It seems impossible: growing rice in a desert. But Yuan Longping, a Chinese agricultural scientist, is leading a research effort that is making it possible.
Saltwater tolerant rice
Saltwater-tolerant rice is designed to grow in tidal flats or other areas with high salt content. The initial planting of saltwater-tolerant rice is occurring in the desert areas near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. One type of rice has yielded more than 7.5 tons per hectare.
Chinadaily.com reports, "It was the world's first successful case of planting rice in a tropical desert area, standing as China's contribution to improve the capability of people in desert areas to be self-sufficient in staple foods, a move that can safeguard global food security and improve the desert ecological environment."
This rice has overcome severe environmental challenges. In Dubai, the daytime temperatures are as high as over 120 F, and nighttime temperatures could drop by 90 degrees. Humidity stays below 20 percent. Sandstorms ravage the area from time to time.
The biggest challenge is the desert soil, which is low in organic matter. Since it is totally sand and not granular in structure, it is unable to preserve soil moisture. Worse, sea water remains just 7.5 meters below the soil. Consequently, the soil remains saline.
Promise for world hunger
This is welcomed news for many places in the world, but especially for China. China faces a massive water crisis. Crops that can grow in sub-optimal water conditions will have a dramatic effect on Chinese wellness.
Source: China Daily