The production of rice usually requires large amounts of water and nitrogen fertiliser, but a new approach by Chinese and German agricultural experts has shown that it can be grown on dry fields.

The breakthrough is the result of an ongoing project launched in 1998 and sponsored by the National Nature Science Foundation of China and the German Research Society to the tune of US$60,000 and US$421,000 respectively.

Burkhard Sattelmacher, project leader and agricultural professor at the University of Kiel, commented: “The previous two years’ experiment has indicated that we can save 40-60% of water compared with using traditional practices. We will continue our endeavours to obtain accurate data on how much water we can save per unit of land.”

By covering the crop with plastic film, the researchers were able to “reduce evaporation, increase the temperature of the soil and speed up the growth of plants,” explained Lin Shan, associate professor of the China Agricultural University in Beijing. Furthermore, the method was cheap as the plastic covering only costs around US$4.8 per 0.4 hectare, he added.