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11 November, 2016 00:00 00 AM

Rice grown in seawater?

Yuan Longping
Rice grown in seawater?

Can rice be grown in seawater? Definitely! At the 2016 World Life Science Conference, held in Beijing from November 1-3, Yuan Longping, an Academician from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, introduced “sea rice” that he and his team are cultivating.

Yuan Longping also acts as the director and chief scientist at the Qingdao Sea Rice Research and Development Centre, China’s first national sea rice research institute. The organization, which was only established a few days ago, plans to increase the yield of sea rice to 200 kilograms per mu within three years.

Yuan Longping has set a higher goal for himself. He hopes to cultivate a strain of sea rice with a yield of more than 300 kilograms per mu. Currently, sea-grown rice yields are only about 100 kilograms per mu, and are only semi-uncultivated. If farmers grow sea rice, they cannot recover their investment costs. Therefore, they are not enthusiastic about this sort of cultivation. However, if the per mu yield can be increased to 300 kilograms, it would become cost-effective to grow sea rice.

 “In China, more than one billion mu of saline-alkali land is not planted with crops, and the area of tidal flats amounts to tens of millions of mu. If the sea rice planting area is increased to 100 million mu, and the per mu yield to 300 kilograms, we will produce another 30 billion kilograms of rice. This is equivalent to all of the annual rice production in Hunan Province,” Yuan Longping said.

According to Yuan Longping, the key to cultivating sea rice is improving its tolerance to concentrations of salt. There are two breeding methods addressing this issue. One is to transfer salt-tolerances to a high-yield rice variety through conventional breeding. The second method involves cloning a salt-tolerance gene and transferring it to a high-yield variety through molecular technology. Yuan believes that the second, molecular technology will work better, though it also involves more difficulties.

In 1986, a rice breeding expert named Chen Risheng in Guangdong province’s Zhanjiang first discovered a salt-resistant variety of wild rice and began its long-term cultivation. However, it was no easy job. Sea rice is pest-resistant and does not need fertilizer, but it is difficult to harvest and not resistant to stalk collapse. Therefore, despite years of cultivation, Chen Risheng’s sea rice has not yet been used in commercialized planting. Over the past 30 years, Chen Risheng has increased the per mu yield of sea rice from 50 kilograms to 150 kilograms.

Yuan Longping has set up the sea rice research and development centre in Qingdao with the purpose of integrating the wisdom of Chen Risheng with other domestic sea rice experts. Through new hybrid rice technologies, Yuan Longping hopes to cultivate a high-yielding sea rice variety that can be irrigated with sea water while also being suitable for commercialized planting.                              

(This story is a summary of relevant reports from People’s Daily, Science and Technology Daily, Guangzhou Daily and Zhanjiang Daily.)

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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