Chinese and German agricultural experts have showed that rice can be planted on dry fields, despite the fact that it is usually grown using large amounts of water and nitrogen fertiliser, reports the China Daily.
"The previous two years' experiment has indicated that we can save 40-60 per cent of water compared with using traditional practices," said Burkhard Sattelmacher, a leading agricultural professor based at the University of Kiel. "We will continue our endeavours to obtain accurate data on how much water we can save per unit of land."
Since 1998, Sattelmacher and his Chinese colleagues have been working on new ways to grow rice. The National Nature Science Foundation of China and the German Research Society have sponsored the project, respectively spending US$60,000 and US$421,000 on the programme.
Lin Shan, associate professor of the Beijing-based China Agricultural University, and one of Sattelmacher's former students, instructed his students to grow rice on dry land with soil covered with a plastic film. "We use the cover to reduce evaporation, increase the temperature of the soil and speed up the growth of plants," said Lin. They also tried paper and plant mulch covering, but plastic film was the most efficient.
Lin added that the investment is minimal as covering only costs about US$4.8 per 0.4 hectare. The new technique help save water, decrease emissions of methane and other nitrogenous gases, contributors to global warming.
According to Sattelmacher, fields produce the same output as traditional rice fields. He said the same experiment carried out in East China's Nanjing and South China's Guangzhou led to slightly reduced or equivalent yields compared with rice planted in the conventional way nearby. In some cases, even higher yields were obtained.
Jens-Egon Mosch, chairman of the newly established Beijing-based China and German Centre for Science Promotion, suggested that an agricultural economist needs to properly evaluate the new technique. "I think the approach needs further evaluation before extensive application," said Mosch, whose centre has jointly launched over 50 research projects with China since it was set up last October.
Source: China Daily