Increased population pressure, climate change impacts, degradation of productive agricultural lands, and scarcity and poor-quality of water have significantly increased the gap between potential and actual crop yields, especially in developing countries. Salinity and associated problems like sodicity, waterlogging, and droughts reportedly lead to about 2000 ha of land to produce lesser amount of crop productivity per day. In order to meet the future food security challenges, not only the physical resources, including marginal lands and poor-quality waters, need to be managed and used more efficiently, but also new and alternative crops that could produce economic yields under the harsh climatic conditions have to be identified and introduced to sustain agricultural production.
Though conventional breeding, biotechnology and genetic engineering technologies have contributed to increased crop tolerance levels to abiotic stresses in glycophytes, that still will not increase production by 50% to meet the food demands by 2050. It will be imperative to look for neglected and underutilized crops to meet the demand for food, fuel and fiber. In order to introduce and adapt new crops, it is necessary that they are evaluated both at small and large scale to assess them from a sustainability perspective and the whole value chain worked out for their environmental and economic feasibility.
This review describes the full potential of some of the underutilized crops and species under changing climate scenarios and adaptability to marginal environments, especially saline areas. A number of candidate crops, including vegetables, field crops and forages studied for both short- and longer-term productivity under different salinity environments, are described. The paper also discusses the future potential and the R&D directions needed to scale out these crops for commercial purposes.