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New Rice Hybrid Grows on Salty Lands

A Chinese scientist announced on Monday in Shenzhen that he has successfully developed hybridized rice that could grow in salina - land areas or bodies of water encrusted with crystalline salt.

"The experiment in Shandong Province showed the hybridized rice could survive in salina, and the output for 1 mu (about 667 sq m) of land could reach 360 kg," Zhu Peikun, inventor of the technology, said.

Ordinary rice died when researchers attempted to grow it on the same land, he said.

He began studying the possibility of hybridizing Spartina - a plant species commonly known as "cord grass" that flourishes in coastal salt marshes - with rice in 2003.

'"Our goal wasn't to develop a rice variety that appeared like cord grass but rather, one that lived like cord grass," he said.

"China has about 1.48 billion mu of salina, nearly three-fourths of its total cultivatable land. If my invention could be applied, it could help dramatically increase the country's grain output."

In addition to rice, he also developed a hybrid of corn with cord grass chromosomes able to grow in salina.

He planted the hybridized corn in Shaanxi Province in 2007 and reaped about 390 kg per mu.

Zhu also applied the technique to other plant species, including a banana variety with plantain chromosomes that improved the fruits' taste.

(China Daily October 14, 2008)

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