China Just Invented a New Strain of Rice That Can Grow in Saltwater

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World hunger could become a solvable issue in the near future now that a Chinese scientist has developed a strain of rice that can grow in seawater. Traditionally, rice crops require fresh water to grow, but in order to produce more food for a growing population, scientists are developing more rice strains. The aptly dubbed “sea rice” will be able to feed an estimated 200 million people.

IFL Science reports that over 20 percent of the rice crops now harvested in the world were created by Yuan Longping. Longping, who is better known as the godfather of rice, created this latest strain in a lab located off the northern coast of China near the Yellow Sea.

Longping made this new discovery by gradually introducing salt water into rice patties along the coast. Over 200 different strains of rice were tested, and each strain had a different reaction when combined with seawater.

“The test results greatly exceeded our expectations,” said Liu Shiping, a professor who was involved in the process with Longping. This breakthrough could result in an astronomical increase in food in stricken areas of the world.

“If a farmer tries to grow some types of saline-tolerant rice now, he or she most likely will get 1,500 kilograms per hectare [1,322 pounds per acre]. That is just not profitable and not even worth the effort,” Longping said. His newest strain should increase crop output significantly.

Currently, a kilogram of the sea rice strain is being sold for $7.50. Longping and his group of scientist have manufactured over 4.5 metric tons of the strain and plan on growing more in the foreseeable future after gauging the market’s interest in the new strain.

The cost may be a deterrent for some countries, but thousands of customers have already bought this latest rice strain. Early reports indicate that profit from these sales will surpass $1.5 million.

That should provide Longping and his group with plenty of capital to continue their research.