|Saline Agriculture: Salt-Tolerant Plants for Developing Countries (BOSTID, 1990, 130 p.)|
Populations in developing countries are growing so quickly that the land and water are unable to sustain them. In most developing countries, prime farmland and fresh water are already fully utilized. Although irrigation can be employed to bring land in arid areas into production, it often leads to salinization. In some countries, the amount of newly irrigated land is equalled by salinized irrigated land going out of production. Moreover, irrigation water is often drawn from river basins or aquifers shared by several countries, and friction over its use is common.
Salt-tolerant plants, therefore, may provide a sensible alternative for many developing countries. In some cases, salinized farmland can be used without costly remedial measures, and successful rehabilitation of degraded land is usually preferable, in terms of resource conservation, to opening new land. Groundwater too saline for irrigating conventional crops can be used to grow salt-tolerant plants. Even the thousands of kilometers of coastal deserts in developing countries may serve as new agricultural land, with the use of seawater for irrigation of salt-tolerant plants. These plants can be grown using land and water unsuitable for conventional crops and can provide food, fuel, fodder, fiber, resins, essential oils, and pharmaceutical feedstocks.
This report will cover some of the experiences and opportunities in the agricultural use of saline land and water. The purpose of this report is to create greater awareness of salt-tolerant plants - their current and potential uses, and the special needs they may fill in developing countries - on the part of developing country scientists, planners, and administrators, and their counterparts in technical assistance agencies.
Introducing new crops is always risky. Each species has its own peculiarities of germination, growth, harvest, and processing. When unfamiliar plants are launched where land, water, and climate are hostile, difficulties are compounded. Salt-tolerant plants will require special care to help meet the needs of developing countries, but, given their promise, this attention seems increasingly justifiable.
Preparation of this report was coordinated by the Board on Science and Technology for International Development in response to a request from the U. S. Agency for International Development. I would like to acknowledge the contributions of the Panel, the many scientists who reviewed and revised the manuscript, and, in particular, to thank James Aronson and Clive Malcolm for their generous assistance.
Staff Study Director