Are there any crops which can be irrigated with salt water? © Getty Images

Are there any crops that can be irrigated by salt water?

Asked by: Sarah Tawton, Liverpool

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Most plants would be killed by salt water irrigation, but there are a few that would thrive. One, which has the potential to become a cash crop, is the pink-flowering seashore mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica), which grows wild in the coastal marshlands of the southeastern United States. Researchers from the University of Delaware are calling it “the saltwater soybean”, because its seeds contain oils that are similar in composition and quantity to those produced by soybean plants. Researchers in China have now introduced it to the heavy saline soils of Jiangsu Province, where the area of saline mudflats has been increasing year by year. They believe it has the potential to improve the soil, as well as to form a basis for the development of ecologically sound saline agriculture. Another plant with similar potential is the dwarf glasswort (Salicornia bigelovii), which has been evaluated for growth with seawater irrigation in a harsh desert environment – and with great success, producing at least as much nutritious edible oil as conventional soybean and sunflower crops.


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