As sea levels rise and the land subsides, America's first colonial farms—350-year-old tracts along Maryland's eastern shore—are being inundated with saltwater, threatening the corn and soybean crops while salt-tolerant plants grow six feet tall, reports FERN's latest story, published with The Atlantic.
Much of the arable land in China, the world's largest rice producer, is off-limits for growing rice because there is too much salt in the soil or in the available irrigation water. Researchers are making progress, however, on developing 200 varieties that tolerate salty water although at far lower levels than found in sea water.
The four-year drought in California has heightened attention to a long-running problem for irrigated agriculture in the Central Valley: the salt that accumulates in the soil over the years from the crop-sustaining water, says Environmental Health News. Options range from draining away briny subsoil water to retiring land altogether because crops can no longer grow on it.
From the Aral Sea basin in central Asia to the San Joaquin Valley of California, 20 percent of the world's irrigated land is degraded by salt buildup, says a study by United Nations University.