Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Maricopa, Arizona » U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center » Water Management and Conservation Research » Research » Research Project #444573

Research Project: A Controlled Environment Agriculture Platform for Cultivation of Salt-Tolerant Crops with Integrated Saline Water Irrigation and Salinity Management

Location: Water Management and Conservation Research

Project Number: 2020-13000-005-015-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2023
End Date: Mar 31, 2025

New concepts of saline agriculture are needed to address the grand challenge of food production in regions of present and future freshwater scarcity. Multidisciplinary and integrated research is needed to make use of abundant sources of saline and brackish water for food production. Our general objective is to develop an integrated hydroponics CEA platform for the cultivation of salt-tolerant food crops using saline irrigation water by enhancing crop salt tolerance, developing new concepts in agricultural-sector desalting technologies, and optimizing salinity management. The specific objectives of this multi-disciplinary, multi-state, and multi-institutional coordinated agricultural project (CAP) are as follows: To identify sources of salt tolerance in solanceous and cucurbit crops and develop tolerant germplasm for use in hydroponic systems. To conduct genome wide association mapping (GWAS) and identify genomic regions potentially involved in salt tolerance in cucumber and tomato.

Key knowledge gaps and associated research needs relate to (i) selection of high-value crops with known salt tolerance and identifying means to further enhance their quality and yield under saline conditions; (ii) (iii) new concepts in desalting of saline water sources to produce irrigation water with tailored water quality (salinity) for irrigating targeted high-value crops and a process for managing desalination waste brines and return flows to minimize impacts on adjacent land and the aquatic environment; (iii) use of hydroponic approaches (i.e., food production without soil) using saline water sources for producing high-value food crops; and (iv) a techno-economic analysis (TEA) and life cycle assessment (LCA) framework to evaluate tradeoffs between crop yield and value versus irrigation-water salinity levels as well as desalination and brine management costs.