Salt water resistant rice can boost harvest by nearly 20 per cent

Rice grown on a commercial scale in diluted seawater has, for the first time, made it into the rice bowls of ordinary Chinese people after a breakthrough in food production following more than four decades of efforts by farmers, researchers, government agencies and businesses.

The rice was not grown in traditional rice paddy, where fields are filled with fresh water, but on a salty beach on the Yellow Sea coast in Qingdao, Shandong.

China has one million square kilometers of waste land, an area the size of Ethiopia, where plants struggle to grow because of high salinity or alkalinity levels in the soil.

Agricultural scientist Yuan Longping, known as China’s “father of hybrid rice”, told mainland media that if a tenth of such areas were planted with rice species resistant to salt, they could boost China’s rice production by nearly 20 per cent.

They could produce 50 million tonnes of food, enough to feed 200 million people.

Last month, at the nation’s largest seawater rice farm, in Qingdao, the output of Yuan’s seawater rice exceeded 4.5 tonnes a hectare.

Yuan Ce Biological Technology, a Qingdao-based start-up and business partner of Yuan’s team, said it set up an online shop in August, branding the rice “Yuan Mi” in honour of the project’s chief scientist.

The rice now being sold was harvested last year. This year’s crop will enter barns next month.

Each kilogram of “Yuan Mi” costs 50 yuan (US$7.50), or eight times as much as ordinary rice. It is sold in packs weighing 1kg, 2kg, 5kg and 10kg.

The rice grains have a unique texture and pleasant flavor, according to the company. Consumers pay a high premium not just for the pleasurable eating experience, but also for some potential health and safety benefits.

The salt resistant rice could be rich in calcium and other micronutrients which are abundant in saline water.

Professor Huang Shiwen, the leader of the rice disease research team at the China National Rice Research Institute in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, said salt was a disinfectant that could reduce or cut off the transmission of some diseases caused by bacteria.

Nearly 1,000 people placed an order last month, and six tonnes of the rice had been sold since August, a Yuan Ce sales manager said.

“Our sales revenue target is 10 million yuan by the end of this year,” he said.

The seawater rice developed by Yuan and other research teams is not irrigated by pure seawater, but mixes it with fresh water to reduce the salt content to 6 grams per litre. The average litre of seawater contains five times as much salt.

Researchers said it would take years more research to develop a rice species that could grow in pure seawater.

26 thoughts on “Salt water resistant rice can boost harvest by nearly 20 per cent”

  1. I disagree with the project as a whole. Because I see a big problem in irrigating land with (diluted) seawater.
    Where does the salt go? It does not evaporate and is not taken up by the rice. So it will increase the salinity of the ground, unless grown on some beach.
    I am submitting that it’s not going to take many irrigation campaigns before your wasteland becomes so salty that not even the evil rice will grow there.
    That means money invested for basically nothing, and land that may be reclaimed via vegetation that actually remediates it, lost forever.

    • I agree that if you abuse this tech like an idiot then you could damage your land.
      But there are dozens of ways where you could use it without damaging good land.

      So it’s just like most technologies then. Use it sensibly and it’s useful. Be an idiot and suffer the consequences.

    • Ali_Mentary, the article said “The rice was not grown in traditional rice paddy, where fields are filled with fresh water, but on a salty beach on the Yellow Sea coast in Qingdao, Shandong. China has one million square kilometers of waste land, an area the size of Ethiopia, where plants struggle to grow because of high salinity or alkalinity levels in the soil.”

      Salt is already in the water and will stays where it is, nobody is adding salt to the water, so please stop spewing out bigotry troll about anything China.

  2. Nice progress, but as long as it costs 8x normal rice it’s not going to solve real food shortage issues. Only a few Whole Foods shoppers are going to be pay those prices for “could be” more calcium. Especially when hardly anyone is lacking for calcium*; there’s plenty of sources of that.

    Anyway, I take this story as news that progress is still happening, and that’s good.

    *Uptake of calcium by the elderly is a different issue, that’s not dietary deficiency.

    • I interpreted the “costs 8x normal rice” to be for these first experimental crops.
      Obviously one would hope that the production crops would be CHEAPER than normal rice, otherwise what’s the point?

      • doctorpat, the point is we should find more harmless ways to grow rice/food, we should not find more way to poison the land and food with herbicides, chemicals, Frankenstein gene manipulation which the westerners are insisting to pursue for the purpose of boosting IP rights to enhance bottom line, and eventually their technologies will either kill us all or turn us into deformed ugly creatures.

    • you shall have more more “lands” to grow the rice, and use less herbicides. I think these are the points.

  3. We should be switching to automated greenhouses anyway (preferably built with auromated or semi-automated construction) Closer to where the customers live, too.

    But there are no lobbyist scum in DC and the state capitals bribing the crooked pols on behalf of the future but rather only for the status quo.

    Another reason why government should stay out of agriculture.

    • What about regulation of farm chemicals? Sanitary conditions for dairies and cattle lot run-off? Antibiotics and other drugs for farm animals? Whether in greenhouses or open fields, do you want zero regulations?

      It’s easy to say that voluntary controls would arise – but generally that doesn’t appear to have happened. Even where it has to some degree, such as with organic foods, most families pick short term economics over uncertain and hard to detect long term health impacts.

    • LOL. Automated greenhouses. Wait… why LOL? Its kind of an interesting meta-idea.

      Thing is, I always kind of wonder about “sticking seeds in the dirt and getting stuff back some months later” to “make big machine, multiple layers, rotating beds, robots, …” Just sounds like a whole lot more stuff.

      And as for food-transportation having priority over dwindling (supposing) fuel-stocks? There’s always taxation at our service. $10 a gallon gas would cut motor vehicle consumption a lot. Freeing up that much more for $0/gallon “food service diesel”.

      Just saying.

      Economics: the economists way of changing consumption, production, pollution, green energy, pharmaceutical expenses, public dole and metropolitan mega-medical facilities.


  4. Get this: Apparently if you post comments too many times in a set time period, WP considers it a Denial Of Service attack. At least that is the error I got.

  5. Great news for China and the world.

    Meanwhile, European greens are on a suicide course to remove the contienet’s food sacurity, and battling against one of the most safe and reliable herbicides out there: glyphosate, which is used by many farmers to keep their crops free of weeds, reducing their labor and increasing their yields:

    And supposedly trusted and objective organizations like WHO and IARC are in bed with activists, faking data, manipulating research and playing the offended victims to reach a desired conclusion: blame glyphosate of causing cancer:

    • Well, not having an ‘edit’ button for fixing typos stinks. But I assume we are stuck with WordPress comments for good…

        • Logged in?

          I didn’t know you could do such a thing in this comment system.

          Where can I get a nick and a password to log in?

          • Looks to me that you already are logging in. You have an avatar displayed. That only occurs for WP accounts.

            • I have a WordPress account and a Gravatar, but I have never been given the option of editing my comments or posting comments without entering my e-mail or username again and again.

              Seems like I have some missing features or I haven’t figured out how to login.

              • I have – been given option to edit.
                But there’s a bug.
                Of course.

                If you festoon with bold and then try to edit?
                The festooning goes away, even tho’ its clearly part of your edit.


              • I’m in the same boat. It loads my avatar automatically based on the e-mail, but it won’t let me log in. (The only way I found to access the login prompt is to try to send the comment without filling the name/e-mail fields )
                No editing, no notifications. This might be the worst commenting system yet…

            • How did you accomplish such a feat? Not only does it not accept my WP password (at first. Now it just hangs infinitely on login…) I don’t get e-mail notifications even when I do comment via using my e-mail address.

              (Even though it loads my avatar that I used for my WP account that’s registered to the same e-mail address…)

  6. There’s also a breed of salt-resistant potatoes that has been created in Europe, and is now being tested in some third-world countries.

  7. There are many places in the western US where salty agricultural runoff, or fields that have become too salty for normal crops, could be used to raise this rice. It’s amusing that there’s always talk of seawater being used to irrigate salt tolerant crops, but according to the map, it’s western, mountainous China that would benefit the most.

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