What were the main messages from this session? Well… we should have brought the carrots, which appear to be more tasteful when grown in saline conditions! This statement captures a number of messages which include: it is becoming increasingly possible, in a technical sense, to successfully use saline tolerant crops; that saline agriculture yields are reaching marketable scales; and that consumers are becoming interested in tasting and considering saline vegetables for consumption. Positive developments indeed. As an example, reference was made to a pilot study on the island of Terschelling, where saline produce offers new tastes and innovative combinations with existing restaurant menus. In addition, the session conveyed several other interesting messages.
Responding to the salinity challenge
Salinisation threatens food security, biodiversity, and livelihoods, and many fundamental challenges remain, as outlined in this background paper, which was presented during the session. Salinity is a complex issue felt on a global scale: from saline soils to brackish water conditions along coasts, and salinity intrusion through tides and groundwater. This calls for locally specific responses. Furthermore, it is important to connect regional approaches with farm level based interventions and vice versa. To address these issues, we need to pay attention to a number of essential factors:
- Research (ranging from salinity assessments to testing technological innovations);
- Agriculture and water management innovations (to adapt, mitigate or prevent further salinisation depending on physical conditions and costs);
- Markets (to sell products produced in salt-affected areas);
- Policies (to enable or further support saline agriculture);
- Investment (to finance the scaling up of opportunities).
There is a sufficient amount of awareness on salinity, with a number of known examples of good practises and pilots, but scaling is needed for which collaboration of companies, NGOs, policy and research is conditional.
Scientific message: a systems approach
Integrated approaches are needed to deal with the complex challenges associated with salinisation. A food systems approach can be used, for instance, to identify trade-offs between the effectiveness of solutions and hence support decision-making at a regional or farm level. Would it be more efficient to grow improved varieties of a current crop, change to different crops, or even switch to different production systems? Integrated or systems approaches may help to understand and balance out such decisions.