Quinoa is a naturally salt-tolerant plant. Special bladder cells on the surface of the leaves absorb salt. The process is controlled by specific gene activity.
Photo: © Michael Hermann - http://www.cropsforthefuture.org/


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The Andean high nutritive crop Quinoa can tolerate salt. An international team of researchers have now found an explanation for this. Special bladder cells on the quinoa leaves remove salt from the plant metabolism. They also identified specific gene activities that underlie the salt-storing mechanism.

Due to climate change more and more arable land is drying out, and subsequently requires irrigation in order to grow crops. However, steady and heavy irrigation causes soil salination, because the salts that are dissolved in the water are diffused into the soil and remain there, after the water had evaporated. The salt in turn stunts the growth of the crops and, if left untreated, can even turn soils infertile.

Considering the growing acreage that already requires heavy irrigation or will soon do so because of global warming, stunted growth of crops endangers the possibilities to feed of a growing world population.

An international research team headed by Rainer Hedrich, plant scientist and Professor at the Julius Maximilians University Würzburg, Germany, analysed the salt-tolerant quinoa plant. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), originally a native of the Andean Highlands, is equipped with special bladder cells on its leaves that store excessive salt and thus protect the plant’s metabolism, enabling it to grow even on salinated soil.

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