New Advances in Saltwater-Adapted Rice Lead to Unexpected Production Boost

A new experimental rice crop may be able to feed millions.

Griffin Sonnemann-Creed, Columnist

The Chinese city of Qingdao is one of the most prominent industrial, naval, and economic centers in all of China. Now, it may become a large hub for agriculture and food. A research team comprised of individuals brought from all throughout China have bred a new form of hybrid rice, which can efficiently process small amounts of saltwater.

Scientists working in the city, using a mixture of freshwater and saltwater pulled directly from the Yellow Sea, successfully adapted the rice so it was able to accept both fresh and small amount of salt water. According to NextShark, the rice was grown amongst 200 other breeds of rice, which were crossbred until a new species was created. The rice, despite ultimately only able to be grown in 1 percent or lower salinity, is the first step towards what China hopes to be a rice breed that can grow in complete saltwater.

According to The Independent, the rice had an unexpectedly massive output, producing more than nine tons of rice per hectare, double that of the scientists’ predictions of approximately four and a half tons.

The new breed of rice is incredibly important for the Chinese agricultural industry. Throughout China, there are over a million square kilometers of possible farmland which is left unused due to the high salinity of the water supplies. With this new rice species being able to adapt and use saltwater, these areas are becoming viable and profitable places for planting and growing rice. The widespread adoption of this rice would create a massive influx of food, with experts suggesting that planting on even a tenth of the available land could feed up to 200,000,000 people, and would boost China’s rice production by approximately 20 percent.

Due to the rarity of the rice, however, mass-production is not yet viable. While the rice is already being sold on specialty markets, it is worth over eight times the cost of normal rice. However, the rice is marketed as being healthier and more nutritious than normal rice – and it may be. Many consumers praised the flavor of the rice, and studies have already shown that the new grains have a much higher percentage of calcium than other rices, due to it being grown in saltwater.

China is likely to continue their research in pursuit of a completely sea-based rice, but whether the government or private companies will invest in and grow this new specific breed remains to be seen.