A Dutch farmer is using diluted sea water to successfully grow crops, a breakthrough that could potentially minimize the impact of increasingly salinated fresh water reserves due to climate change, as well as save thousands of coastal farms around the world. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: This farmland in The Netherlands is a giant science experiment. Instead of fresh water, Marc Van Rijsselberghe is pumping thousands of litres of salty diluted sea water on to his fields. He's basically trying to kill his crops. (SOUNDBITE) (English), FARMER, MARC VAN RIJSSELBERGHE, SAYING: "We kill plants because we want to test them which variety or which type of plant is the best of growing in the saline conditions and that's what we try to test here. We put a lot of plants in the field and then we put them in fresh water and in sea water and all varieties between it, and then we see which variety is surviving and which variety is dying." And against all odds, some of Rijsselberghe's crops are thriving, especially his potatoes. Rijsselberghe's experiments could prove to be the answer to increasingly salinated fresh water reserves, helping thousands of coastal farming communities tackle climate change. (SOUNDBITE) (English), FARMER, MARC VAN RIJSSELBERGHE, SAYING: "We shipped potatoes to Pakistan, four varieties who are really salt-tolerant, and we are going to grow them there. Why Pakistan, because they only have a small area, 3 million hectars of land where they can't grow any plants anymore and they want to have salt tolerant crops to grow there." And if the potatoes grow in Pakistan, they could potentially thrive in other areas with elevated salinity levels, producing produce on land that was thought to be dead. Rijsselberghe is testing a variety of crops and subjecting them to different concentrations of salt. Many are proving to be resilient, especially his favorite - the carrot. (SOUNDBITE) (English), FARMER, MARC VAN RIJSSELBERGHE, SAYING It's a miracle. It shouldn't be a carrot, it should be dying if we look at the data that are available in the world at the moment." But seeing is believing... and a sustainable, albeit saltier, global food supply could be a reality in the years to come.