Three major themes related to the improvement of salt tolerance in forest tree species are examined. First, evidence demonstrating that substantial intraspecific variation in salt tolerance exists in many species is presented. This evidence is important because it suggests that efforts to improve salt tolerance through conventional plant breeding techniques are justified. Second, the physiological and genetic mechanisms controlling salt tolerance are discussed briefly. Although salt tolerance involves the integration of numerous physiological processes, there is considerable evidence that differences in the ability to exclude Na+ and Cl- from leaves are the most important factors underlying intraspecific differences in tolerance. It is also becoming apparent that, although salt tolerance is a multigenic trait, major genes play an important role. Third, progress to date in improving salt tolerance of forest tree species is assessed. Compared with agricultural crops, relatively little progress has been made with either conventional or biotechnological methods, but field trials designed to test clones identified as salt tolerant in screening trials are underway now in several countries. We conclude that there is justification for cautious optimism about the prospects for improving salt tolerance in forest tree species.
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Prospects for improving the salt tolerance of forest trees: a review