Successful Experiment To Grow Rice in Saltwater

Growing rice in saltwater would be a blessing considering the rising number of hungry mouths around the world; current world population is 7.6 billion and counting. To address this crisis, 87-year-old Yuan Longping who is called ‘the father of hybrid rice’ in China has dedicated his whole life researching saltwater-tolerant rice.

Credit: gettyimages/guang niu

The Scenario:
The ratio to saltwater and freshwater is roughly 4: 96. Out of this 4% freshwater, only 0.3% water comes from lake, river, and swamps. There are a vast amount of saltwater-soaked lands available that cannot be cultivated in the traditional process, which requires a land to be filled with fresh water.
If cultivated in saltwater, plants would find it extremely challenging to perform photosynthesis, resulting in a halt to their growth and eventually death.  Moreover, as sea level is rising, more new lands will be salty and will be unfit for cultivation. The presence of saltiness in the water, It has been found that about a third of the total arable land in China is practically unsuitable for growing rice.

Longping’s Contribution:
According to XINHUANET, 200 types of rice were planted in diluted seawater under the supervision of Yuan Longping.The salinity of the seawater was 0.3% and then increased to 0.6% to toughen the environment for rice growth.  Four types of rice have yielded  6.5 to 9.3 tonnes per hectare. “The test results were way above our expectations,” said Liu Shiping, a professor of Yangzhou University. There are also health benefits in rice grown in saltwater as there are more calcium and minerals in the water.

However, it is still not practical to grow rice in saltwater since the concentration of salt is roughly 3.5%. Yuan said, “if a farmer tries to grow some type of saline-tolerant rice now, he or she most likely will get 1,500 kilograms per hectare”. Clearly, it is not worthy to produce rice in salt water now.
But, Longping knows how to grow new kinds of rice. He also won the 2004 World Food Prize for his work on hybrid rice. So, Scientists are hopeful that in near future they will able to produce a new type of rice that will see commercial success in saltwater and feed the world.

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