Scientists should stop trying to genetically modify crops like rice and wheat to make them resistant to salty water, but instead focus on boosting production of naturally salt-tolerant edible plants. That’s the verdict of Dutch researchers, who suggest cross-fertilizing wild varieties of plants such as samphire and sea kale, which happily grow in brackish water.
As the world finds freshwater increasingly hard to come by, farmers are being put under greater pressure not to waste so much on agriculture. But the world needs to eat, of course. Harvesting plants that anyway grow in salty conditions would save freshwater for drinking, and there are plenty of vegetable options: spinach and beetroot can be tried, for example.
Another advantage of samphire – which is like asparagus – is that its seeds contain a lot of oil; more than sunflower seeds or soybean. This gives it great biofuel potential.
Would you give up rice for samphire or sea kale?