Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib Fakim today inaugurated a genetic garden of naturally occurring salt-tolerant plants called halophytes at the coastal town of Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu.

She inaugurated the garden set up by the M.S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) through video-conference from here. The Mauritian President is currently on a four-day visit to the country, having arrived yesterday.

According to MSSRF, plants such as these are important in the context of increasing salinisation of land, one of the adverse effects of climate change.

Halophytes tolerate salinity and could grow in saline affected regions. Their seeds contain high oil (30%) and protein (35%) like soyabeans and other oilseed crops and the salt content is less than three percent.

Eminent agriculture scientist and MSSRF founder, Prof M.S Swaminathan said – “This is probably the first such garden in the world and could be called a global garden, which is very important in the aspect of anticipatory research. With regions likely to be affected differentially in one way or other, it is going to be a mega-calamity, unless we take pro-active action.”

MSSRF Executive Director V Selvam said the potential of halophyte as food for people, fodder for livestock, bio fuel and for ornamental purposes was being explored and ‘could reap rich rewards in research for climate change.’