Worldwide food security is a major concern for humankind. As the world population is growing, so must agricultural productivity. Therefore, it is critical to ensure and to maintain productive soils. Abiotic stresses form major constraints on agricultural production. They negatively influence the survival, biomass production and yield of staple food crops, leading to a reduction of up to 70% of yield potential. Identifying, understanding, and finding sustainable solutions to these constraints is critical to increased agricultural productivity.
Soil salinity is one of the main burdens for agriculture, affecting approximately 1 billion ha of the global land surface (7% of the land surface). It occurs mainly in arid and semi-arid regions. In fact, in these areas it is common to use treated wastewater or brackish water and groundwater for agriculture, increasing salt concentration in the upper layer of the soil. Inthose same areas, yearly precipitation are not adequate to leach salt accumulation in the rootzone. This excess of Na+ and Cl- in the soil promotes a low osmotic potential and therefore a decreased water uptake by the plant. In addition, sodium disturbs the uptake of other nutrients and causes ion toxicity. Long-term damage caused by salinity is usually related to excessive and toxic accumulation of Na+ and Cl- ions in the leaves. This can lead to changes in root growth, morphology, and eventually affects the whole plant and decreases productivity.
The reduction of crop yield due to soil salinity endangers our future. The plants ability or potential to adapt to these adverse conditions became crucial subjects to be investigated. The Kessel Salinity Center for Agricultural Biology promotes yearly scholarships for Master and Ph.D. students. Our objective is to support the students in their research related to salinity and agriculture in order to advance our knowledge on soil salinity and plant salt stress response and enhancing innovating solutions.