This article throws light upon the nine main uses of halophytes are: 1. Food 2. Alcohol 3. Barilla 4. Tannin 5. Timber 6. Mats, Baskets and Cordage 7. Land Reclamation 8. Land-Building 9. Liquid Wax.
Use # 1. Food:
The only major food crop derived from a halophyte gene pool the sugar beet, Beta vulgaris. Its various races are grown as root or leaf crops in temperate zones of the Old and New Worlds. The seed of eelgrass Zostera marina, was harvested by the Seri Indians each spring from the sonoran coast of the Gulf; roasted, grind and prepared as a gruel. Dishtinchlis palmeri was regularly collected by the Cocopa and other Yuman indian.
Its grain is similar in size to wheat (6-5 mm long), and was used by Cocoopa to make bread. Phoenix dactylifera, is not a halophyte but it was domesticated from the halophytic populations somewhere in the Middle East.
Indeed the cultivated date can be irrigated with moderately brackish without serious loss of yield. Suaeda fructicosa and Salicornia brachiata, Sesuvium portulacastrurn, zera racemosa etc., are used as a good green vegetable.
The sea fennel, Crithmum maritimum is collected from wild lions in southern Italy and Greece and used in salads. The young and shoots of Batis maritimum, Portulaca oleracea, Tetragonianoides, Salicornia spp., and Suaeda torreyana have also been used for and pickles in various parts of the world.
Salvadora olecides and S. perica yield edible fruits rich in oil and fat. Both are multi-purpose trees India, providing wood, shade, fodder as well as the fruits. Scrirpus species yield tubers, which is a source of good nutritive and starch.
Use # 2. Alcohol:
The palm – Nipa fruit cans is a source of alcohol, The alcohol is obtained by distilling the fermented juice, which flows from made in the inflorescence stalk. The fermented juice can be used as a beverage.
Use # 3. Barilla – (Carbonate of Soda):
One time from the ashes of certain chenopodiaceous halophytes particularly from Arthrocnemurn, Haloxylon, Salicornia, Salsola and Suaeda, a carbonate of soda called barilla was obtained in large quantities and exported for the soap and glass industries. Suaeda fruticosa and other chenopods are collected from the saline ranns of Rajasthan to make soap and baking soda for local use.
Use # 4. Tannin:
The mangrove plants like Excaecaria agallocha, Kandelia, Rhizophora, Ceriops, Sonnertia acida and Carapa are used locally as a source of tannin. Fisherman and villagers cut the bark of these trees and boil in large vessels with plenty of water in which the tannin is supposed to be extracted.
This water containing tannin is poured in large wooden vessel in which fishing nets are tanned. Recently there have been developed tannin formaldehyde resins from the tannin of halophytes for joining sheets in plywood industry.
Use # 5. Timber:
Plant like Heritiera, Carapa, Avicennia, Sonnertia, Aegiceras majus etc. serve as a good source of timber for various purposes.
Use # 6. Mats, Baskets and Cordage:
Since ancient times Juncus and other rushes have been used for the manufacture of mats, baskets and cordage.
Use # 7. Land Reclamation:
Distichlis spicata has been successfully introduced in Mexico City for stabilization of seasonally dry lake bed. It is irrigated with city sewage water. The plant helps to reduce the dust storms. In Kenya, various halophyte trees and shrubs, e.g. Conocarpus lancifolius, have been planted directly in seaside quarries to produce fuel and fodder, from otherwise useless land.
Use # 8. Land-Building:
At the edge of sea a swamp is formed by mangroves growth. As more mangroves sprout up, new land is created. Every year the land advances a few centimeters into the sea. In times, soil accumulates around the roots and eventually builds a foundation for other mangrove species.
Use # 9. Liquid Wax:
The liquid wax is obtained from arid zone plant Simmondsia chinensis (Jojoba). It is drought resistant shrub or a tree. Jojoba stands salinity and requires little water. It grows very well on sea shores.
In India, Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute CSMCRI), Bhavnagar, have planted about 1500-1700 plants on sea shore, in the west coast of Zanjmer (Gujarat) and also on the East coast at Berhampur (Orissa). The plants are growing very well with deep root system. It is evergreen, drought-resistant, non-poisonous and long lived species.
The liquid wax is extracted from its seeds. The yield of liquid wax from seeds of both cultivated and wild populations ranged from 45 to 59%. The seed yield per plant varies from few seeds to 14 kg., the average yield is 2-3 g/plant and 3500 to 3700 kg/ha from a 9-10 year old plantation.
The rapidly escalating problem of desertification and salinization and failure of traditional efforts to obtain water of the quality required for conventional crops in saline areas favour Increased utilization of halophytes in arid and semi- arid regions.