Wadi or paddy field?


Who says nothing grows in the desert? Not Chinese scientist Yuan Longping, known domestically as the “father of hybrid rice”, who is developing a strain of the staple with greater resistance to saltwater. Trial harvests of crops grown with diluted seawater on the outskirts of Dubai are said to have yielded more than 7.5 tonnes per hectare. Scientists are planning a 100-hectare experimental farm and there is talk of planting at least 10% of the United Arab Emirates with paddy fields in the future.

Back in China there are similar programmes at a series of sites with the main types of saline-alkali land. They could be crucial for a country already facing massive water shortages, plus land area at least the size of Ethiopia with soil deemed too salty for cultivation, the South China Morning Post reports.

The harvest is Yuan’s second success with a salt-resistant crop in the past year. In fact, research into saltwater rice dates back to the 1970s, when a researcher called Chen Risheng stumbled across a species of wild rice growing in mangrove swamps in Guangdong.

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