Salinity Tolerance of Plants


Project Description

Soil salinity is a major abiotic stress constraining crop production. We are investigating how some plants are able to cope with salt stress, to then inform research on other crops to make them more tolerant to salinity stress. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) tastes good, is highly nutritious and is a very salt tolerant crop; however, we are yet to discover the mechanisms for its high salt tolerance. This is one species that we are currently studying. We are also looking at mechanisms of tolerance in wild relatives of domesticated crops, in particular wild tomatoes and wild barley.​​
Program - Plant Science
Division - Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Center Affiliation - Center for Desert Agriculture
Field of Study - ​Biology, Computer science

About the

Mark Tester

Professor, Plant Science<br/>Associate Director, Center for Desert Agriculture<br/><br/>Co-founder and CSO, Red Sea Farms LLC

Mark Tester

The immediate aim of Professor Tester's research program is to elucidate the molecular genetic mechanisms that enable certain plants to thrive in sub-optimal conditions, such as those of high salinity or high temperature, and then deliver the outputs in economically viable systems.  In our research group, forward and reverse genetic approaches are used to understand and manipulate traits that contribute to salinity tolerance and improve this in crops such as barley, rice, tomatoes and quinoa.

One intellectual aim is to understand the co-ordination of whole plant function through processes occurring at the level of single cells, particularly through processes of long-distance communication within plants. This aim is being addressed by integrating genetic and genomic approaches with a broad-based understanding of plant physiology in both controlled conditions and the field.

An immediate applied aim of the program is to modify crop plants in order to increase productivity in conditions of challenging abiotic stress, with consequent improvement of yield in Saudi Arabia, the region and globally. A larger aspiration is to unlock seawater, by developing a new economically viable agricultural system where salt-tolerant crops are irrigated with partially desalinized seawater or brackish groundwater. A company, Red Sea Farms, has been established to facilitate this delivery.

Check out some of these websites: http://www.saltyworld.org

Desired Project Deliverables

​Lots of good research / lots of hard work and fun.​