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Biosaline agroforestry: remediation of saline wastelands through the production of biosaline biomass (for bioenergy, fodder and biomaterials)

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Turning wasteland into energy producers

Recent decades have seen an increase in saline environments due to human activities. Being able to exploit such wastelands for energy production was the subject of the Biosafor project.

Energy

Increasing soil salinity has detrimental consequences for agriculture. Biosaline forestry deals with innovative approaches to salinity, such as using salt-tolerant species combined with improved soil and water management practices. The EU-funded Biosafor project aimed to develop such biosaline agroforestry (AF) systems for various saline environments and explore their potential for biomass production. Project partners concentrated on the potential of woody biomass for energy from these salt-affected lands. The dual aim of the project to contribute to the remediation of saline wastelands and to meet global demand for bioenergy and biomaterials was achieved through the development of biosaline AF systems. These practices establish a new and different balance in soil and water, using salt-tolerant tree species (halophytes) and adapted agricultural technologies. Additionally, the use of unconventional brackish or even saline water resources could increase productivity of previously unused land. Project partners studied the productivity of trees as biomass in environments of different salinity, water availability, temperature ranges and soil quality in southern India. The data were then processed using a mathematical model of South Asian soil, water and terrain (SASOTER) that estimated the cropping potential of these particular environments. Furthermore, by putting high-salinity regions on the world map, the Biosafor project provided useful insight in the growth potential of specific areas for wood biomass production. The system could be applied to all tree species as well as other crops. The Biosafor-driven commercial exploitation of high-salinity areas offers obvious socioeconomic and environmental benefits. Continuous efforts to test the farming potential of these regions will alleviate some of the increasing pressure on agricultural land and water resources.

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