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Wild rice species in Hainan on the verge of extinction
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A new study by the Hainan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (HAAS) found that nearly 84 percent of the wild rice species in the island province are on the verge of extinction. Agricultural experts said protection of the wild species is extremely urgent, ChinaNews.com reported on July 8.

A file picture of wild rice species in Hainan Province. [Photo from www.hudong.com]

A file picture of wild rice species in Hainan Province. [Photo from www.hudong.com]

Wild rice species are a rare precious genetic resource for hybrid rice breeding. According to agricultural experts, they contain large amounts of good genetic characteristics such as resistance to insects, drought and cold, as well as having a high yield.

The discovery and usage of wild rice species in Hainan has changed the rice-breeding history of the world. In the 1970s, famous Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Longping used a wild rice species growing in Sanya suburbs to develop "Three-Line Hybrid Rice," with output exceeding 500 kilograms per mu (1 hectare equals 15 mu). This later earned him the title of "Father of Hybrid Rice".

Another agronomist, Zhu Yingguo, also used wild rice in the province to develop the Honglian Hybrid in 2008, with output reaching 800 kilograms per mu, which ranks forefront in world rice production.

Meng Weidong, director of the Grain Crop Research Institute under HAAS, explained that China has four types of rice plants, namely a cultivar and three wild species, and Hainan is home to all three wild species.

But great changes have taken place since April 1988. Various factors have led wild rice species to the verge of extinction, but seasonal drought is the main one, the Nanfang Daily reported on June 25.

Despite of measures taken by the provincial government over the years, including the establishment of six primitive ecological environmental protection areas, the situation remains pessimistic, said Director Meng.

"The protection work is quite passive due to the lack of guaranteed funds," he said.

Meng suggested the province start the operation of the Hainan Wild Rice Species Creation Center and list it as a provincial-level project to ensure overall planning of the wild rice species protection.

"Besides, we can also use the advantages of abundance of personnel in this special field and rich resources in the province to establish a long-term effective mechanism to protect the wild rice species," the director added.

(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong July 10, 2009)

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