Scientists in China have developed several types of rice that can be grown in seawater, potentially creating enough food for 200 million people.
Researchers have been trying to grow the grain in salty water for decades but have only now developed varieties that could be commercially viable.
The rice was grown in a field near the Yellow Sea coastal city of Qingdao in China’s eastern Shandong province. 200 different types of the grain were planted to investigate which would grow best in salty conditions.
Sea water was pumped into the fields, diluted and then channelled into the rice paddies.
The scientists expected to produce 4.5 tonnes of rice per hectare but the crops exceeded expectations, in one case delivering up to 9.3 tonnes per hectare.
"The test results greatly exceeded our expectations," Liu Shiping, a professor of agriculture at Yangzhou University who is involved in the project, told Xinhua.
There are one million square kilometres of land in China where crops do not grow because of high salinity. Scientists hope the development of the new rice will allow some of these areas to be used for agriculture.
If even a tenth of these areas were planted with rice, they could produce 50 million tonnes of food – enough to feed 200 million people and boost China’s rice production by 20 per cent.