The Chinese Develop Rice That Can Grow In Saltwater
In an amazing turn of events, a group of Chinese researchers were able to develop a method through which people can grow rice in saltwater. This breakthrough is so revolutionary that it can help feed over 200 million people and boost China’s rice production by another 20%.
In the spring, the scientists planted over 200 types of rice in a field near the coast in eastern China. They then flooded that field with diluted saltwater, in an attempt to see which of the strains of rice is more resistant to it. But sufficed to say, they were all stunned by the result.
“The test results were way above our expectations,” said Liu Shiping, professor of agriculture at Yangzhou University.
For decades now, people were trying to produce a commercially viable way through which they could grow rice in high saline levels. The lead researcher in this project, Yuan Longping, who is known as the “godfather of rice” in China, has been working in the development of hybrid rice varieties since the 1970s – when it was obvious that China will be expecting a population boom. Over his career, he has produced many varieties of rice which now account for over 20% of the world rice production.
As most of us know, rice is and has been a staple Chinese diet and huge tracts of land are being used for its cultivation. What’s more, much land across China, especially in the coastal regions, were unavailable, precisely because the saline levels were too high. But by growing a strain of rice that can grow in saltwater, will make this problem go away by incentivizing farmers to grow on this land as well.
There are already several species of wild rice out there that have a tolerance towards saltwater. The problem with them, however, is that they produce a generally low yield of about 1.125 to 2.25 tonnes per hectare. But the newly-developed rice is able to produce much more – 6.5 and 9.3 tonnes per hectare.
“If a farmer tries to grow some types of saline-tolerant rice now, he or she most likely will get 1,322 pounds per acre (1,500 kilograms per hectare). That is just not profitable and not even worth the effort,” said Yuan. “Farmers will have enough incentive to grow the rice if we double the yield.”
Now, even though the rice is quite expensive – costing somewhere around 8 times more than the traditional variety, it nevertheless, manages to make its way into kitchens across China. There are also several other benefits to this type of rice. It’s naturally higher in calcium than other variants, and it needs far fewer pesticides to grow – since fewer insects are able to tolerate saline conditions.