Rice fields prior to harvesting. (Photo is illustrative) Melissa Flickr
Chinese scientists have successfully grown and harvested rice in the deserts of Dubai, achieving a top yield of 500 kilogrammes per mu, or 666 square metres.
The team is from China’s Qingdao Saline-Alkali Tolerant Rice Research and Development Center, based in Shandong Province, and headed by China's renowned 'father of hybrid rice', Yuan Longping.
Invited by the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, a billionaire member of Dubai’s ruling family, the team has grown dozens of varieties of rice in sand and diluted seawater on the outskirts Dubai since January this year, according to a report by state-run news outlet Xinhua.
On May 26, agricultural experts from China, India, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) conducted production tests of these rice varieties. One of the samples grown in Dubai yielded over 500 kg per mu, with the others producing more than 400 kg per mu.
87-year-old Yuan Longping told Xinhua that the test results far exceeded his expectations.
The team plans to set up a one square kilometre experimental farm later this year, before putting it into regular use next year and then expanding the concept in 2020.
Their goal is to cover around 10 percent of the UAE's desert land, which has a total area of 83,600 square kilometres, with paddy fields.
China and Dubai also signed an agreement to promote seawater rice across the Arab world, in order to reduce the risk of food shortages in the future.
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rice, which is traditionally grown in soil and freshwater. With more than 665,000 square kilometres of highly saline land, the country has been working to develop strains of salt-resistant rice for the past four decades.