Increasing the proportion of the landscape planted to deep-rooted perennial pasture species is recognised as one of several remedial actions required for the control of dryland salinity in southern Australia. The widespread use of perennials in farming systems is limited at present by the lack of well-adapted perennials that can be grown to reduce recharge in a landscape where drought, soil acidity, temporary waterlogging, infertile soils and unrestricted grazing prohibit the use of many species. The range of plants adapted to salinity also needs to be expanded to stabilise and ameliorate soils already degraded by rising watertables and to increase the profitability of grazing discharge regions within the landscape.This paper describes the steps involved in a national forage screening and breeding program initiated by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity1, seeking to expand the range of perennial and or salt-tolerant forage plants that can be incorporated into farming systems of southern Australia. It describes the target environments, soil constraints, farming systems and the criteria being considered when assessing the potential of new plants, including assessment of the weed risk posed by introducing new species. This paper forms an introduction to a special issue which presents the outcomes of the pasture species field evaluation and plant breeding program conducted by the CRC.