Agriculture is facing a crisis. Mass irrigation is turning swaths of fertile ground into salty wastelands. Already a third of the world’s irrigated land has been rendered useless because the soil is too salty for crops to flourish.

And the problem is rapidly worsening. Each year a staggering 10m hectares (25m acres), goes. If the problem cannot be fixed, the world will struggle to provide for its increasing population.

Some scientists now think they have the answer to what has become agriculture’s greatest challenge. Yesterday a group of world-class researchers in the US announced that their company, FuturaGene, had developed the means to make plants fight harder for their survival in harsh environments.

Instead of putting new genes into the plants to help them survive, the scientists have found a way to make certain genes already present go into overdrive, beefing up the plants’ defences to salty soils, cold weather and drought.

More here.