Due to the growing shortage of freshwater, the rice cultivation has declined which is a primary source of food for over half of the global population. In order to overcome the problem, a Chinese scientist has developed a process to grow rice in seawater.
China contains a third of its land with swamps, bogs, and clay-like or salty-like costal water. These waters make processes like photosynthesis and respiration difficult as the salt stresses plant’s water-absorption process. This in turn slows the plant’s growth converting it to its death. Thus, the 87-year-old Chinese scientist Yuan Longping created a new high-yield strain of rice able to grow in saltwater.
Longping planted 200 various saltwater-tolerant rice strains on the Yellow Sea to see which one would grow best in salty conditions. His work yielded 8,030 pounds of rice per acre in comparison to the US growers that harvest around 7,200 to 7,600 pounds per acre annually, as per China’s Xinhua News Agency.
Yuan exclaimed, “If a farmer tries to grow some types of saline-tolerant rice now, they most likely will get 1,500 kilogrammes per hectare. That is just not profitable and not even worth the effort. Farmers will have an incentive to grow the rice if we can double the yield.”
However, the experiment did not exactly imitate the actual situations in the country. Instead, it used water with comparatively lower salt concentration than it is actually present in nature.
“It’s still only maybe 10% the level of salt in sea water. So the ‘salt-proof’ rice does have a long way to go before it could help ordinary farmers,” said Assistant Director General for Agriculture at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) Ren Wang while talking to Business Insider.
According to Wang, China is already making more rice than any other country and this technique could increase the country’s food supply drastically. The saltwater rice can also free up freshwater lands, which are reserved for rice at present, in order to grow other foods.
The saltwater rice has already been available to consumers with a price around eight times more than ordinary rice. Yet, people buying the rice are appreciating its texture and flavor. The rice also has many health benefits including being rich in calcium.