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The Dead Sea is known for extreme conditions, high salt stress, which poses extreme challenges for organisms. In modern times, the problem has further been aggravated by agricultural practises such as irrigation. As exemplified by the picture, problems generated by long-term irrigation in naturally arid areas are world-wide and the magnitude of increasing salinity increasingly forces more land out of production. This is significant. While only about 15% of all land used for agriculture is irrigated, this area produces more than one third of all food stuff.
The nature of the damage that high salt levels inflict on plants is still poorly understood but the development of new genetic model systems should lead the way to finding and understanding salinity tolerance mechanisms. Progress is reviewed and a new genetic model species, Thellungiella halophila, is introduced by Jian-Kang Zhu:

J-K Zhu, Plant salt tolerance. Trends in Plant Science. 6, 66-71 (2001).

The picture used for the cover in the February 2001 Trends issue is, with modifications, reproduced here. The original picture is provided by NASA

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   

 
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