Introduction

Abiotic stresses such as drought, salinity, submergence, extreme temperatures, mineral toxicities, and deficiencies impair crop growth and productivity and threaten global food security (Gao et al. 2007; Witcombe et al. 2008). Among these stresses, salinity is impacting more farm lands worldwide due to poor quality irrigation water, inadequate drainage, salt water flooding of coastal land, and salt accumulation in dry areas (Kijne 2006). Around 21% of world's irrigated land is estimated to be affected by salinity (Ghassemi et al. 1995) and it continues to be a major problem in the arid and semi-arid regions. The negative impact of climate change on food crops is well recognized. Global temperatures are estimated to rise between 1.1°C and 6.4°C during the next century (IPCC 2007). The increased temperatures will disrupt weather patterns, leading to regular occurrence of floods, drought, and salinity. Melting ice caps and glaciers are expected to cause a rise in sea level (Wassmann et al. 2004; Melloul and Collin 2006), which may seriously affect crop productivity in coastal areas due to increased soil salinity.

World population is increasing at an alarming rate and it is expected to grow from 6 billion today to nearly 8.3 billion by 2030 (FAO 2010). With no prospect of expanding arable land due to urbanization, rapid industrialization, and water scarcity in many populous developing countries of the world (Rengasamy 2010), providing food security for the world population will require at least 57% increase in food grain production by 2050 (Wild 2003) . Although most major crops have witnessed increased productivity in the past, productivity has been stagnant in recent years and replicating the success of the past to increase food production further may not be easy. Increasing salinity tolerance of the world's major food crops is an important goal of plant scientists as the world's population is increasing more quickly than the area of agricultural land to support it (FAO 2010). To alleviate the negative impact of salinity on food production, use of halophytic species, improved water management, and enhancing salinity tolerance in major field crops have been advocated. But improving adaptation of crop plants in saline environments remains a challenging task due to complex genetic basis of salt tolerance mechanisms. In this chapter, we discuss about different approaches for the development of salinity-tolerant crop plants to boost food grain production.

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