a pragmatic, sustainable, future-proof solution that adapts to climate change, instead of trying to fight its effects.

Farming the Future

Farming the Future is a campaign, a focus devised jointly by public and private sector stakeholders, to promote Dutch knowledge, solutions and innovations worldwide. By extending our collaboration across borders and cultures, we will be able to share with the world how, together, we could farm the future.