Research project Saline Farming – Innovative agriculture to protect the environment and stimulate economic growth

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Main research question

SalFar is one of the first research projects in the North Sea Region that uses experiments to explore the feasibility of saline agriculture in the coastal region. The aim is to look for salt-loving and salt-tolerant crops, their economic potential and the various socio-economic barriers to saline agriculture. The research is directly linked to the agricultural challenges facing climate change. In particular, drier summers, a shortage of fresh water, the rise in sea levels and the higher risk of flooding (with salt water) puts pressure on agriculture in the North Sea region. SalFar examines to what extent 'saline agriculture' has the potential to ensure food production in the coastal region, including in the long term.

Research approach

In saline agriculture, fields and vegetable fields are irrigated with salty ("brackish") water instead of with fresh water. Such agriculture requires crop adjustments. The SalFar researchers set up ten test sites for saline agriculture in the North Sea region. These test sites serve as a 'living lab' and are the engine of the project. Various crops and cultivars are tested for their salt tolerance. In addition, the test sites are a demonstration platform. There is a great deal of attention to the socio-economic barriers to saline agriculture. Through interaction with farmers, agricultural organizations and policy makers from various sectors, ILVO examines the salinization problem and explores the desirability and feasibility of saline agriculture in the coastal region of Belgium.


We expect innovative insights and knowledge about the path to 'saline agriculture' for Flanders. The community of farmers and stakeholders that we set up through the test sites in the coastal region becomes an important source of experience and possibly a first form of support for climate-robust 'saline' farmers. A remarkable fact is that in the first months of the research the Flemish coastal region had to deal with the extremely dry summer of 2017. Farmers thus directly experienced how dependent agriculture in this region actually is on a fresh water supply during a temporary ban on irrigation with ground or surface water.