"Grain barn" promotes new rice varieties for better yields

HARBIN, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) — While rice grower Sun Zhengling in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province is busy harvesting the crop, her 25-year-old son sells it online, cashing in on the new rice brand’s exposure at a recent rice strain contest.

Sun planted the new rice strain “Jiyuanxiang No. 1,” which hit the market last year.

Two corporate rice growers won silver and bronze awards for growing the new rice strain at the 3rd Heilongjiang International Rice Festival held earlier this month.

The rice contest held in Harbin, the provincial capital, received a total of 726 rice samples sent by growers from 22 Chinese provinces, regions and municipalities, as well as seven countries including Thailand, Japan, Cambodia and Myanmar.

“Jiyuanxiang No. 1” growers got the two awards, as the rice is of high quality and able to have high yield with a low level of nitrogen fertilizer used for planting.

Known as China’s “grain barn,” Heilongjiang boasts the country’s largest plantations of rice, corn and beans. Rice harvest season is currently underway in Heilongjiang. Data from the provincial department of agriculture and rural affairs show that its grain plantation area reached 14.37 million hectares this year, an increase of over 33,000 hectares from last year.

Sun said even though half of her family’s 17.3 hectares of rice plantation fields are saline-alkali low-lying plots, the new rice strain “Jiyuanxiang No. 1” has proved to have a yield of about 9,000 kg per hectare.

“My son sold 1,000 kg of rice on the social media platform WeChat, earning more than 10,000 yuan (1,492 U.S. dollars) over a week,” said Sun.

She said she used to rely on grain corporates to purchase the harvest. As the demand for the new rice brand is high, the online retail price has exceeded 10 yuan per kg, which is far higher than the price of 3.2 yuan per kg offered by corporates.

Su Cai, general manager of Heilongjiang Zhuangjiaren Seed Industry Co., Ltd., said that “Jiyuanxiang No. 1” went on the market in 2019 after the company spent four years developing the new breed and another four years to pass official appraisals for market approval.

Su said as rice is an inbred crop, one variety can deteriorate. Developing new rice strains can help ensure rice quality and yield.

“Winning the awards helps promote the popularity of new rice varieties, so as to boost the seed production in different places,” he said.

Nianyugou Valley Wanji Grain Processing Co., Ltd. in Zhaoyuan County won the silver award for growing “Jiyuanxiang No. 1” rice at the contest.

Liu Yunlong, general manager of the company, said the company helped the seed company to promote the new rice strain as it allows growers to use less fertilizer while ensuring rice output.

“We provided hand-to-hand technical guidance to growers so as to encourage them to try the new rice variety,” he said.

“At the first rice festival held three years ago, the average protein content of 178 rice samples was about 7.5 percent, while at the session this year, the average content dropped to about 6 percent. The decrease suggests that there is less nitrogen fertilizer applied during planting than before,” said Zhang Ruiying, deputy director of the grain and products quality supervision and testing center (Harbin) under the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Zhang said adding nitrogen fertilizer at the later stage of rice growth can help increase rice yield, but gives a bad taste. In the evaluation of the quality of new rice strains, experts have included the test of protein content to check the application of nitrogen fertilizer, which has made more and more growers and grain companies reduce the level of fertilizers when planting rice.

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