After four decades of cross-breeding and trait selection, Chinese farmers have created rice that possesses the ability to grow in seawater and can be harvested on a commercial scale.
Agricultural scientists estimate that the new species (plural) will boost the country’s rice production by up to 20% and turn over one million square kilometers of salty wastelands into fertile farming grounds.
The project was undertaken in the mid-1970s, when China’s population was rapidly growing and food scarcity was a major concern.
Professor Huang Shiwen, one of the research leaders from the China National Rice Research Institute in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, claims that the new species of rice may carry certain health benefits. His comments seem to be based solely on the fact that the rice itself is more resilient than freshwater rice.
“To survive in the harsh environment, these species must have some ‘diehard’ genes which may enable them to better resist the attack of certain diseases or bugs,” he said. “Especially those happening at the root or lower stalk.”
Price will be the first hurdle to popularity. The new rice is currently hitting shelves at eight times the price of traditional rice. That’ll drop as production ramps up and the process gets ironed out.
Photo via Imaginechina