Scientists in China have managed to breed a strain of salt-water tolerant rice. Developed by research lead Yuan Longping, also known in China as the “Father of Hybrid Rice”, the project has managed to exceed his wildest expectations.
This past spring, over 200 types of rice were planted at the Saline-Alkali Tolerant Rice Research and Development center in the city of Qingdao. Bordering the yellow sea, the location allows researchers to pump, dilute, and flood their rice paddies with seawater to observe growth. By doing so, the scientists are able to determine which strains of rice can tolerate the salt water the best, with the eventual aim to create a rice that can be grown in these coastal areas. This year, however, the scientists were in for a surprise. While they typically expect rice yields at around 4.5 tons per hectare, four types of rice managed to produce 6.5 to 9.3 tons per hectare.
These unexpected results mean that the rice is now ready for commercialization, and could it provide food for over 200 million people. A Chinese startup called Yuan Ce Biological Technology has since partnered with Yuan’s team and is marketing the rice as “Yuan Mi” in his honor.
The rice, however, costs 50 yuan (roughly $7.50 per kilogram), which is eight times the cost of ordinary rice. However, despite the price, the strain has been sold out since August due to its desirable texture and taste. It’s also purportedly healthier than typical rice, as the salt water possibly infuses it with calcium and other micronutrients. The use of salt water also acts as a disinfectant, which could allow farmers to use less pesticide.
The company currently expects to make roughly $1.5 million in revenue by year-end and predicts the prices will fall as their production increases.
Images: Wikimedia, Pixaby
Source: Genetic Literacy Project