China Finds Way to Fight Starvation With 'Sea Water Rice'

© Sputnik / Vitaly Timkiv / Go to the mediabankRice
Rice - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.02.2022
Chinese scientists have developed salt-tolerant strains of rice that will help to feed 80 million people.
As sea levels rise as a result of the warming planet, growing demand for grain and supply chain disruptions threaten agriculture and humanity in general. However, Chinese scientists have found a way to ensure food security.
They experimented with growing sea rice in the salty soil near the ocean. This new variety of rice was obtained by overexpressing the gene for selected wild rice, which is more resistant to saline and alkali. Scientists began cultivating it in the northern Jinghai region and, in 2021, 4.6 tons of rice were harvested per acre from the test fields, which is higher than the average for conventional varieties.
China plans to feed the planet with this new type of rice, as well as secure domestic food supplies. One-fifth of the world's population lives in the country, and grain consumption is growing while its cultivation is becoming increasingly difficult - about 100 million hectares of soil in China contain a lot of saline and alkali.
The area of suitable land for plants to grow has decreased by 6 percent in 10 years because of urbanisation, pollution and excessive use of fertilizers. Sea rice could improve the country's grain production and will help to overcome the problems climate change has caused in growing food. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels around the world could rise by as much as 59 centimetres by the end of the century if the planet warms by 2 degrees Celsius.
A recent federal report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed climatologists' and other scientists' fears that waters surrounding the US coast will rise as far in the next 30 years as they have in the past century.
Over the past 40 years, China's coastal waters have risen faster than the world average. For a grain-producing country, this is a worrying trend, so the successful cultivation of salt-tolerant rice varieties on a large scale would allow China to exploit more land with high salt and alkali content.
“If China can be more self-sufficient in staple foods, it would be a contribution to the world's food security too," said Zhang Zhaoxin, a researcher with China’s agricultural ministry. “The less China imports, the more other countries will have." He believes commercial cultivation will soon take off with the government’s support.
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