© 2015 New Phytologist Trust. Soil salinity reduces crop yield. The extent and severity of salt-affected agricultural land is predicted to worsen as a result of inadequate drainage of irrigated land, rising water tables and global warming. The growth and yield of most plant species are adversely affected by soil salinity, but varied adaptations can allow some crop cultivars to continue to grow and produce a harvestable yield under moderate soil salinity. Significant costs are associated with saline soils: the economic costs to the farming community and the energy costs of plant adaptations. We briefly consider mechanisms of adaptation and highlight recent research examples through a lens of their applicability to improving the energy efficiency of crops under saline field conditions.