SalFar did more than raise awareness of the problem, they also set out to find solutions.
First, the partners went looking for crops that can grow in a saline environment. Van Noordenburg: “In the last 200 years or so, farmers have been optimising their products for size and quality. The trait of salt-tolerance was often lost in the process. However, if we go back 500 years, people would grow crops in coastal areas that were periodically flooded. These varieties possessed natural salt resistance and many of them are still available.”
The researchers identified and tested salt-tolerant varieties of common food crops such as potatoes, carrots, sugar beets, cabbages, oats, and wheats. They discovered several that grow well when irrigated with brackish water only.
Based on exciting initial findings, the original 10 test fields evolved into 26 pilots across Denmark, Flanders, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK.
Next, SalFar investigated the suitability of these long-forgotten varieties as commercial food crops, including their taste and quality.