Salinity limits the production capabilities of agricultural soils in large areas of the world. Both breeding and screening germplasm for salt tolerance encounter the following limitations: (a) different phenotypic responses of plants at different growth stages, (b) different physiological mechanisms, (c) complicated genotype × environment interactions, and (d) variability of the salt-affected field in its chemical and physical soil composition. Plant molecular and physiological traits provide the bases for efficient germplasm screening procedures through traditional breeding, molecular breeding, and transgenic approaches. However, the quantitative nature of salinity stress tolerance and the problems associated with developing appropriate and replicable testing environments make it difficult to distinguish salt-tolerant lines from sensitive lines. In order to develop more efficient screening procedures for germplasm evaluation and improvement of salt tolerance, implementation of a rapid and reliable screening procedure is essential. Field selection for salinity tolerance is a laborious task; therefore, plant breeders are seeking reliable ways to assess the salt tolerance of plant germplasm. Salt tolerance in several plant species may operate at the cellular level, and glycophytes are believed to have special cellular mechanisms for salt tolerance. Ion exclusion, ion sequestration, osmotic adjustment, macromolecule protection, and membrane transport system adaptation to saline environments are important strategies that may confer salt tolerance to plants. Cell and tissue culture techniques have been used to obtain salt tolerant plants employing two in vitro culture approaches. The first approach is selection of mutant cell lines from cultured cells and plant regeneration from such cells (somaclones). In vitro screening of plant germplasm for salt tolerance is the second approach, and a successful employment of this method in durum wheat is presented here. Doubled haploid lines derived from pollen culture of F1 hybrids of salt-tolerant parents are promising tools to further improve salt tolerance of plant cultivars. Enhancement of resistance against both hyper-osmotic stress and ion toxicity may also be achieved via molecular breeding of salt-tolerant plants using either molecular markers or genetic engineering.
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Vol. 44 • No. 5