Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Halophytes to the rescue

"While the seashore mallow might be handy for a quick snack, the sturdy plant has provided Gallagher food for thought in addressing a smorgasbord of environmental problems, from global warming to the disappearance of coastal farmland.
Gallagher, a marine biosciences professor, says the seeds are a promising source of biodiesel, with an oil composition similar to that of soybeans and cottonseed.
Unlike soybeans and corn, which require annual plantings to feed the growing appetite for biofuels, the pink-flowered seashore mallow is both a perennial and a halophyte, or salt-tolerant plant, that grows in areas where other crops can't. "

About time halophytes made a come back, now cooked with global warming sauce. I worked on salicornia and inula between the eighties and the early nineties, and so did plenty of big research labs in the US and Israel. It was thought then that salicornia would offer an alternative to just about everything, except, perhaps to solar eclipses. US labs like that of the University of Arizona created halophyte technology centers and sold them to the Gulf countries for tens of millions of $. I still get a newsletter from one of the centers in Abu Dhabi, and there is another one I think in Koweit. But the mega breakthrough never came and sea water agriculture is still insignificant. That was because it was and is still meant to remedy problems of food availability by creating more sourecs of food. Lets remind them: the problem of food in the world is not one of production (yet), it is a problem of distribution.

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