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Scientists succeed in increasing rice yield on saline-alkaline soil

By Zhao Yusha and Zhang Hui  (Global Times)    08:41, September 29, 2017

A field test on Thursday of yields from an alkali-resisting "sea rice," developed by Yuan Longping, China's "father of hybrid rice," has exceeded expectations, according to scientists involved in the study.

The Chinese scientists carried out the test on a field at a research center in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, and said that it paved the way for greater use of similar rice in China's 100 million hectares of saline-alkaline soil.

The test center, for which Yuan is the chief scientist, was established in October 2016. In this test, the sea rice yield from saline-alkaline soil with a salinity of 3 per millage, was about 390 kilograms per 0.07 hectare, after using soil conditioner. This increased the yield by 20 percent, compared with rice yields without soil conditioner, said Wu Zhaohui, a fellow of the China National Hybrid Rice R&D Center, who joined the yield test in Qingdao.

"The results of this experiment have boosted our confidence and we'll do some more experiments before promoting the sea rice for saline-alkaline soil nationwide," Wu added.

Yuan said he plans to increase yields of sea-rice to at least 300 kilograms per 0.07 hectare, in three to five years, on condition of keeping sea water salinity to 3 to 8 per millage, thepaper.cn reported.

Wu said that their next step is to increase the salinity of the saline-alkaline soil for more of these experiments.

Sea rice is sometimes found in saline-alkaline soil at the juncture of rivers that join the sea and is reported to be resistant to pests, diseases, salt, and alkali, and does not need fertilizer.

China's most advanced sea-rice breed has a yield of 400 kilograms per mu (0.07 hectares), but can only be grown in water with a salinity of less than 0.3 percent, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

When asked about whether the greater use of "sea rice" will cover the costal wetlands, Zhang Guodong, of the Qingdao sea-rice research center, told thepaper.cn that they will mainly use inland saline-alkaline soil because, "China has 35 million mu of coastal wetlands that can only be developed according to the country's requirements."

Rice is the first choice for improving saline-alkaline soil, of which there is 950 million hectares worldwide, Yuan said, with 100 million hectares in China, 18.7 million hectares of that exploitable. He noted that previously, he had hopes that the popularization of "sea rice" would benefit human beings as much as plowed land had.

And he concluded, "I myself and my institution are also willing to help other countries develop hybrid rice to contribute to world food security and peace." 

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