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Hybrid rice holds up in Sichuan heat, drought

Updated: Oct 9, 2022 Print
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A scooter rider passes withered plants in a street in Chengdu, Sichuan province on Wednesday. [Photo by Huang Leran/For]

Passers-by on a street near Shuguang Road in Chengdu, Sichuan province, can't avoid seeing the withered plants on the roadside. As a sustained drought this summer wreaks havoc, scorching vegetation, many wonder if farmers' crops in the field are also affected.

Here's a bit of good news: A new species of hybrid rice called Taste the Fragrance of Treasure in Sichuan has withstood the high temperatures and lack of water.

The Rice and Sorghum Research Institute of Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences and a seed company in the province spent a decade working to breed the heat-resistant rice.

On Saturday, the Sichuan Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs brought agricultural experts together to conduct on-site testing of the rice on 33 hectares in Dongshan village of Xinchang town, Jiajiang county, in Sichuan.

A total of 0.3 hectares of hybrid rice was harvested, with an average output of 12,075 kilograms per hectare — a record. Sichuan's first-class rice varieties typically yield between 7,500 and 9,000 kg per hectare, according to Jiang Kaifeng, head of the Rice and Sorghum Research Institute of Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Since July, Sichuan has experienced extremely high temperatures and drought, a major test for rice that is still in the stage of flowering and filling.

Once the temperature exceeds 38 C, the fruiting of rice is affected. Some varieties that are not tolerant of high temperatures have a fruiting rate below 50 percent. But the performance of the hybrid variety in Dongshan village has surprised experts, with the rate reaching 90 percent, Jiang said.

More than 6,600 hectares of the new rice has been planted in Sichuan. The area is expected to be over 13,000 hectares in 2023, Jiang said.

The rare drought has put Sichuan, whose hydropower production ranks second in China, into a difficult situation. Water shortages in major reservoirs in Sichuan has reached minimum levels, causing trouble in such operations as Tingzikou, Changheba and Houziyan hydropower stations. This is abnormal in flood season.

In a rare move, the Sichuan Water Conservation Office issued a plea on Monday that people save water in order to help fight the worst drought in nearly a decade.

Since July, Sichuan's rainfall has been 50 percent of normal, and in 98 counties, cities and districts are experiencing drought conditions. According to the provincial meteorological department, the high temperatures will continue, and it's urgent to save water now, it said.

The proposal advises Sichuan people to take drinking water as needed, take away unfinished bottled water for further use, turn off the tap when washing, wash lots of clothes together in the washing machine, wipe off oil before cleaning tableware with water, avoid thawing frozen food with running water and never throw garbage into the toilet.

Recycled water should be used to wash cars. Use detergents in an appropriate amount to reduce the amount of water required. Cold water from the tap should be collected when taking a shower, it said.

It is the worst drought since 1961 in the Yangtze River Basin.

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