Salinity

Most crops are glycophytes (Greenway and Munns 1980) and have been grown in soils with low salinity. Thus, the mechanisms developed to absorb, transport, and manage nutrients may not operate as efficiently under salinity as they would under non-saline conditions. Salinity negatively affects plant development and growth and, therefore, reduces crop yield and quality (Lauchli and Epstein 1990).

Over 800 million hectares of land worldwide are affected by salinity (Munns 2005) , comprising nearly 7% of the world's total land area and approximately 5% of cultivated land (Amtmann et al. 2004) + The expected drought periods that global warming is predicted to cause will entail more water used by farmers. As water resources are becoming more scarce, secondary saliniza-tion will be increased as the water quality is likely to be reduced.

There are two types of effects of salt stress on plants: osmotic effect and the specific effect. The latter includes the toxic effect, the nutritional imbalance and the oxidative stress. The osmotic effect results from the reduction of the soil water potential due to salt accumulation. Plant cells respond with osmotic adjustment by synthesizing compatible organic solutes and by accumulating ions from the external environment (Niu et al. 1995). By doing this, plants can revert water flow and permit growth (Kurt et al. 1986). The specific effect depends on the salt species present. The most abundant salt under salinity conditions is NaCl and therefore, the specific effect is mainly derived from the high Na+ and Cl- concentrations. Na+ specifically affects K+ nutrition because Na+ and K+ share physicochemical properties and Na+ competes for the K+ binding sites that are essential for the cellular function. More than 50 enzymes are activated by K+ and Na+ cannot replace its function (Bhandal and Malik 1988). Therefore, K+ nutrition under salt stress is greatly impaired.

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