Farming in the Face of Climate Change: Planting Alternative Crops in Salt-intruded Fields

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $14,995.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland, College Park
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Katherine Tully
University of Maryland


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: cropping systems
  • Natural Resources/Environment: salinization
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    As sea levels continue to rise, coastal ecosystems are vulnerable to saltwater intrusion. Saltwater intrusion can force ecosystem shifts in agricultural lands, and in particular, alter crop productivity and species composition. My overall objective is to identify crop and restoration species that can survive saltwater intrusion. It is imperative to develop options for farmers losing land to saltwater intrusion in order to allay financial and potential nutrient losses. Osmotic and ionic thresholds for germination of standard rotation crops, more salt-tolerant crops, an agricultural weed, and restoration species will be tested in the greenhouse. Productivity of salt-tolerant crops, agricultural weeds, and restoration species will be evaluated on transitioning farmlands located on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. This research will inform bioeconomic models that will determine which management options maximize farm profitability while minimizing environmental harm in the face of saltwater intrusion.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The specific objectives of this research are to:

    (1) Determine the maximum salinity level (osmotic and ionic) for 50% germination of different crop, agricultural weed, and restoration species in a controlled greenhouse experiment.
    Hypothesis 1: Restoration species will have the highest ionic tolerance, followed by agricultural weeds.
    Hypothesis 2: Agricultural weeds will have a higher osmotic tolerance than either crops or restoration species.
    Hypothesis 3: Quinoa and barley will have the greatest threshold for salinity of the focal cash crops.

    (2) Evaluate the productivity of crops, agricultural weeds, and restoration species in agricultural fields experiencing saltwater intrusion.
    Hypothesis 1: Agricultural weeds will produce the greatest biomass in the field experiment.
    Hypothesis 2: Porewater concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus will be lowest under saltmeadow cordgrass and switchgrass.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.