New hardy rice strain re­sists cold

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By LI YINGQING in Kun­ming and XU WEI in Bei­jing

A sci­en­tist known as China’s “fa­ther of hy­brid rice” has de­vel­oped a new strain that could en­able the plant to adapt to more var­ied grow­ing en­vi­ron­ments at a sig­nif­i­cantly lower cost.

The strain, the third gen­er­a­tion of hy­brid rice that Yuan Long­ping has de­vel­oped, is de­signed to be hardier and able to with­stand lower tem­per­a­tures dur­ing the plant’s re­pro­duc­tive phase.

“The third gen­er­a­tion will also in­cor­po­rate the mer­its of the pre­vi­ous two gen­er­a­tions, and its adapt­abil­ity to low tem­per­a­tures will in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly,” he said in an in­ter­view with China Daily.

Low tem­per­a­tures dur­ing the re­pro­duc­tive phase re­sulted in crop fail­ure for the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of hy­brid rice in An­hui prov­ince in 2014, trig­ger­ing gov­ern­ment scru­tiny over the adapt­abil­ity of the strain. It also in­fu­ri­ated farm­ers, whose yields plum­meted from an ex­pected 7.5 met­ric tons to 750 kilo­grams per hectare, or even to zero.

Yuan said the cost of breed­ing the new strain has also de­creased sig­nif­i­cantly, mak­ing its com­mer­cial use vi­able in the short term.

How­ever, he de­clined to dis­close the ex­pected av­er­age unit yield of the new rice strain.

The yield of the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion hy­brid rice reached a record av­er­age pro­duc­tion vol­ume of 1.03 tons in 2014.

Yuan said the plant­ings of hy­brid rice reached 17 mil­lion hectares in re­cent years, ac­count­ing for about 57 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal rice acreage.

The av­er­age pro­duc­tion vol­ume of rice na­tion­wide is 6.4 tons per hectare, while that of hy­brid rice stands at 7.5 tons.

Yuan is also de­vel­op­ing a new strain of salt­wa­ter-re­sis­tant rice that could yield up to 4.5 tons per hectare — about 60 per­cent of the yield from reg­u­lar pad­dies.

His team, mean­while, is look­ing to sell the new strain to the world’s ma­jor rice­grow­ing coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to a team mem­ber who asked not to be iden­ti­fied.

“The high adapt­abil­ity of the third gen­er­a­tion has made the world­wide pro­mo­tion of hy­brid rice pos­si­ble,” he said, adding that dif­fi­cul­ties re­lated to breed­ing the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of rice had made its pro­mo­tion vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble, de­spite its record­high yield.

The com­pany will look to breed rice seeds in des­ti­na­tion coun­tries, which could lower the cost of the breed­ing process even fur­ther, the team mem­ber said.

Zhang Taolin, vice-min­is­ter of agriculture, said in a news brief­ing last year that the min­istry will con­duct more com­pre­hen­sive as­sess­ments of hy­brid rice va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing their yields and the adapt­abil­ity of such va­ri­eties to dif­fer­ent grow­ing en­vi­ron­ments, in­clud­ing re­silience to dis­ease and in­sects.

He in­sisted that hy­brid rice re­mains an im­por­tant part of the national strategy to en­sure grain se­cu­rity.

Con­tact the writ­ers at xuwei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Yuan Long­ping

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