Monday, December 19, 2005

Dead Sea Fungus Survives In Salt

Dead Sea fungus's secret of survival may help crops
Kurt Kleiner

An extraordinary fungus that manages to thrive in the super-salty Dead Sea could one day open up new genetic approaches to creating crops that can tolerate saline soils.

The fungus Eurotium herbariorum is able to tolerate the Dead Sea's incredible salt content of 340 grams per litre – about 10 times saltier than ocean water. Most of the Earth's organisms are far less tolerant of salt, and will dehydrate and die if exposed to too much of it.

But researchers are interested in developing salt-tolerant food crops because soil salinity is increasing in some parts of the world. Land that needs to be constantly irrigated gradually becomes more saline, and crop yields go down.

The researchers say if the gene could be inserted into a plant, it might eventually be used to increase stress tolerance in crops. They add that other genes from Dead Sea organisms might also be promising.

Does anyone see possible problems with cultivating salt tolerant fungus? I bet it would thrive in the snack chips aisle in the grocery store? It would certainly enjoy munching away on the world's supply of salt cured meats.

New Scientist Breaking News - Dead Sea fungus's secret of survival may help crops


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