Recent progress in improving the salt tolerance of cultivated plants has been slow. Physiologists have been unable to define single genes or even specific metabolic processes that molecular biologists could target, or pinpoint the part of the plant in which such genes for salt tolerance might be expressed. While the physiological might be expressed. While the physiological processes are undoubtedly complex, faster progress on unraveling mechanisms of salt tolerance might be made if there were more effort to test hypotheses rather than to accumulate data, and to integrate cellular and whole plant responses. This article argues that salts taken up by the plant do not directly control plant growth by affecting turgor, photosynthesis or the activity of any one enzyme. Rather, the build-up of salt in old leaves hasten their death, and the loss of these leaves affects the supply of assimilates or hormones to the growing regions and thereby affects growth.