Seawa­ter rice ex­pected to boost grain har­vest in 5 years

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - By XIE CHUANJIAO in Qing­dao xiechuan­jiao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

De­vel­op­ing a new strain of crop is time-con­sum­ing, but that doesn’t worry 86-year-old Yuan Long­ping, China’s renowned rice sci­en­tist, in the least.

Yuan, best known as the coun­try’s “fa­ther of hy­brid rice”, has set his eye on his next tro­phy — a seawa­ter rice for full com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion in five years.

By that time, a rice strain grown by his re­search team is ex­pected to yield up to 4.5 met­ric tons per hectare — around 60 per­cent of the yield from reg­u­lar pad­dies, Yuan said.

If the po­ten­tial is fully uti­lized, Yuan said, China can reap an ad­di­tional 50 mil­lion met­ric tons of grain per year, enough to feed 200 mil­lion peo­ple.

Al­though wild rice that is po­ten­tially re­sis­tant to dis­eases and does not need fer­til­izer is known to grow in briny swamps, such rice has never been turned into a com­mer­cial crop.

China has much saline-al­ka­line waste­land that could be put to use when the coun­try’s arable land is sparse, Yuan said. More than 13 mil­lion hectares of such waste­land in the coun­try is suit­able for seawa­ter rice farm­ing, he added.

Un­der Yuan’s di­rec­tion, a re­search cen­ter will be built in Li­cang dis­trict of Qing­dao, Shan­dong prov­ince, where his team will use molec­u­lar breed­ing tech­nolo­gies to de­velop a sea rice strain with high pho­to­syn­thetic ef­fi­ciency and yield.

With fund­ing of 100 mil­lion yuan ($14.79 mil­lion), sci­en­tists will start their ex­per­i­ments on 2 hectares of salin­eal­ka­line marsh­land north of Jiaozhou Bay in April, and they ex­pect their first har­vest next au­tumn.

Once the 2 bil­lion yuan re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­ter is com­pleted, Yuan’s team will start plant­ing a sea rice species in 1.33 mil­lion hectares of saline-al­ka­line soil along the coast.

Seawa­ter rice seeds and plant­ing tech­niques could also be ex­ported, such as to coun­tries in South­east Asia, which has a to­tal of 20 mil­lion hectares of saline-al­ka­line soil, Yuan said.

“Our Qing­dao cen­ter is likely to help South­east Asia raise its yearly rice pro­duc­tion by 20 mil­lion tons,” he said.

Zhang Guodong, gen­eral man­ager of Yuance Biotech, a part­ner in Yuan’s project, said this marks the first time a rice strain that can thrive on seawa­ter as well as yield a high out­put has been re­ported.

Al­though over­seas in­sti­tu­tions re­port­edly are try­ing to de­velop seawa­ter rice us­ing ge­netic tech­nol­ogy, the ef­forts seem to be merely lab at­tempts so far, Zhang said.

Our Qing­dao cen­ter is likely to help South­east Asia raise its yearly rice pro­duc­tion by 20 mil­lion tons.” Yuan Long­ping, rice sci­en­tist

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