Date: 28 Sep 2011

Prospects of Halophytes in Understanding and Managing Abiotic Stress Tolerance

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Halophytes are a diverse group of plants with tolerance to high salinity. While most of our crops are glycophytes lacking the genetic makeup for salt tolerance, halophytes are endowed with ability to seize NaCl into their cell vacuoles as an osmoticum. The sensitivity of crops to environmental extremities has become a major limitation to worldwide food production. Study of halophytes can be rewarding as the mechanisms by which halophytes survive and maintain productivity on saline water can be understood to define and manage adaptations in glycophytes. The adaptation mechanisms include ion compartmentalization, osmotic adjustment, succulence, ion transport and uptake, antioxidant systems, maintenance of redox and energetic status, and salt inclusion/excretion. Real benefits can be accrued if sustained efforts are in place to investigate the species-­specific regulation during abiotic stresses and extend genetic resource and manipulate stress tolerance mechanisms. Halophytes are also an important plant species with potential for the purposes of desalination and restoration of saline soils, withstand high soil salinity and saline water irrigation, phytoremediation and wetland restoration. It will be invaluable to develop these strategies to ensure sustainability, and future efforts to improve crop performance on marginal and irrigated land.