Coastal regions all over the world are confronted with various phenomena caused by changing weather conditions, sudden storms, heavy rainfall, unexpected floods, etc. Also in the North Sea Region, we have to be prepared and try to protect the lower regions, the farmland and the villages along the coasts. Traditionally this is done by building higher and higher dykes during centuries, to separate the sweet water from the saltwater lands. But what about the areas in between? Is there any chance to make use of salinized soil for cultivating crops? Are there ways to test the salt tolerance of crops and make use of the natural resources of plants to adapt to new circumstances? Is it possible to develop new varieties, which can stand higher concentrations of salt in the ground? Yes, there are – and with our project we seek to explore these possibilities along the coastal regions of all North Sea countries.
Transnational co-operation and the creation of open-air labs along various coastal zones will enable us to conduct large-scale screening of many different crops and varieties, from potato to beetroot, asparagus or barley to find out which varieties can take in the highest salt concentration. The identified crops can grow on salt affected soils and can be irrigated with brackish water, thereby saving scarce fresh water.
Experiments with the cultivation of salt tolerant crops along the wetlands of the North Sea Region will not only contribute to developing saline agricultural practices and new methods in agriculture along the North Sea Coast, they will also contribute to new environmental management solutions across the North Sea Region and beyond. Cultivation of salt tolerant crops will also pave the way to create new production chains and chances for regional entrepreneurs to enlarge and renew their businesses. Transnational co-operation between knowledge institutes, farmers and entrepreneurs, the public sector, and consumers will ensure knowledge transfer and boost innovation for the benefit of all North Sea Region countries and wider Europe. In this way, various aspects of salinization and salt water irrigation as a consequence of climate change can be researched under different conditions, while the results can be compared and taken into account for future policies of climate change adaptation, risk prevention and managing the environment within the North Sea Region and beyond.