Salt water is famed for its abundance, but also for being bad to drink or use on your crops. After all, haven’t we all heard the term “to salt the Earth” being used to mean decimating it?

Researchers from the Netherlands proved that this isn’t necessarily true in their salt water potato project, which beat more than 500 competitors from 90 countries to win an award sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The research done on the Texel salt farm turns conventional wisdom on its head by growing potatoes that seem to actually thrive in salt conditions. This could mean farmers watering their crops with salt water.

Recently re-sown paddy fields in Sindh, Pakistan. December 2010.

Texel salt potato seeds are being sent to Pakistan, where 4.2 million hectares of land is salt affected and farmers are often forced to use brackish groundwater to water their crops. In yesterday’s world, this reduced yields and quality, but if these salty Texel potatoes are able to adapt to the Asian climate, they will almost certainly transform the lives of farmers far beyond the borders of Pakistan.