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[NEW DELHI] An Indian research team has produced salt from a leafless shrub that grows in salty soil on the Indian coast. The researchers hope that their research will lead to a market for plant-derived salt, which contains micronutrients that are not found in standard salt that is mined or extracted from seawater.

“This is the first time that salt has been produced from a vegetable source, and we have filed an international patent,” says Pushpito Ghosh, director of India's Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI) in Gujarat, where the research was conducted.

Most plants are intolerant to salt, but some can grow under high saline conditions. CSMCRI scientists investigated one such species, Salicornia brachiata, which accumulates salt within its tissue, and developed a process for extracting salt from the plant.

Ghosh says that his group is now trying to assess the commercial potential of 'vegetable salt' as a health product. Samples have been sent to companies overseas and “preliminary feedback is encouraging”, he says.

The researchers also suggest that their discovery could help in the commercial development of wasteland with salty soils.

“The finding that the plant can also be a source of nutritive salt has made large-scale saline soil cultivation an attractive proposition from the point of eco-restoration and making money from wasteland,” says Ghosh.