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Salinization is increasingly affecting world's agricultural land causing serious yield loss and soil degradation. Understanding how we could improve crop productivity in salinized environments is therefore critical to meet the challenging goal of feeding 9.3 billion people by 2050. Our comprehension of fundamental physiological mechanisms in plant salt stress adaptation has greatly advanced over the last decades. However, many of these mechanisms have been linked to salt tolerance in simplified experimental systems whereas they have been rarely functionally proven in real agricultural contexts. In-depth analyses of specific crop-salinity interactions could reveal important aspects of plant salt stress adaptation as well as novel physiological/agronomic targets to improve salinity tolerance. These include the developmental role of root vs. shoot systems respect to water-ion homeostasis, morphological vs. metabolic contributions to stress adaptation, developmental processes vs. seasonal soil salinity evolution, residual effects of saline irrigation in non-irrigated crops, critical parameters of salt tolerance in soil-less systems and controlled environments, response to multiple stresses. Finally, beneficial effects of salinization on qualitative parameters such as stress-induced accumulation of high nutritional value secondary metabolites should be considered, also. In this short review we attempted to highlight the multifaceted nature of salinity in Mediterranean agricultural systems by summarizing most experimental activity carried out at the Department of Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy of University of Naples Federico II in the last few years.
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