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China Cares: Planting hybrid rice that's drought-resistant with higher yields

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

10-24-2017 15:17 BJT

Full coverage: China Breakthroughs

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

Editor's Note: CCTV.com Panview presents 'China Cares' — series of special coverage on China's rural reforms, charities and comprehensive efforts to help those in poverty unlock their potential for success.

With a population in China hovering at around 1.4 billion and while more and more rural families have abandoned the farms to pursue different career aspirations in the nation's towns and cities, there’s a more urgent need to upgrade agriculture techniques and develop productive strains of hybrid crops, including rice.

China's founding father of rice Yuan Longping, who works with a team of Chinese scientists at the China National Hybrid R&D (research and development) Center, has engaged in hybrid rice breeding programs that started in 1996 with the support of the Agriculture Ministry.

Boosting crop production to record-levels

"High yields are our eternal goal and our continued yield improvements lay a solid foundation for China’s granaries," Song Chunfang, a fellow researcher at the hybrid R&D center, told the Global Times.

"More importantly, our newest record set a benchmark for farmers," added Song. "Ordinary farmers will gradually understand the comparative rice output in the future."

A team of Chinese scientists announced in October 2017 they had completed experiments on a pilot field in north Hebei Province. They had developed a new strain of rice hybrid, known as Xiang Liangyou 900.

The hybrid rice crop is considered drought-resistant and produces the world’s highest yields of any variety, according to Science and Technology Daily. Seven scientists were assigned to test the hybrid rice on three different plots and all of them had demonstrated remarkable results.

Relying on rice as staple food

More importantly, approximately 65 percent of the Chinese eat rice daily and it's a staple food for them. The Chinese hybrid rice institute is expected to bring in a bountiful supply of rice for China and other nations abroad in the long-term future.

During the experimental phase of Xiang Liangyou 900, scientists were testing transplanting, fertilization, moisture and pesticides to determine the best conditions and techniques for growing hybrid rice in Hebei Province.

China's Agriculture Ministry had also witnessed tremendous achievements in its hybrid rice breeding programs, as reported by ECNS (English-language China News Service). After four years, scientists had hit the first phase target - producing 10.5 tons of rice per hectare in 2000.

In 2014, Chinese scientists met their 4th phase target - 15.4 tons per hectare. Meanwhile, researchers are coordinating on projects with developing nations, such as Angola, Uganda, Egypt, Cameroon, the Philippines, Cambodia and Pakistan.

Other experiments in drought resistance

Developing drought-resistant crops will likely play a more crucial role for farmers in China and around the world to prevent bad harvests when devastating droughts strike.

Dr. Wang Shimei of the Rice Research Institute of Anhui Agriculture Academy told the People’s Daily that a designated plantation area of Lyuhan No. 1 (Green Drought) rice breed had already reached 2.3 million hectares in China, as of Oct. 2017.

Scientists have conducted in-depth studies, under the guidance of Yuan Longping, to produce higher yields with new rice-growing techniques, such as raising ‘giant rice’ stalks that stand over 2.2 meters tall, which is 50 percent higher than ordinary rice.

(Yuan Longping interviewed in the "giant rice" field on Oct. 16, 2017  Photo from Xinhua)

Researchers at the Institute from Subtropical Agriculture and Chinese Academy of Sciences had spent 10 years in planting and harvesting rice on an experimental field in Jinjing Township, Changsha County - central China's Hunan Province.

Saltwater rice, ready to eat

In addition to growing giant rice stalks, another team of scientists at the Qingdao Saline-Alkali Tolerant Rice Research & Development Center had successfully grown high yields of rice in salt water, according to Sputnik News.

The new saltwater-tolerant strain of rice is recognized as a tried and tested strain, delivering yields that are three-fold higher than those planted in regular fields - 4.5 metric tons per hectare.

Yuan Longping forecasts the new rice hybrid can feed over 200 million people and his research team is working in partnership with the Qingdao-based Yuan Ce Biological Technology startup. They believe sales revenues can generate RMB10 million by the end of 2017.

The rice is branded, "Yuan Mi" and the strain is considered resistant to certain diseases, insects, vermin and hence reduces the need for pesticides.

Hybrid rices paves path to prosperity

Nearly all Chinese eat either noodles or rice daily, a high number of them eat the staple foods for just about every meal. Rice is more popular for the Chinese living south of the Yangtze River, which runs across the middle of the country.

By developing new hybrid rice strains that are drought-resistant and could even be grown in saltwater fields, Chinese farmers can produce crops with higher yields and not worry about droughts destroying their harvests.

Beijing has encouraged more scientists to conduct bold experiments in hybrid crops, which are beginning to bear fruitful results. We can expect to hear of more advances in the field in the years ahead that is expected to deliver warm smiles to Chinese farmers.


(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

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