The following article was copied from Indian Perspectives August 31, 1996, pp31.
SEA-WATER FARMING SALICORNIA Crop of the future R.K.A. Jaswani A novel experiment in agriculture farming with seawater has shown encouraging results in the coastal area of the Kutch district in Gujrat. Salicornia- the plant grown in this region is the world's first salt tolerant plant which would revolutionise the economy of the wasteland coastal regions of the world. Salicornia or Sphire is a cactus-like miniature miracle crop which is under experimental cultivation in 125 hectares of coastal wasteland at Luni village in the Kutch district, giving employment to needy ruralfolk. The plant has also successfully been cultivated in Mexico and Saudi Arabia in West Asia for research to evaluate its economic viability. But scientists here are much impressed with its rapid growth because of the favourable climate and soil of the region. The plant promises to be economically viable here because of the low input cost and cheap labour. Though the plant is irrigated with sea water, it absorbs all the salts and does not harm the soil. Surprisingly, the plant withers away with sweet water. This is unheard ofin the history of agricultuire. On the contrary it thrives on saline water. This twiggy plant is leafless and has spikes which mature in six months and release tiny seeds which yield 30 per cent edible oil. This yield is better than the yieldfom soybean. The oil has also been added with diesel fuel at 12:1 ration with successful results. T he other tried uses of the plant include making green vegetable, salad, pickle and herbal green salt for humans and high protein forage for animals. Besides, its straw is a good source of pulp for coarse paper and building material. THE PLANT, A HALOPHYTE (SALT TOLERANT) IS ALSO ECO-FRIENDLY AS IT ABSORBS carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thereby checks the greenhouse effect the world is worried about. In a short span of six months, the region has become a green pasture of land attracting a large number of birds, an unusual phenomenon seen in this psrt of the state. About 25,000 square kilometers in Gujrat are saline wastelands. Of these, areas located at sea coast or having sub-soil saline water upto 4.5% salt content equal to that of sea water can be utilized for the prodiction of Salicornia. Encouraged by the success of this experiment plans are afoot to grow this rare plant in another 400 hctares this year itself. It thrives in drought conditions and failure of monsoons helps its speedy growth - a miracle crop indeed. More than 90% of earth's water is saline, which if utilized properly not only can revolutionized agriculture, but can also help to create environment conducive to mankind.
It would be wonderful to have some seed for studying physiological tissue culture, and genetic engineering of this plant. Can someone from India help us out in finding some seeds of this plant?. Mohan Jain Docent Dr. S Mohan Jain University of Helsinki Department of Plant Production, FIN-00014, Box 27, Helsinki, Finland. Email: Mohan.Jain@Helsinki.Fi Fax: + 358 9 708 5463 Phone: + 358 9 708 5328 FAX/Phone: + 358 9 2396038 (home) D. P. S. Verma Ph.D, FRSC Prof. Molecular genetics and Biotechnology Ohio State University Plant Biotechnology Center 1060 Carmack Road Columbus, OH 43210 Ph. 614-292-3625 Fx. 614-292-5379 ____________________________ To be free -- Free your mind