As part of an ambitious plan to feed a further 80 million citizens, Chinese scientists in the Shandong Province have successfully harvested ‘sea rice’. Success in growing and harvesting the alkali-resistant strain is an important milestone in increasing domestic food production in China. The development also provides the international community with a potentially a more cost and environmentally efficient strain of rice for food production.
Rice is one of the world’s most important cereal grains and this scientific achievement has the potential to feed millions worldwide, reduce freshwater usage, and utilize farmland previously considered unproductive. This ‘sea-rice’ could be cultivated in suitable soils and irrigated with saline waters throughout much of the world, but how it will interact with varying ecosystems remains to be seen. Rice requires more water than any other cereal grain to grow, so while the potential benefits of rice able to grow in alkaline environments are enormous, what might be the socio-ecological effects of cultivation in such areas? Furthermore, could there be unforeseen effects of ingesting the rice?