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© CSIRO 2016. For a plant to persist in saline soil, osmotic adjustment of all plant cells is essential. The more salt-tolerant species accumulate Na+ and Cl- to concentrations in leaves and roots that are similar to the external solution, thus allowing energy-efficient osmotic adjustment. Adverse effects of Na+ and Cl- on metabolism must be avoided, resulting in a situation known as 'tissue tolerance'. The strategy of sequestering Na+ and Cl- in vacuoles and keeping concentrations low in the cytoplasm is an important contributor to tissue tolerance. Although there are clear differences between species in the ability to accommodate these ions in their leaves, it remains unknown whether there is genetic variation in this ability within a species. This viewpoint considers the concept of tissue tolerance, and how to measure it. Four conclusions are drawn: (1) osmotic adjustment is inseparable from the trait of tissue tolerance; (2) energy-efficient osmotic adjustment should involve ions and only minimal organic solutes; (3) screening methods should focus on measuring tolerance, not injury; and (4) high-throughput protocols that avoid the need for control plants and multiple Na+ or Cl- measurements should be developed. We present guidelines to identify useful genetic variation in tissue tolerance that can be harnessed for plant breeding of salt tolerance.