Too much salt isn’t only bad for our bodies, it’s bad for our crops, which don’t grow well in highly saline soil. As climate change, poor water quality, and the misuse of agrochemicals degrades our land, the world’s soil is becoming saltier, threatening the global food system.

The good thing is MIT engineers may have found a way to save our crops. They’ve developed a protective coating made of silk, sugar, and bacteria that could help seeds grow in soil that is currently unsuitable for agriculture.

So far, tests have found that chickpea and common bean seeds with the coating had an increased germination rate and better overall plant health in highly saline soil than uncoated seeds, researchers detailed in a paper published today in the journal PNAS. 

They hope the coating could be applied to other crops, as well, and be an accessible and cheap option for all farmers to make use of more land, which is huge considering there are many countries such as Morocco that have plenty of land that could be used for agriculture if the soil didn’t have so much salinity. As we strive to feed a growing population, these are the solutions we need to make it possible.

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