Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Perennial Rice

In the subtropical Yunnan Province of China, a perennial rice cultivar called PR23 has been successfully developed and was released in fall 2018 to farmers in China.

PR23 and a number of other selections were developed through a wide hybrid cross between annual, cultivated rice, Oryza sativa, and a perennial cousin of rice from Africa, Oryza longistaminata.  This wide hybridization approach is the same one being employed by breeders at The Land Institute to perennialize sorghum and wheat.

Why Perennial Rice?

  • As a cereal grain, rice is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, and it provides more than one-fifth of the calories consumed worldwide.
  • Rice production is a very labor-intensive activity for farmers, and perennial rice would greatly reduce these labor inputs.
  • It is a common practice for growers to cultivate their rice in steep hillside terraces. These terraces reduce erosion but are vulnerable to natural disasters or inadequate maintenance. Year-round perennial rice root systems holding soil in place would further stabilize these slopes.
  • Reducing the frequency of tillage could allow soil structure to recover, improving the water-holding capacity, microbial community and rooting depth of rice fields.

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