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Sustainable futures

Surviving salty soils

High levels of salt in soil are a serious issue for farmers across the globe. Sodium severely limits the ability of plants to grow and has a massive impact on worldwide food production. It is estimated that 50% of crop-growing land will have seen an increase in salt levels by 2050.

Our work, which looks at how certain wild plants adapt to tolerate salty soils, is hugely important if we hope to be able to continue to feed the world – especially developing nations – in the future. 

By studying the genetic characteristics of thale cress – a wild and weedy relative of many modern crops – growing on the Iberian peninsula, we were able to look at how plants evolve to survive in their surroundings. 

What we found was that these plants have adapted to their challenging landscape by maintaining their genetic diversity at very specific genes, enabling them to withstand rapid fluctuations in the salt levels around them.

"By understanding how genes help plants tolerate salinity we will be able to apply this knowledge to other crops, helping to improve their resilience to increasing environmental challenges."
Dr Levi Yant

By understanding how genes help plants tolerate salinity we will be able to apply this knowledge to other crops, helping to improve their resilience to increasing environmental challenges, benefiting not just farmers but all those who rely on these crops for food. 

My research has been carried out in conjunction with my colleagues from the Future Food Beacon of Excellence, alongside Professor Charlotte Poschenrider Williams from the Universidad Autonoma of Barcelona. 

I have long been fascinated by the clever solutions nature has forged over millennia. That we can begin to apply these solutions to important, worldwide problems is the most rewarding aspect of my work.

Levi Yant

Dr Levi Yant is an Associate Professor in the School of Life Sciences.

Follow Levi on Twitter to find out more about his research.

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